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I Started Cutting Meat From My Diet Six Years Ago; Here's What I Wish I'd Known Beforehand

It hasn't always been smooth sailing.

Hi! I’m Evie, and I’ve been a pescatarian for six years now.

Evie Carrick

For anyone who might not know, a pescatarian is someone who chooses to eat a largely vegetarian diet, but also eats fish and other seafood.

I went cold turkey — after eating Thanksgiving turkey (ha!) — on a whim and never went back. But the last several years haven’t been smooth sailing. There’s a ton of things I did wrong and was totally unaware of.

Here's what I wish I knew before making the leap.

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1. You'll get plenty of unsolicited opinions and judgments.

Fox / Via Giphy / giphy.com

Anytime you cut something from your diet — be it meat, sugar, or gluten — judgment is guaranteed. Everyone has an opinion and they'll give it to you, whether you ask for it or not. In the meat department, vegans judge vegetarians, vegetarians judge pescatarians, and the whole bunch have a tendency to judge bacon-loving carnivores, who in turn, send the judgment right back.

It’s a liiiittle intense, and it’s one of the hardest things about being a pescatarian. It’s the reason why I would never claim to be a vegetarian even though I only eat seafood when I’m invited to a dinner party or end up at a restaurant with a limited menu.

2. It helps to have a reason why you’re not eating meat.

NBC / Via Giphy / giphy.com

When the judgment is raining down (or someone is genuinely curious), you'll need to be able to explain why you cut meat from your diet. For some people this is easy, but others might have a mélange of reasons that aren’t super succinct or clear: The environment, animal rights, health, and taste are a few of the big ones.

My advice: Get your spiel down before you go out in the world touting your newfound way of eating.

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3. That being said, don’t bring it up unless someone asks.

NBC / Via Giphy / giphy.com

There is nothing more annoying than someone who goes on and on about something no one else cares about. And no one does this more than vegans, vegetarians, and pescatarians (except maybe CrossFit people 😬).

Here’s the deal: You might have some really valid reasons for eating the way that you do — and it might make you feel great — but unless someone asks you, I guarantee they don’t want to hear about it. Why? Because talking about cutting meat out of your diet can make you sound self-righteous and judgmental (even if that’s not your intent).

4. No matter what, be true to yourself and extend the same courtesy to the people around you.

CBS / Via Giphy / giphy.com

If you want to go vegetarian but can’t part with your Sunday brunch bacon, that's OK. There's a reason why "flexitarian" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014. It's a legit way of eating so don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Just make sure to extend the same “you do you” policy to those around you.

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5. It helps to have a few veggie-based meals that you like and know how to make.

Evie Carrick

Being a vegan, vegetarian, or pescatarian is a million times easier when you have a few go-to meals that you not only like but also find easy to make. Egg scrambles are easy and fast, and so are burritos and tacos. Just keep your fridge stocked with veggies, eggs, beans, cheese, and tortillas.

6. And stock your freezer with a couple frozen meals for when you don't have it in you to cook.

Evie Carrick

I keep my freezer stocked with frozen pizzas, meatless “chicken” nuggets, and gyoza. They’ve saved me numerous times when I don’t have time (or am just too lazy) to cook.

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7. Dinner party invites can be the stuff of nightmares, but there are ways to make them less awkward.

Evie Carrick

There is nothing more painful (at least to people pleasers like me) than giving someone who has offered to cook for you a list of things you cannot eat. Eating food with other people is a way to connect, and responding to an invite with a list of restrictions feels entitled and ungrateful.

My tactic is to tell people about my dietary restrictions ASAP. I’ve found that the earlier you can get it out there, the softer the blow (and the easier it is for them to back out). If they’re still on board, I’ll always offer to bring a vegetarian entrée for myself or a dish to share.

8. Be aware that some foods you always assumed were vegetarian actually aren’t.

Evie Carrick

I’m a sugar fiend, so I was horrified to learn that Haribo gummies (which I LOVE) use animal-derived gelatin to get that amazing texture. The same goes for most gummy candy, marshmallows, pudding, Jello, and, according to BBC, plenty of other common foods like certain chips and Parmesan cheese. Heartbreaking.

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9. Plant-based proteins will be your savior, so get to know them well.

@goodeggnutrition / Via instagram.com

If you’ve always eaten sausage for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, and chicken for dinner, a huge portion of your daily food intake (and an important part, at that) will vanish when you stop eating meat. Before you go cold turkey, have a plan for how you’re going to supplement your meals with plant-based protein.

Tofurky sausage might replace your breakfast sausage, and you’ll want to stock up on hummus and extra veggies to replace the turkey in your standard lunchtime sandwich. The biggest adjustment is usually the evening meal; instead of building your dinner around meat, build it around other sources of protein like black beans, tofu, or lentils.

10. And, to keep your carb cravings in check, make a point to incorporate protein into every meal.

@dmullnutri / Via instagram.com

If you’re always craving carbs — especially sugar — it may mean you’re not getting enough protein. I struggle with this a lot; so to keep my sugar consumption in check (at least partially), I make a point to eat some form of real protein — spinach, egg, beans, nuts — at every meal.

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11. Even after years of not eating meat, it probably won’t be the end of the world if you have to eat some.

Katja Motion Pictures / Via Giphy / giphy.com

I have a family member who’s been a pescatarian for 10+ years, and every Christmas, he eats his grandma’s honey ham. For him, it's easier to just eat the meat than ask his grandma to cook something additional or cause drama with his extended family.

Travelers often face a similar debacle; in certain cultures and situations, it would be horribly rude to turn down a meal that’s offered to you. I personally adhere to a people-first policy. If it’s really important to keep the peace with grandma, eat the pig.

12. Changing your diet will be harder if the people you’re living with are still eating meat.

Evie Carrick

It took almost a year for my husband and I to get on the same page diet wise, and even now, he's a full-on vegetarian while I claim pescatarian. It’s part of the reason why at home, I eat like a vegetarian. It’s easier to cook a vegetarian meal for two than to make a fish-based meal for me and a veggie meal for him.

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13. If you’re going to a new restaurant, check out their menu in advance or suggest a spot that you know has veggie options.

Evie Carrick

Most restaurants have plenty of options to keep vegetarians and pescatarians well fed (vegans often have a harder time); but on occasion, I find myself settling for a salad and fries, which just doesn’t do it for me. If that sounds like a lacking meal to you too, check out the menu in advance or recommend a restaurant you know well to the group.

14. Fake meat can be really, really good but don’t get too reliant on it.

@the_tofurkey_company / Via instagram.com

After almost six years, I’ve just recently discovered the wonders of fake meat. I had a BLT the other day that tasted so similar to bacon I almost cried. Burger King has the Impossible Whopper and brands like Beyond Meat, Quorn, and Tofurky are flooding the market with impressive plant-based meat substitutes.

That being said, fake meat is often super processed and high in sodium, two factors that make it better as an occasional treat, not a daily habit. (Although, of course, that’s just my opinion — you do you, à la #4.)

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15. That being said, if you’re going to a potluck or large gathering, it’s usually better to keep your diet to yourself.

E! / Via Giphy / giphy.com

If you’re invited to an intimate dinner party, there’s no way your avoidance of the pork chops will go unnoticed; but when you’re at a large gathering, it can be easy to fly under the radar. I’ve found mentioning your diet to the host only complicates things, and chances are no one will care what you are and aren’t eating.

One tip: If you’re prone to hanger, eat before you go or make sure you load up on whatever dish you contribute.

16. Once you start cutting meat from your diet, you'll see there's tons of other things you could or should be doing.

@peta / Via instagram.com

It took me a few months to realize that if I was serious about cutting meat out of my diet, I also needed to be mindful of things like using beauty products that test on animals and buying leather boots (sigh). For some people, this is unrelated to their diet while others find it super relevant (again, see #4).

Are you thinking about adopting a vegetarian or pescatarian diet? Or have you kept one up for awhile now? Share your experiences, tips, or questions in the comments. 🌱

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Need easy dinner ideas?

These meals will make your weeknights way simpler. (And tastier!)

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