The first question I am typically asked by folk who are thinking about reducing the fraction of their diet that comes from animals is how do you get enough protein. Actually, this was also the question my new doctor here in Vancouver asked me when I told her I was a vegetarian and also a fairly serious exercise person.
I have found that it is not difficult - it is amazing how much protein there is in vegetables. And, if you work out, rather than using whey protein in your protein shakes, just switch to soy protein. I have been pleased to see that even the macho muscle magazines now agree that soy protein offers all of the benefits of whey protein for body builders.
I put together the following table to give you an idea how much protein you can get from several food types:
This should give you a pretty clear understanding why body builders eat a lot of meat - it is loaded with protein. But, that being said, so are soy nuts, soy powder, tofu, almonds, and even bread. I often have half a cup of soy nuts before I go to bed, and half a cup of almonds with my breakfast. That is the equivalent of 3/4 of a chicken breast. Throw in a couple of pieces of bread and a half cup of beans and you have the other quarter of a chicken breast. And, if you work out, a quarter cup of soy protein powder before and after working out and you are there - at least that is about what I do each day - along with an assortment of vegetables. For reference, I weigh about 175 pounds and put in pretty strenuous workouts.
I don’t want to pretend that my simple table will give you all you need to know about taking meat out of your diet. And, in truth, I don’t expect anyone to go from eating meat with most meals to being a vegetarian in a short time. It took me several years to cut way back on my meat intake, but only 1 book to finish the journey.
There are hundreds of web sites that can guide you through replacing at least some of the meat in your diet with vegetables. And I havn't even touched on the soy-based faux meats - some of which are amazingly good - like Boca Burgers - I especially like the flamed grilled Boca's.
Interestingly, we find that we are paying less for food now.
Flip side, the rewards are really pretty darned significant. A subject I will get around to sooner or later is the impact of stress in our lives. And how beneficial it is to find satisfaction - in terms of stress relief. One of the reasons I am so satisfied with my life is I truly believe that I am reducing my risk of serious illnesses - because I have cut most animal-based foods from my diet.
It really is a great feeling eating a meal and believing you are making your life better!