Reluctant Vegetarian: How to Stop Eating Meat?

How do I become vegetarian when it’s so hard to get over meat cravings caused by simply loving the taste of meat?

Reluctant Vegetarian

Dear Judith, I discovered your website quite a while ago, and have recently stumbled across it again.

I love the recipes, and this advice blog is great. I’ve become vegetarian at least twice before, and always fell back into the meat eating pattern. I now have cut meat eating out of my lifestyle a lot, but occasionally do have meat cravings and eat chicken, and rarely, beef.  I almost never eat pork unless there are really no other options.

I love the vegetarian options out there, and now that I’m done with university, I have more time to cook healthy and interesting meals. There is a big part of me that wants to become vegetarian – I have vegetarian and vegan friends who have very convincing arguments and points to make.

I have watched movies like Food, Inc. and read Fast Food Nation (the latter was my motivation to become vegetarian the second time), and I have seen videos of slaughterhouses and heard horror stories from my father who was a medic at a slaughterhouse for a while and saw what the workers – and the animals – experienced.

There are SO many good reasons to become vegetarian, and I think I want to give it another stab.

Like I said, cutting out beef, pork, and chicken has not been too hard. My biggest meat cravings challenge now is seafood. I love seafood. I know that the oceans are overfished. I know there are, again, so many reasons to not eat it.  But I LOVE the taste. I don’t know what to do to overcome this. I tried being a “pescetarian” in the past, but eventually just eating fish and no other meat got the better of me, and I decided to just go back to  meat eating. And there are other things I love – now that summers have rolled around again, I’m excited about hamburgers and chicken grilled at barbecues.

I guess my question is – how do you get over liking the taste of meat and having meat cravings just because you like the taste?

I tried to post this on another discussion board for vegetarians once and was literally harassed and told I was a horrible person who should stop being ruled by their taste buds, basically, and that I should get some  conviction. I feel like your website is a safe and respectful place to voice my question. I really look forward to hearing from you. Thank you! – V. R.

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Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

Thank you, V.R.!

Going vegetarian can take a little or a long time, depending on many factors, like age, health, body-type, socio-economics – it’s a very individual & personal thing. In Western society, the cultural pressures NOT to be vegetarian are strong, and it’s not surprising that many people have trouble swimming against the stream, even if their desire to become vegetarian is strong. It’s excellent that you’re moving in the “right” direction!

Your commitment level will catch up with your intellectual understanding over time. Vegetarian or vegan diets are very life-supporting, and the more that you eat a high quality vegetarian diet, the more that your body will come to prefer it. One day you might wake up and have an “ah-ha!” experience, or just gradually realize that you can never again eat anything with a face.

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But since you’re not there yet, instead of focusing on your vegetarian shortcomings, and having guilt attacks, accept that you aren’t quite ready to go all the way vegetarian. I think your best approach would be to eat the most TASTY, healthy, organic, vegetable-rich, whole grain kind-to-animals diet that you can manage, and not worry about the times when you can’t.

One reason why new veggies crave meat is that the veg food they’re getting isn’t satisfying. If your vegetarian food is tasty and nutritious, then you’ll be less likely to crave meat. Be sure that when you do eat veg, you’re getting the nutrients you need to replace those that you get from meat.  Take a multivitamin, plus separate B12 and Omega 3 supplements. It could be helpful to read the veggie nutrition bible, “Becoming Vegetarian”,  by Melina & Davis. And try tofu burgers on the grill, they hold up quite well, and are VERY tasty & nutritious :-)

All the best, Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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15 Responses to “Reluctant Vegetarian: How to Stop Eating Meat?”

  1. Craig says:

    I read this post and just had to share my 2 cents. I am a 50 year old man, I came from a family that ate some type of meat for every meal. All my male friends and family love to eat cooked animal parts. But, for me, I eat meat maybe once a month. It might be chicken, beef or salmon, and I only eat it then because I am at a restaurant and the selections are limited. So, what I want to say is this…I have been eating a 90% vegetarian diet for almost 3 years now and for the first 2 years, I would ask myself “Will I ever lose the craving for BEEF and BREADS and CHEESE and ICE CREAM ?????”, and then about 6 months ago, I told my wife that I am finally losing my toxic cravings. It has not happened over night, I just feel these cravings slowly dissipating. It was a long time until this happened for me, so, please hang in there, it is so worth it! To your health.

  2. Savvy Veg says:

    Hi J. One day at a time, right? :-) Thanks very much for the validation – nice to hear!

  3. J says:

    With the desire to become vegetarian, lose weight, and still provide healthy meals for my high-energy 16-month old (whose favorite foods are fruits, vegetables, tofu and anything flavorful) as well as a non-veg husband, all on a smaller budget and cook meals in no time at all, this article and everyone’s responses to it have shown me that it’s ok to crave meat, and choosing a vegetarian lifestyle is about adjusting. Other sites I’ve visited trying to find my way have nearly turned me away with their exclusivity and rigidity. I will be visiting again soon, and recommending it to a friend who recently decided to go vegetarian as well! It’s amazing to find such an understanding and supportive vegetarian site!

  4. Jordan says:

    I’ve only been a vegiterean for 3 months I’m a pedo vegiterean so I eat seafood but I still crave other meats how can I stop those I live in Florida so I’ve grown up with fishing but I want to stop other meats how Im 16

  5. Lisa says:

    Just want to add on to what some others have said. When I went vegetarian 10 years ago, I wasn’t sure I could stick with it because I enjoy eating and experiencing different flavors. I especially liked Italian sausage and missed it like crazy until I realized it wasn’t the meat itself I missed, but the fennel flavor. I can get the same taste I missed by brushing a sliced fennel bulb with olive oil and grilling it. Yum!

  6. Tawnya says:

    I recommend reading “Skinny Bitch” and then “Slaughterhouse.” These two books should cure any desire you have to eat meat again. If you are an animal lover, it will be a piece of cake. If you aren’t, just finding out how filthy the meat processing standards are in the U.S. should do the trick!

  7. Savvy Veg says:

    Hi Nancy, thanks for posting. That cookbook sounds quite useful! Cooked meat actually has an addictive chemical; so do dairy, chocolate and sugar. Dr. Neal Barnard, in his new book ‘Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings–and Seven Steps to End Them Naturally’, advises “…the most effective way to conquer the addiction to chocolate, sugar, meat and cheese is to give them up completely. Do not buy them or keep them in the house or anywhere in sight. Even if you do it for only three weeks, do it completely. The best way to get them out of your mind is to keep them out of sight. The longer you stay away from these four unhealthy foods, the more your desire for them fades. Just as it is easier for smokers and alcoholics to quit completely than to cut down gradually, it is easier to avoid these unhealthy foods completely.” I’ve found that to be true, and I also no longer consider meat (and dairy) as food. But like a true addict, I tend to fall off the wagon when I come face to face with sugar and chocolate at social events. Especially if I know it’s vegan!

  8. Nancy says:

    I have been a vegetarian for 10 years now and only now has the craving for meat calmed down. I did not decide to go vegetarian for health reasons, but because I wanted to have a clear conscience. I think my craving for meat has gone down because when I see meat, I don’t see it as food anymore.

    I actually love junk food and have found that making vegetarian “junk food” has really helped me in staying vegetarian. Battered and fried foods are not good for you, but I do still crave them. French fries do not always curb my cravings. The recipes in this book, Cozy Inside: Delicious And Comforting Cruelty Free Recipes, although not a very pretty cookbook the author has recipes like… fried sietan, southern fried tofu, swedish meatballs…

  9. Sandy says:

    I had the same problem. I became a vegetarian twice before, only to go back to meat. I don’t know anyone who is vegetarian, and was always asked how can you not eat meat. Like I was crazy. I even had one friend who told me I was in a cult religion because I was vegetarian.
    My aha moment came one day and I have never really craved meat since then. I am much more happy now. Physically and mentally.

  10. Maria Staal says:

    I have been a vegetarian for 22 years and still sometimes have a craving for meat. Particularly when I smell roast chicken, which s something I really loved. And I DO eat interesting tasty veggie meals, so I suppose it really depends on the person.

  11. Savvy Veg says:

    Ellen, thanks for adding that important point about meat being HEAVY. That was true for me too.

  12. Ellen Finkelstein says:

    I agree with the above comments that dressing up veggie burgers with all the traditional “fixins” helps a lot. I’d also suggest that you pay attention to how your stomach feels for about 2 hours after you eat meat. It was the heaviness in my stomach that stopped me from eating meat, even though I still liked the taste; I knew I’d feel bad afterward. At the time, I didn’t think at all about ethical or environmental reasons.Solely intellectual reasons are not enough, you need to integrate your body into the process. This will take some time, maybe a few months. Until then, just do the best you can and don’t sweat the times you eat some meat.

  13. Savvy Veg says:

    A few comments on the comments:
    1.It takes all kinds of people to make a world, and some are not quite as into sacrifice as others. I think that the greater good is also served by those who adopt a near-vegetarian diet.
    2.Food is just about the most important thing to people, and it’s a big part of belonging to a family or cultural group. That’s not easily discounted.
    3.Because it’s so important, food should be really tasty and nourishing, whether it’s vegetarian or not. Fortunately, it’s actually easier to make vegetarian food taste good than it is to make meat taste good. Cooking it with vegetables helps :-)Once you’ve eaten tasty veg food for a while, then eat meat, you’re often disappointed.

  14. Molly says:

    Perhaps I am being self-righteous, I don’t know. Please forgive me if I am. I am a new-ish vegan. (Maybe that explains the self-righteousness! haha)

    I still love the taste of meat, fish, cheese, butter, milk, eggs, all of it! Those foods didn’t stop tasting good just because I decided to become a vegetarian. But I made the decision to give them up, and give them up I did. For me, to start eating them again just because they taste good would be pure selfishness. Being vegetarian isn’t about what tastes good, it’s about what’s right for the animals and for our earth. We make sacrifices in order to serve the greater good. There are so many non-animal foods out there, one has almost no excuse NOT to be vegetarian.

    I also agree with Pat’s ideas about using meat-related condiments on non-meat items. I’ve done this with great success.

  15. Pat says:

    One thing I have noticed is that I like the things that are put ON meat, not just the taste of meat itself.

    Try using the things you like on meat on your veggies. Grilled vegetables taste great with Barbeque sauce, ketchup, garlic, lemon juice, herbs and marinades. Baked potatoes with beans and BBQ sauce is wonderful and satisfying.

    If you like the chewy texture of meat, try a chewy bread dipped in the sauce from the veggies.

    I seldom eat meat any longer, except if I am invited for dinner and they are serving meat, I have a small portion.

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