In honor of Vegetarian Awareness Month, I am sharing some of my 15+ year vegetarian journey with you as a First-Gen Latina. I’m going to share the reason for this lifestyle choice, the mistakes I’ve made along the way, and where I am now in terms of my dietary journey.
Growing up, I ate most of the typical Mexican food prepared by my mother for the family. Aside from that, I grew up eating a lot of processed foods advertised to children. Foods such as sugary cereals, cookies, potato chips, etc. I didn’t have the healthiest diet growing up although my parents did the best they could.
During a family trip to Mexico when I was around 7 years old, I remember seeing one of my aunts kill a chicken como si nada for one of our meals. At that young age, I couldn’t eat that meal knowing I had just seen where the food came from not too long ago. The same thing happened again during our next Mexico trip when I heard and saw my uncles kill and skin a goat for our family feast.
I was never a big chicken or meat eater during my childhood or teen years. I would eat those foods simply because they were the only options available and it was what I saw everyone else eating. Fast forward to college, I was now on my own for the first time and it was an awakening for many reasons.
During my first semester of college, my life changed after taking a communications general education class. One of our assignments was to give a persuasive speech of any topic of our choice in front of the class. One of my classmates chose to inform us about farm animal cruelty and although her speech wasn’t even that convincing, she showed a lot of graphic pictures. That was all it took for me to stop eating animals.
I still remember walking out of class that Thursday morning in November. One of the recommendations given to us by that classmate was to do our own research so that’s what I did as soon as I arrived at my dorm. Reading through the PETA website she recommended was appalling. Never had I considered or realized that meat and dairy came from factory farms. This was in 2005 so there weren’t many organic options as there are now.
So my initial reason to discontinue eating animals was for humane reasons. All I could think of when seeing chicken or meat on a plate was the graphic photos from the speech presentation and from the PETA website. Once I learned more about the meat industry, I felt relieved it wasn’t in my diet because a lot of it is filled with hormones…not to mention the negative effects on the environment.
What to eat
It didn’t take any convincing after that morning to stop consuming meat or milk. The problem now was knowing what to eat. When I went to lunch that day I told my friends about my new decision and everyone thought I’d last a few days, tops. For the remainder of the semester I ate a lot of carbs and starches such as pizza, pasta, bread and rice.
I didn’t know what I was doing at the beginning of my vegetarian journey. Being vegetarian wasn’t “in” so there weren’t many options on restaurant menus back then. I lost a lot of weight during that time as well which wasn’t ideal. My mom worried about me and kept trying to convince me to change my mind to no avail.
During our winter Mexico family trips my tias didn’t know what to feed me. They felt bad watching me eat tacos de frijoles con queso. I felt like an oddball sitting at the family dinner table with my plate of beans and salsa. My mom and aunts kept trying to convince me to eat meat “just this once” but I never gave in. Thinking back, I can’t believe I made my decision that fast with no looking back.
Please learn from my mistakes
I know all this was over 15 years ago and the number of plant based options available has multiplied since then, but please learn from some of my mistakes. Just because it doesn’t have meat in it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I ate a lot of processed and fried foods such as junk food (chips, fries, pizza, etc) that affected my skin and health in a negative way. Always go with actual vegetables and plant based foods instead of carb loaded options.
At one point I was incorporating a lot of frozen vegetarian patties or tofu in my meals but they are processed foods at the end of the day. Watch out for added sugar and sodium in foods too. Some frozen vegetarian meals such as burritos or fake meat have a lot of sodium. Finally, I also ate a lot of gluten during my vegetarian journey because it was easy to make pasta or veggie/cheese sandwiches. Again, eat as many whole plant based foods because nothing compares to vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, etc.
Currently, I am on my way to living a gluten-free vegan lifestyle. After 15+ years of this vegetarian journey, I think I’m finally getting it right lol. Roasted vegetables are my go to (cooked in my air fryer, super easy), along with rice, beans and kale salads. I drink celery juice in the mornings and a delicious healthy smoothie with a bunch of superfoods in it once a day too. Never had I felt better than I do now. I have consistent energy throughout my day, something I don’t think I had ever experienced before.
Since I finally feel at peace with my diet, I’m currently working on incorporating movement in my daily life now. The focus is no longer in the food I eat. I’m now placing my energy and focus on building habits around my fitness journey because it tends to fluctuate. It only took 17 years to get to this point haha.
So there you have it. My vegetarian journey continues! By the way, my mom STILL asks me if I eat meat yet every time I see her. She has always hoped and I suppose will continue to hope I say I do. Most of my Mexican family has accepted my dietary choices and no longer try to convince me. That’s just the way it is, finally, which I’m happy about.
I’m happy to share that I’m not the only vegetarian in my circle now! I have at least one prima who has crossed over to this cool side and a friend or two también. I’ve never tried to convince anyone to change their diet by the way. I honestly don’t care if people eat meat or not. If anything, I care if they’re eating healthy more than anything because that’s what matters the most at the end of the day. I was the first in my circle to make this choice but I’m glad I’m not the last! (Final note: I am SO grateful the vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free fad has evolved into what it is today…I have options everywhere I go now).
Are you vegetarian or vegan?? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post. Let me know on Instagram. One way to introduce this diet in your life is by doing “Meatless Mondays.” Or at least one “Meatless Monday” each month. It really isn’t as hard as it feels, especially nowadays. You just have to have the proper reason to do it and that will make a difference, watch.
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