Thinking of becoming a vegetarian?

I interviewed nutrition student, Ali, to find out how being vegetarian shapes her diet, and discuss the challenges, benefits and her favourite foods.

Why did you decide to become vegetarian?
For animal welfare, environmental issues and my health. I always admired people who chose not to eat meat, but I never thought I would be one of them. I watched a documentary one day which led me to do some research on where our food comes from and the problems that arise with the livestock industry. I decided to try going vegetarian for one week and now it’s been five years! I just don’t believe that animals are a necessary part of my diet and don’t agree with that way that meat is produced on such a mass scale, so the simplest thing for me to do was stop eating it.

What do you enjoy about being a vegetarian?
I love trying new vegetables and recipes, it makes me think a little more creatively when I’m cooking. It’s also really easy to get my five serves of veggies in a day! I also love cooking vegetarian food for people, and seeing how surprised they are when they realise that vegetarian food isn’t bland and boring at all.

How do you incorporate sufficient protein into your diet?
This is probably the question that I get asked the most! I eat a lot of different types of legumes. I also eat eggs, tofu and dairy, so I have lots of protein sources to choose from!

What do you find most challenging about being vegetarian?
Occasionally it’s a struggle to find suitable options when going out to eat, but places are getting better. I also find that people like to challenge my view points quite a lot which can get tiring, I still think there is a lot of misconception about vegetarian diets. For the most part though, people are just generally interested and curious to know my reasons why and what kinds of foods I eat.

Explain some of the benefits you get from following a vegetarian diet.
I don’t remember noticing a huge change in my health when I switched to a vegetarian diet from being a meat-eater. I do, however, find it really easy to get all my veggies in for the day which I am sure contributes to my energy levels, immune system, digestion and sense of overall well being.