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By AJ Chlebnik, Education Programs Manager

“Don’t knock it until you try it!” This old cliché is true for some things (pickled radishes taste FAR better than they smell) – and not so true for others (grizzly bear wrestling is NEVER a good choice). However, this philosophy is good to employ when making humane and animal-friendly choices for your life.

Upon leaving Montana and moving to Washington to work for PAWS, I decided to give vegetarianism a try – not as a permanent lifestyle choice, but as an experiment. PAWS promotes animal-friendly eating, and I wanted to practice what I was advocating. How difficult would it be for a lifelong meat eater to avoid eating it for an entire month in a place like Washington State? For the month of May, it was time for me to walk my talk.

Fake bacon potato and homemade pancake brunch
Fake bacon, potato and buttermilk pancake brunch – Yum!

As a runner who needs to make sure that I get enough protein in my diet, I could easily substitute yogurt, tofu, chickpeas, beans, peanut butter and eggs to sustain my high level of activity and training. Buying groceries was not much of a challenge – even the most mainstream supermarkets now have at least a few vegetarian options in their aisles. It was not without its challenges though. Once I purchased “vegetarian” samosas from the store deli – only to find that they had ground beef in them!

Nachos at Sno-town
My favorite comfort food can easily be made vegetarian, like these vegetarian nachos. Healthy? No way! Delicious? Absolutely!

I found myself cooking a lot more. A kind coworker lent me several vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. I experimented with making black bean and corn chili, pasta with spinach and tofu sauce, and soy meat spaghetti. All were delicious, although I did discover that nothing will make soy meat taste like real meat, and it is best to experiment with different spices to find the best flavor. My favorites were Cholula sauce, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder.

Slightly better photo of me eating
Me enjoying a delicious homemade vegetarian breakfast

The hardest part for me was choosing a place to go out to eat. Very often some of my favorite places had few, if any, vegetarian options on their menus. I found that Asian, Indian and Mediterranean restaurants were often the best options for finding meat alternatives. Late in the month I discovered the resources available at VegSeattle  – a great place to look up local, vegetarian-friendly restaurants, as well as meat, dairy or egg substitutes. If you are eating vegetarian on a budget, this would be a great resource.

Veggie meal photo 5-22-17 2 (002)
Naan bread, lentils and tomato soup from Central Market in Mill Creek make an easy veggie lunch on the go

As an educator with PAWS, I teach kindness, empathy and compassion toward wildlife and companion animals. Eating vegetarian is a choice that can benefit farm animals, your health, and the environment! Although I don’t see being a vegetarian as a permanent lifestyle choice for me, it has caused me to be more thoughtful and intentional about the food choices that I make. Even eating vegetarian once or twice per week can make a big impact. To use another cliché, practice makes perfect. And it’s not that difficult! If I can do it, anyone can.

Read more about the benefits that vegetarianism can have for you and for animals on our website and on other vegetarian-focused websites, like Meatless Mondays.

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