With so many great vegetarian restaurants and abundance of delicious vegetarian recipes available on food blogs, it’s no wonder that so many people want to cut off meat from their diet and try a different approach to nutrition.
For many, this is a great decision that changes their lives for the better: without processed meat and other animal-derived products, not only do they lose weight, but also feel healthier and more energetic.
However, the vegetarian diet doesn’t always work for everyone. In many cases, people who report excellent progress within the first three months of going vegan discover that it doesn’t work for them in the long run. This may be because they don’t get enough protein, they feel more depressed than meat eating friends, because they have iron or vitamin B12 deficiency, or simply because this lifestyle does not suit them. If you recognize yourself in this scenario, you’re probably wondering how you can get back to eating meat without shocking your body and dealing with nasty side effects such as bloating, stomach pain or indigestion.
Here are some tips that will help you introduce meat back into your diet gradually.
1. Start Slow
No matter why you’ve become a vegetarian when you want to get back to eating meat, you should always take it slow. Even if you used to love steak and cheeseburgers and you had to switch to a plant-based diet for medical reasons and now you can’t wait to have these foods again. Once your body has gotten used to a certain kind of food and you change that food suddenly, you could feel sick. Don’t go straight to eating three meat-based meals after being a vegetarian for a year. Take things slow, introduce small quantities of meat in your regular meals (for example, you can add small chicken strips in your salad) and make adjustments based on how you feel.
2. Take Probiotics
In order for your body to digest meat properly, it needs to be filled with healthy gut bacteria, so, before you start eating meat again, take probiotics for a couple of weeks. Whether you take them from foods like yogurt or from supplements, they will make the transition easier and you will have less digestive issues.
3. Choose Poultry
If you haven’t eaten meat in years, going straight to lamb, pork and beef won’t be a pleasant experience. These meats are hard to digest, so choose chicken and turkey instead. These are easier on the stomach and, if you consume them without the skin, they have less fat and no bad cholesterol. If you’re worried that the main chicken course would be too much, start by adding a little bit of white meat in your salad, stir-fries, and sandwiches.
4. Eat High Quality, Organic Meat
When eaten in moderation and combined with the right type of food, meat can actually be good for you. There’s even an extreme carnivore diet that actually helps with weight loss. However, you can’t get all the health benefits of meat if you don’t consume the high-quality kind. Unfortunately, the average supermarket meat is terrible for your health: either it comes from unethical factory farms where animals are injected with growth hormones to make them larger or it’s heavily processed with carcinogenic ingredients. Until legislation imposes more transparent product labeling, the best thing to do is purchase meat from your local butcher shop.
5. Bacon – The Gateway Meat
If you ask vegetarians about the one meat they miss or that they’d want to try again, chances are they will mention bacon. Often called a gateway meat for vegetarians, bacon is quite tempting even for people who have sworn not to touch animal-derived foods again. Sure, it’s not the healthiest meat you can find and you’ll have to adjust your serving because it’s packed with salt and fat, but a few strips of bacon will help you readjust to eating meat regularly again.
6. Have Someone Else Cook the Food for You
Although many meat-based meals are easy to cook, you might not enjoy doing that if you’ve been a vegetarian for years and don’t like the sight of raw meat. During the transition period, ask a friend or relative to cook the food for you or eat meat at the restaurant so it looks more appetizing.
7. Choose Certified Humane Food
Many people choose to go vegan because they love animals and can’t stand that thought of them being killed for food. If you are in this situation and do not eat food for ethical reasons, but your doctor recommended you to change your diet, it’s understandable that you might be feeling frustrated and confused. One way you can make the transition easier is to only opt for meat that has the Certified Humane food label. This label ensures that animals were treated ethically, had access to pastures and did not live in overcrowded factories with no access to sunlight.
8.Listen to Your Body
Whenever we make drastic meal changes, our bodies react, so it’s perfectly normal to see some changes after introducing meat into your diet. Make sure you track how you feel after eating meat, from obvious digestive effects to mood changes, energy levels, acne flare-ups or changes in your menstrual cycle. Some people see positive changes after starting to ear meat again, others not so much, so if you are worried, talk to your doctor to schedule some blood tests.