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To meat? Or not to meat?

November 3, 2009
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Are you a vegetarian? Vegan? Carnivore? Omnivore? Raw Foodist? Macrobiotic?


As long as you’re eating real, whole food, I don’t have much of an opinion about whether or not you should eat meat. It’s really, truly, up to you. And I have more news: you don’t have to stick by your diet the way you do a religion. You can change! Every day if you want. It’s ok. What is your body telling you today?

Here’s my meat story.

I always ate meat of all kinds growing up. My mom made a great meatloaf, paprika-sprinkled chicken legs and thighs, and breaded pork chops. (For awhile in 3rd grade we were studying dinosaurs and I began to regard my mother’s steak dinners as “Stegosaurus” dinners, which ruined me on steak for a brief period. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Fast forward 10 years. In college I ate meat and lots of it. It kind of goes hand-in-hand with eating out, because when your food comes from restaurants you won’t find many vegetarian dishes. I ate a lot of chicken fingers, hamburgers, etc. You get it. I also ate a lot of Italian meats because my boyfriend at the time had a mother with a fridge full of gobbagool. God did my stomach hurt.

It was post-college that I started getting dizzy spells and feeling extremely exhausted. I don’t blame meat, but my diet certainly left something to be desired. Living alone, I sometimes cooked up my mom’s meatloaf recipe and ate it for a week as leftovers, and sometimes dinner was a pear and a piece of gorgonzola cheese.

I started doing yoga, finally. Why did I wait so long?? My yoga teacher talked about his raw vegan diet and the Italian grandmother in me thought, “No wonder he’s so skinny.”

But I started reading and thinking about my diet. Jessica Porter’s The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics got me onto whole grains and off dairy. Then John Robbins’ The Food Revolution got me off meat with its account of factory farm conditions. The China Study nudged me even further from animal product. It was simple. I did not want to contribute to my own poor health, I didn’t want to support this crazy meat factory industry, and heck – brown rice is a lot cheaper than steak!

That lasted for awhile and my health greatly improved. But here’s the thing. I don’t think it was because I stopped eating animal products – it was because I started eating real, whole, organic food.! Had I substituted my hamburgers with Boca Burgers and my ice cream with Soy Delicious, I don’t think I’d have had the recovery I did. Instead it was whole grains, dark leafy green vegetables, sweet root veggies and the like that brought me back to life, quite literally.

After learning about Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions I started reincorporating some meat into my diet. Sometimes it was with great intention – a small piece of grass fed beef purchased from a local farmer. Sometimes it was completely random, like bacon wrapped scallops hors d’oeuvres at an office party. Because they are SO good.

Basically, the pendulum swung back to center. It felt good to be able to enjoy food with my friends and not order the special vegetarian meal all the time. It felt good to enjoy meat again. And, well, I felt good. So here I am. I eat a little meat. And I try to make it the best quality, grass-fed or pastured stuff I can afford. That’s where I’m at.

Where are you?

For the omnivores out there, especially those who have found a grass-fed beef source, I encourage you to try this Beef Burgundy recipe. It’s so perfect for this time of year. If you haven’t had red meat in awhile, you’ll be shocked by how good grass-fed beef tastes. It’s better for you, better for the animals, better for the environment, and better for your local economy. So if you’re gonna do beef, do it right! It’s worth it. And if you don’t want to do beef, don’t. I have plenty of vegetarian recipes too. Every body is different!

Beef Burgundy
Recipe from The Nourished Kitchen
I used whole wheat flour instead of sprouted grain flour, and I doubled this recipe in a gigantic pot. It was great. Thanks Jenny!

Like this recipe? Help a sista out and tweet about it or review on StumbleUpon. There’s good karma coming back at you!

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays hosted by Cheeseslave.

  • Dori

    Great post! I stopped eating all non-grass fed meat after Food, Inc and Michael Pollan books. And while I do believe that sustainably raised meat is good for people and good for the environment, I recently became vegetarian because meat stopped being appetizing. I think it is so important for people to know to eat real whole foods — no matter what they are. Even dairy!

  • Jen

    We are most definitely carnivores here. My husband just picked up our quarter of grass-fed beef (bones included for broth!) a few weeks ago, and we purchased 12 pastured, organic chickens from local farms. Our freezer is stocked for winter, and let me just say… the meat is OUTSTANDING! I never knew chicken could taste so good. The difference is truly amazing! You’re right… it’s definitely worth it.

    We love our fruits and veggies too. :) Our summer CSA ended last week, but our winter one starts this week. Yay for real, whole, local foods!!!

  • Shannon

    It is no secret that I heart animal products of the pastured, happy variety. Something tells me it’s in my genes when I talk to my dairy farming, homegrown steak eating grandparents.

    I do believe that some animal products are necessary for a truly nourishing diet. Vitamins B12 and D are not well found in vegetarian sources. I also think that if you are eating real meat – grass-fed super expensive stuff – you’ll eat less of it. I have found raw dairy to be kind to me and I no longer feel icky when I have raw milk, cheese or cream. In fact it makes me feel good.

    And so does Kerrygold butter. But that’s a love story for another day.

  • simpledaisy

    I was a vegetarian forever and just recently became a vegan. Giving up dairy made my tummy feel better than it had in years! Lately it’s been really bad again (almost like when I was eating dairy) and now I am wondering if it’s all the soy I have been eating!! I think the main thing is to really listen to your body and do what works for you! :)

  • Erica

    I grew up in a big meat family and have slowly moved to a fully vegetarian lifestyle. My tummy feels better on a regular basis now. Its what works for me! I think everyone needs to do what works for them!!

  • Sara

    When I gave up meat 11 years ago I was all about the Soy Dream Ice Cream and Boca Burgers and thought I was being healthy. When I realized I wanted to move towards a more whole food approach, I discovered meat again – healthier and ethically raised meat that I don’t feel guilty about eating. For me the pendulum is also swinging back towards the middle, and it feels good. Great post!

  • Holly S.

    I appreciate your post, Michelle, especially as you encourage people to eat what their bodies are telling them to eat. I was a vegetarian for three years and felt the worst I ever felt during that time due to some chronic health problems. Until I went off all grains and started eating meat on an almost daily basis, did my body start responding in a positive way. I encourage everyone to eat what feel best for them and include little treats here and there… even if it means eating something that is a little more processed :)

  • dailydiner

    YUM! I love meat. Having grown up as part of the “back to the land” movement in the early 70’s, we had a small farm and ate what we grew and raised. My current dog is the first pet I’ve owned that I didn’t have to eat!!!

    I love all high quality foods, and am thankful for sustainably raised meat!

  • 3 Healthy Chicks

    Everyone is differnt…so true! We are three healthy chicks: one vegan, one vegetarian and one carnivore… and all of us are happy and healthy! We too attribute this to eating real, whole-foods – ones that work for each of us individually!
    Thanks for the post!

  • Skylor

    I am SO glad you posted this. I am blood type O+ and have been a veghead for 2.5 years and am the healthiest I’ve ever been. I practice yoga each day and always have a smile on my face. That being said, I go to bed at ten every night and am always that girl that can’t stay awake during a movie. As long as I am on the go I have plenty of energy, but as soon as I take a moment to slow down, my body slowwwsssss dddooowwwwnnnnn and shuts off. I have been wondering if it is because I don’t eat meat. I used to be a party girl, staying up to the whee hours of the night! I’ll let you know how it goes, and which direction I choose.

  • Sharon

    Bravo Michelle. Great post. Any suggestions where to stock up on grass-fed beef and free range chickens locally (Westchester NY) for the winter?

  • Sheila Walsh Dunton

    Great post… I love how you have tried different things and have kept an open mind. I wonder if my passion for Nourishing Traditions will evolve, and what would that look like? Because I am feeling great these days!!

  • Michelle

    @Dori – I know a lot of people who stopped eating meat after Food, Inc. Some of them have come back to it, but it took awhile.

    @Jen – wow, where do you get all that great meat? a local farm? I wish I lived closer to the farms and/or had a big freezer!

    @Shannon – thanks for your meat and butter-lovin’ input! I’m a recent butter convert myself :-)

    @simpledaisy – Uh oh, tummy trouble! Going off dairy is a good step towards isolating the variable, but for me, after I cleaned up my diet I was able to go back to dairy without a problem.

    @Erica – What’s been the biggest challenge to eating vegetarian?

    @Sara – Thanks for sharing Sara! Not to dis Boca Burgers but…come on…I can make a mean bean burger in my kitchen if I want to eat veg for a day!

    @Holly – my Aunt started eating tons of meat and butter, no grain, and had really positive results. Keep doing what works and remember that things can change many times in our lives!

    @Dailydiner – Mmmm sometimes I wish I grew up on a farm, but then again I spent my teen years cursing my somewhat rural-suburban area so I probably wouldn’t have appreciated farm life at the time…

    @3HealthyChicks – You represent the gamut of bioindividuality!

    @Skylor – Also think about iron. When I don’t have much meat I try to take blackstrap molasses for iron! That helps my energy. But – I still fall asleep in movies :-)

    @Sharon – Good question! I found farms near me on because many who sell raw milk also have meat and eggs. You can also order online from this reputable source:

  • Rose

    I’m omnivorous! I was vegetarian for awhile years back and my body just didn’t feel right. I have stomach issues when I eat too much meat, too much dairy or too much fat. I try to keep things in check by eating small, regular meals consisting of real, un-processed food. I got a hold of Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean book and my diet changed even more. My body feels energized, healthy and powerful when I eat a balanced diet. Finding ingredients that come from GOOD sources is key. Grass-fed and free range meat, real produce, whole grains, etc…

    P.S: they make the sandwich thins in whole wheat, honey wheat & multi-grain :)

  • Lauren

    Very open minded. It kind of goes with listening to your body and giving it what it needs etc…whether that is raw food or otherwise. But I’m definitely digging the raw food right now ;o)

  • emily

    i am a meat lover but also encorporate aspects of a raw vegan diet into my life! i was raised macrobiotic, then vegetaian, then omnivorous with not a lot of meat and a good bit of seafood. My parents were health foodies and almost always made an effort to serve whole foods.our bread was always whole grain, chicken was skin-on, butter and olive oil flowed plentifully.

    where i am at now is I am begining to delve into grain-free/paleo-with-dairy/low sugar lifestyle as I believe it is ultimately what we are evolutionarily speaking, “supposed” to be eating.

  • Greenearth

    Very much enjoyed your post. No meat for me though. Semi vegan, that is eat fish and eggs.

  • fresh365

    Great post Michelle! I cut out meat and dairy and few years ago because of similar stomach/exhaustion problems and because of ethical reasons. I felt amazing! I had a hard time fitting the non-dairy thing into my lifestyle (so I do dairy now) but being a vegetarian has never been a problem. I think it’s one of the best choices I ever made for myself and I absolutely agree with you that regardless of what you eat you should focus on whole, fresh foods. Seems so simple, but for a lot of people I guess it is not…

  • Diana (Soap & Chocolate)

    This is a great post. I feel like my meat story is similar to yours, though a few years behind where you are now. Remains to be seen whether or not I’ll swing back to center–I now know better than to think factory farmed meat is good for me, but more importantly, meat just doesn’t sound good anymore! So I’m not going to force it down my throat, especially when I don’t feel like it has great nutritional value for me. What I liked best about your thoughts here though is how you point out that it’s what you WERE eating that helped you recover from a previously poor diet. It wasn’t the omission of meat or dairy or whatever, but that you learned to generally eat well and from there you were able to identify how meat/dairy/whatever might fit into your diet (and in a sustainable way, too!). Without any real decision point (other than influences like Food Inc) I do find myself deliberately avoiding meat and dairy these days, but we’ll see where I find myself later. For now, a whole foods plant-based diet makes my tummy very happy, and I think that’s ok. :)

  • Alex

    I usually tell people I’m a vegetarian for simplicity’s sake, but I’m really closer to vegan. Although I eat eggs and fish occasionally, probably 19-20 out of 21 of my weekly meals are completely vegan. But I also wear leather. But I don’t eat mock animal soy products.

    It’s complicated.

    Or is it? My diet is actually quite simple…it’s made up of whole ingredients, usually plants, that I mix up in my kitchen. That’s it. It only gets complicated if I try to fit it into a category.

    I think your website is great for that “don’t force yourself into a box” philosophy. I appreciate all the emphasis on veggies and simple food, but I totally respect and understand the reasoning behind eating whole dairy and clean animal meats.

    A diet has to be individual and customized…it’s silly to have it any other way, really.

  • Amy

    You know, I really like your thoughtful approach to this issue. I really agree that everyone has to find what’s right for them. I personally have been on a “vegetarian trajectory” for 3 or 4 years–I now eat vegetarian the vast majority of the time. I was raised eating meat every day, which I couldn’t imagine doing now. I feel great, and it’s working for me. When I do eat meat, about once a month or so, I buy it at the farmer’s market, because I want my money to support responsible farmers. Factory farming horrifies me to no end.

  • Sharmila

    Michelle, this post was so encouraging for me! I’m currently leaning into a more vegetarian lifestyle (though I’m not giving up my cheese!) ;) but I find that I tend to swing to the left or right and want to eventually find that harmonious center. Right now, I do need to be where I’m at for awhile since I am recovering and adding ‘life’ back into my body. However, its interesting I read this post today as I printed out a lovely pork loin roast recipe that looked so delicate and culinary and that is one of my dreams to be able to really cook in full hospitality. I love animals and always try to choose the natural /organic or free range options and still can do this. Anyway, just reading a glimpse into your journey gave me much hope and so I just want to say ‘Thank-you!’ I also look forward to following your future blogs! ~Sharmila

  • Carla

    I am currently an Omnivore.

    I DONT eat:
    Most dairy
    Grains for the most part
    Excessive amount of starches

    I have a tendency towards insulin resistance and hypothyroid so I had to take soy and most carbs (even whole grains) out of my diet.

    I do eat pastured chicken and eggs and fish for the most part. I also eat nuts, seeds, sea veggies, fruit, vegetables, I may eat a little grass fed beef, but I dont eat it more than 3x a year due to personal preferences.

    I tried a raw vegan diet and after about 9 months, my hair started falling out, my periods were heavy and painful and I had HORRIBLE moods swings. All the supplementation and super foods in the world didnt help. I realized that strictly vegan idea is not for me though a good portion of my diet is still raw.

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