Since “coming out” as no longer vegan last year, I’ve received many emails from other long-time vegans and vegetarians, mostly women, seeking guidance on how to healthfully introduce meat back to their diet.
Some have been vegan for a few years. Others were vegetarian or vegan for decades, like me. Most of these people express shame and hope in their emails:
They’re ashamed that they’re “turning their backs” on their ideals or the animals.
They’re hopeful that the craved-for animal products, usually after decades of eating a 100% plant-based diet, will heal their health concerns.
Recently another woman, who told me she was vegan for many years, wrote:
” I’d like to share with you. My boyfriend & I have been raw vegan and then vegan for years. It’s been along time since I’ve had meat.
I’ve realized it’s very hard to get what I need naturally from a vegan diet. I still need meat to be healthy, but how do I start eating it again? All I want is too be healthy.
I’m glad you came out. Because there are plenty a vegans that need help.
I’m scared and need the advice.
I wrote back:
I’m glad you’re finding what you need.
And I know how hard this decision must have been for you. But you’re listening to your body, and that’s a great thing. You’re not a bad person for needing meat. You’re just one of the humans who does. As much as compassion for animals played a part in your decision to stop eating meat all those years ago, try to have compassion for yourself. We are human-animals, and some of us need to eat other animals to regain or maintain our health.
Here are my top recommendations to help you introduce meat back into your diet.
First, start slow:
Try bone broths, like an organic chicken stock, or eggs first, as these tend to be the easiest to digest.
If it has been a long time since eating animal protein, you’ll want to try one thing at a time to test your digestion. Start in small amounts, and without anything starchy. Your digestion will work better if you use the principles of “food combining” where you avoid pairing protein rich foods with starches, breads, even whole grains.
If you have a craving for a specific food, like meat or fish, try that first.
Next, be sure to get the highest quality – grass fed, wild caught, organic.
Conventionally raised animals are fed antibiotics, GMO corn or soy, and growth hormones. The last thing you want is harmful residue showing up in your food!
When buying eggs, that means organic, vegetarian fed, with outside access. Chickens like to eat bugs, and the farmer’s market may have the best quality in your area.
Like Michael Pollen said, “You are what you eat ate.”
Keep tuning into your body as you re-introduce animal products.
How is your energy?
How is your elimination?
How is your skin?
What’s happening with your cravings?
How is your menstrual cycle?
Tracking all of these things will tell you how your food is nourishing your body.
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough of certain minerals or nutrients, get a blood test.
Check your iron levels and B12, especially. If you’ve been vegan for years you may be deficient in something. Even if you’ve been eating the Standard American Diet (read: unhealthy and highly processed) you may be deficient and need supplements.)
Finally, bring some gratitude to your meal.
When I first started eating animal protein again, I was still emotional and unsure.
But I knew that if I brought that stress to the meal, the food would never feel good.
So I thought about the circle of life, felt true, deep gratitude to the animals and farmers that raised them, and kept tuning in to the voice inside me that said “you need this.”
When I sat down to eat, I prepared a beautiful table, lit a candle of gratitude, and set the intention to enjoy my meal.
The energy that you bring to your meal matters.
Know that you’re eating what’s right for you, and that you are a part of this organic, ever-changing world.
Some day you will be gone, and your body will nourish the earth.”