Does becoming vegetarian improve your health or is it a missed steak? / by Lewis Gill

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“Do you think you’ll ever become vegan?” The answer is no. The Nutrition student and food blogger who eats meat and has a strong hatred for kale? Shocking. People are honestly surprised when they find out that I don’t choose the 100% plant-based lifestyle. “But you’re meant to be into healthy eating?” Yeah –  I am.

Scroll through Instagram, and I bet you’ll find copious amounts of ridiculously photogenic and beautifully/slightly OCD-arranged food posts, categorized as ‘vegan’. Don’t get me wrong, I could happily eat a bowl of plant goodness with delicious beans and hummus etc. for most of my daily meals. I really respect those who consider themselves vegans for their ethical beliefs and please DO NOT think I am shaming anyone who is. I just feel that it isn’t for me. Yet can I still consider myself a healthy person if I choose to consume a few of society’s dietary villains?

I believe there is no such thing as a perfect diet. There are approximately 7.13 billion people in the world [so Google tells me] – and if you haven’t realised already, every single person is different. No one has the same genetic makeup, medical history, intolerances, beliefs or metabolic rate. Therefore, I believe we should eat more of what makes us happy, that works for individual bodies and helps us live life to the fullest. As cliché as that sounds.

As a society I think we’ve become terrified of food. We’re so consumed with what’s presumed as ‘bad’ that we’re forgotten the incredible properties of what food can have to offer. Why has becoming vegan the elixir to achieving true health status? Good-quality animal products are not bad. A roast chicken is flipping delicious and is loaded with wonderful protein. Meat also contains vitamin B12 which is essential for protecting the heart and producing energy. A vital vitamin which many vegans can unfortunately not get enough of, if they don’t carefully supplement, and can have negative health outcomes. I’ve learnt that life is all about balance. Balance - one small, simple word. Although was quite difficult for me to initially grasp.

When I began my course, I became what I felt at the time, as ‘healthy’. I had moved away from home and for the first time, began cooking for myself. I ate very little fat and, being taught how to take future-patients dietary plans, I learnt how to excessively calorie count my own meals. I looked at other food-bloggers as a source of literal inspiration. However they all seemed to eat like 8 bananas for breakfast but this way of eating wasn’t nourishing for me. I dropped weight and overtime my energy levels began to drop also. Looking back, it’s crazy to compare my attitude towards food, from then and now. Thankfully, I’ve chilled out my attitude towards eating and do you know what? I’m a lot happier. As my course progressed, I realised that ‘healthy eating’ isn’t all about about cutting out entire food groups, but about eating everything in moderation. Embracing life and a varied diet. I began to follow less-extreme food bloggers who were fantastic at suggesting creative ways to create wholesome meals using natural ingredients. I now fill my diet with lots of protein [either animal or plant based], wholegrain carbohydrates for energy, dairy-products like full-fat Greek yoghurt, at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for vitamin/mineral boosts and embrace body-loving fats like peanut butter with open arms. As well as cutting back on refined sugar and saturated fat. But also knowing and enjoying that the odd packet of Cadbury’s buttons is a good thing. This relaxed approach to healthy eating works for me and I hope for you too. So there you go - the ramblings of a meat-eating and gluten-loving Nutritionist student.