Going From Vegetarian to Meat Eating

By Michelle Johnson

About 75 percent of people who become vegetarian eventually eat meat again, according to Hal Herzog, professor of psychology at Western Carolina University. If you are one of the many vegetarians who has decided to give up the lifestyle, considering the ethical and health implications of eating meat can help ease your dietary transition.

Reasons for Change

People give up eating meat for three main reasons, according to a survey of former vegetarians that Herzog helped conduct. Most -- 57 percent -- chose vegetarianism for ethical reasons. Another 15 percent stopped eating meat for health reasons and 15 percent did so out of concern for the environment. When vegetarians go back to eating meat, the reasons are more diverse. Thirty-five percent decided they needed to eat meat for health reasons, about 25 percent felt being a vegetarian was too difficult, about 20 percent couldn't control their cravings for meat and 15 percent felt vegetarianism negatively affected their social life.

Ethical Concerns

Former vegetarians who gave up meat for ethical reasons often still hold those beliefs when they start eating meat again. Only two people out of 77 gave changed ethical opinions as a reason for resuming meat eating in Herzog's study. For vegetarians who worry about the treatment of animals used as food, transitioning back to a diet that includes meat can prove difficult.

Eating Meat Ethically

To ease ethical concerns about eating animals, buy meat from small farms that raise their livestock ethically, allowing the animals to lead a natural life, grazing in a pasture. The meat from small farms is more expensive, but you don't have to worry that you are supporting the practices of factory farms, where animals spend their lives in stalls, eating a grain diet and being subjected to hormones and antibiotics. Choosing meat from small farms also prevents the accumulation of tons of animal waste in one location.

Staying Healthy

As you incorporate meat back into your diet, follow dietary recommendations for healthful meat eating. Focus on fish, which is good for your heart, and chicken, because those meats have less saturated fat than red meat. Limit red meat to no more than twice a week and avoid processed meats such as deli meats, hot dogs and bacon. These foods are high in sodium and increase your risk for developing diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer.

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