By Matthew Lee Updated December 27, 2018
Choosing to switch from vegetarianism to eating meat involves more than digestive concerns. These include adjusting to new textures and flavors, learning how to eat a balanced, meat-based diet and explaining your decision to friends and family. To help make the transition smoother, gradually introduce lean meats into your diet, continue to eat vegetarian sources of protein and begin by adopting a semi-vegetarian diet.
A common concern among vegetarians deciding to eat meat is that their bodies might not be able to properly digest animal fats and proteins. This is rooted in the belief that a vegetarian’s body no longer produces the enzymes needed to break down meat. However, nutritionist Judith Brown says there is no evidence supporting this belief. Although you may have difficulties with eating meat, Brown says that even long-term vegetarians can reintroduce meat into their diets without digestive issues.
In their 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services suggest that all Americans eat a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian protein sources. In addition, they recommend that red meat not be your main source of animal protein. To ensure that your switch to meat-eating is a healthy one, most of your animal protein should come from lean meats, such as fish, poultry and seafood.
The Dietary Guidelines state that protein should account for 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories. As meat is more readily available than some vegetarian sources of protein, you may find it easier to meet these recommendations after switching to meat-eating. Despite these benefits, eating too much meat can lead to excessive intakes of iron, protein, calories and saturated, trans and total fats. This can result in a variety of health problems, including diabetes, liver damage, weight gain and cardiovascular issues. To avoid these problems, carefully monitor your meat intake when moving away from a purely vegetarian diet.
Although vegetarians do not lose the ability to digest meat, they may have difficulties adjusting to meat due to ethical concerns, textures and flavors. Additional challenges may arise from nutritional concerns and your personal life, as you will need to explain your decision to family and friends. Adopting a semi-vegetarian diet can help to dampen the effects of these issues and ease your transition away from pure vegetarianism. This involves eating meat only occasionally, limiting your meat intake to certain animal sources and continuing to include vegetarian protein sources in your diet.
About the Author
Matthew Lee has been writing professionally since 2007. Past and current research projects have explored the effect of a diagnosis of breast cancer on lifestyle and mental health and adherence to lifestyle-based (i.e. nutrition and exercise) and drug therapy treatment programs. He holds a Master of Arts in psychology from Carleton University and is working toward his doctorate in health psychology.