When I was a university student, I went meat free for six months because I wanted to see if I could. I love vegetables, tofu, legumes, grains, etc. and did not have a problem dropping meat from my diet. The only reason why I chose to eat meat again at the end of six months mainly because of the social aspect of eating – nobody in my family and social circle was vegetarian, and it was difficult for me to avoid meat whenever I ate with them.
Fast forward ten years later: I am finishing my Yoga Teacher Training course and decided I would try dropping meat from my diet again. It has been one week since I have stopped eating meat; here are the five things I have learned:
1. It’s not that hard to find vegetarian food when eating out in Singapore.
I have found this to be true regardless of the price range.
Under $10: For the cheapest option, you can never go wrong with the vegetable, tofu or egg dishes from the Economy Rice stall in coffee shops, hawker centres or food courts. Occasionally you will chance upon an Indian vegetarian food stall or Chinese Vegetarian food stall.
Under $20: With the popularisation of the healthy, fit lifestyle among twenty to thirty-somethings in Singapore, vegetarianism is catching on and becoming very trendy. Lunch places that cater to working adults in the Central Business District such as SaladStop! and The Sandwich Shop all provide vegetarian options. These days you can even find vegan fast food joints like nomVnom that serve really decent burgers, and of course, Indian vegetarian food is always available and inexpensive. I’ve developed a newfound love for palak paneer and dhal with chapati!
Above $20: Thanks to the average Singaporean’s obsession with good eats, quality cafés and restaurants abound in Singapore. There are vegetarian restaurants serving different cuisines all over the country, as you can see from this list (which is just the tip of the iceberg!) here:
Afterglow (Western): https://afterglow.sg
HRVST (Western): http://kilteravenue.com/hrvst
LingZhi Vegetarian (Chinese): http://www.lingzhivegetarian.com
The Boneless Kitchen (Korean): http://thebonelesskitchen.com
Original Sin (Mediterranean/Italian): http://www.originalsin.com.sg
Whole Earth (Thai-Peranakan): https://wholeearth.com.sg
Herbivore (Japanese): https://www.herbivore.sg
2. The average supermarket is vegetarian friendly.
Apart from the fruits and vegetables section, the tofu section is full of options – tempeh, tau kwa, tofu puffs, tofu skin, silken tofu, etc. In the Fairprice supermarket near my home in the heartlands, I could even find vegetarian mock meat, like mock mutton and mock shrimp!
3. Digestion feels faster and quicker.
As much as I love eating meat, after my meals I always feel like the meat I’ve eaten has sunk to the bottom of my stomach and that feeling does not go away for some time. A meat-free diet on the other hand feels a lot lighter and I do not get that “heavy” feeling!
4. I pay more attention to my nutritional needs.
I don’t do this when I am an omnivore because I take it for granted that I am getting the essential nutrients and vitamins I need. The second I drop meat, however, I start paying more attention to my diet, trying to ensure that my diet is balanced and I get enough calcium, iodine, iron, vitamin D and B-12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Being a vegetarian is not hard. Being a vegetarian when your entire social circle isn’t, is hard.
I still struggle with the social aspect of being vegetarian. My family and social circle has not changed since I was in university, i.e. there are still no vegetarians in my life (my yoga teachers do not count!) I work in the food and beverage industry, so business entertainment is a common part of the job and finding vegetarian options each time will be difficult. I do not know how long this will last, but I think the best I can hope for in the long term is to eat meat only when necessary, such as during family functions like Chinese New Year, or dedicating a specific day a week to avoid meat #MeatlessMondays.
Rachel, March 2018 Weekend YTT