The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Going vegetarian is easy

A little over a month ago, I decided – after a very long time of feeling that I probably should – to become a vegetarian. Now, before you read another word, I want to make it abundantly clear that this is not going to be a column that tries to tell people that have no interest in doing so to become vegetarian. I’m not interested in trying to force my beliefs on other people, especially because I don’t want others to push their beliefs on me.

However, I’m sure there are others out there like me who have thought about taking meat out of their diets but haven’t done so, for whatever reason. For me, it just seemed too hard, and so I decided to push the thought to the back of my mind. Out of sight, out of mind, right? But after having finally made the decision to go for it, I’ve discovered that it’s nowhere near as hard as I thought it would be.

Since I’ve made the step to stop eating meat, I’ve found a lot of foods that I would never otherwise have known existed. I like the taste of meat, which is why it was so hard for me to take this step in the first place, but I’ve found products that taste almost exactly like the meats they are meant to replace.

I had seen veggie burgers before, obviously, but who knew they could taste just like a regular burger? There’s also ‘ham’ that tastes like ham and ‘chicken’ pieces that, when added to the stir fry I made with them, are undecipherable from the real thing.

I was incredibly skeptical of these foods at first – how, after all, could you hope to duplicate the taste of meat without actually using any meat?

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But my skepticism has since disappeared. The ability of vegetarian food companies to duplicate the taste of meat is astonishing. To almost every meatless ‘meat’ that I’ve had my boyfriend try, his response has been, “How do they do that?”

I have no idea, but it’s certainly making my diet switch a lot easier. I’ve made meatless Sloppy Joes, ‘chicken’ stir fry, veggie burgers and even bacon-less BLTs. They were all delicious. Even for someone who doesn’t really know how to make an entrée that doesn’t include meat, it becomes a lot easier when there are meatless alternatives that will work just as well.

All of this is provided, of course, that you buy the right brand.

My favorite, without a doubt, is MorningStar Farms. Everything I’ve tried from them has been delicious. Grillers Prime is my favorite veggie burger, and I use their ‘bacon’ on my BLTs. The maple ‘sausage’ is also better, I think, than any regular sausage patty I’ve ever had. That’s fairly impressive for something that is not, in fact, made with pork.

Another brand that I’ve been impressed with is LightLife. LightLife Deli Slices taste almost frighteningly like the deli meat you would normally put on a sandwich. I haven’t tried all of their offerings, but I use their ‘ham’ to make hot ‘ham’ and cheese sandwiches, and I honestly can’t tell the difference. It was also their meatless crumbles that I used for my Sloppy Joes.

In a little over a month, I obviously can’t have tried all the vegetarian options there are in the health food sections of the various grocery stores in town. I’m impressed with what I’ve found so far, though, and I’m definitely willing to continue trying other products.

The one annoying thing I’ve found about shopping for vegetarian foods is that I can no longer shop at only one grocery store. I used to go to Festival Foods every time I went grocery shopping, but though Festival has a nice selection of LightLife products, it doesn’t have much by way of MorningStar Farms. The other stores, likewise, have a good selection of certain brands or types of foods but are lacking in other areas.

Because of this, I have found myself bouncing from grocery store to grocery store, since each has a different selection of vegetarian products. While this can be slightly annoying, it might be a good thing because it’s forced me to check out other stores and see what they have to offer. It’s not really that difficult to shop at a different place every week, especially since Mega, Festival and Walmart are all open 24 hours.

I would encourage anyone who’s ever considered cutting meat from their diet to try out the foods offered at your usual grocery store. Then, if you like what you find, check out some of the other places around town and see what they have to offer. You may find that making the switch is a great deal easier than you thought it would be.

And for those who have never thought about going vegetarian, I would encourage you, as well, to try out these products. Even just reducing the amount of meat you consume can make a difference, and you may even find that you prefer some of the meatless products to their regular, meat counterparts.

I went vegetarian for the animals and the environment, but there are other, equally viable reasons for reducing meat intake. Some people do it for health reasons, some to lose weight, others to free up crops for human consumption that otherwise would have been fed to livestock. According to, 16 pounds of grain goes into producing just one pound of meat.

Whatever your reason, reducing or cutting meat from your diet is not as difficult as it first may seem. So give it a try, and see how it goes. It could just be the first step towards a lifestyle change that will make you feel better about yourself for years to come.

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Going vegetarian is easy