To answer this question, let me tell you a little story.
Growing up, my dad was the cook. He was “creative” in the kitchen. We ate frog legs (that he gigged the night before), cow tongue, pig’s feet, and other “creative” meat options. My neighbor was a hunter so we ate rabbit, deer, and whatever else he brought home. I am sure we ate “normal” meat also, but I only remember having to choke down the weird stuff.
When I was in 5th grade, I decided I didn’t like the taste of meat. One day I stopped eating meat.
My parents tried to force me – but I was stubborn. Then they tried the 'she’ll eat it when she gets hungry enough' approach. I guess I never got hungry enough. We always had a pretty balanced meal so I would just eat more of the side dishes.
I do need to mention that I am a very polite person (thanks mom) so I would never refuse to eat a meal that was made by a friend’s parents just because it contained meat. I would politely eat the entire meal and then tell them that is was very good.
I also need to add an important part of this whole not eating meat thing – during this time I supported animal agriculture (and still do). I raised meat birds in 4-H and market lambs in FFA. My brother raised market pigs and I watched a few get slaughtered. I was on the meat judging team in high school (because my sister was and she was my ride home). I did NOT stop eating meat because I believed animals were treated poorly – I knew animals were treated well by farmers.
Back to the story . . .
I think I was a healthy kid and teenager. I was a healthy weight. I was active and happy.
I went through college, got my credential, started my first teaching job, and started grad school. I was tired! I thought I was tired because I had a full time job, was doing extra work on top of that to clear my credential (BTSA), was going to grad school, and reading the research (on ag education at the elementary level and its place in the school system – which, by the way is not abundant) for my thesis. I would come home on days I didn’t have class and literally fall right asleep. I was not just tired; I was exhausted.
I finished BTSA, wrote my thesis, finished grad school, and survived my first year of teaching. I was still tired - still exhausted.
I began to think it was my diet. I was eating healthy – fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, grains – the only thing missing was meat. So, I started eating meat. My hunter boyfriend was excited and my cattle and pork-raising sister was exhilarated (which, might be a bit of an understatement).
I noticed a difference in my energy levels in less than a week. I wasn’t exhausted at the end of the day. I was still tired (after all teaching does take a lot out of you everyday) but not nearly as tired as I had been. I was less cranky at the end of the school day (nobody likes a cranky teacher) and was much more productive after school. I could come home and cook dinner instead of lay on the couch and try not to fall asleep. I started eating less because my meals made me fuller for longer. This sounds weird but I was happier too.
So, are vegetarians healthier? NO! Meat eaters are healthier. Now, this may not be the case for everyone but in my experience I am much healthier and happier than when I didn’t eat meat.
Would love to read your input on this!