Column: The Dish on Pescetarianism

A tomato basil salad with mozzarella, avocado and balsamic. This simple salad is super filling due to its fat content from the cheese and avocado.

Photo credit: Anna Allgeyer

A tomato basil salad with mozzarella, avocado and balsamic. This simple salad is super filling due to its fat content from the cheese and avocado.

My family eats anything and everything, from giant burgers to steamed kale, and everything in between. So it was only natural when Lent, a Christian period of reflection that asks you to give up something in your life from Ash Wednesday to Easter, came around, to give up one of the best ingredients in the kitchen: meat.

I was a pescetarian for 40 days, which means eating a full diet excluding the consumption of land animals. For me, this meant fish, seafood, eggs, milk and cheese were all a-okay, but red meat and poultry were strictly off limits. I chose to try to avoid gelatin as much as I could, but seeing as one of my favorite foods are gummy worms (a true foodie favorite?), this was obviously unattainable. In addition, I didn’t pay much attention to animal based rennet that exists in most hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and Pecorino. I had planned to embark on a full vegetarian journey, but I wanted to have a stepping stone so that I could see if I wanted to make the full leap while still having an extremely easy protein and fatty acid source on hand.

So why did I do this? Besides any religious motivations, the environmental and ethical effects of pescetarianism, vegetarianism and veganism can be incredibly convincing. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, cows raised for agriculture are the species that constructs 65 percent of all of the livestock sector’s emissions. By limiting our consumption of meat we could erase more than half of the emissions produced in the livestock industry. There is also the somewhat more frightening ethical dilemmas and reasoning that go into making a vegetarian.

All things considered, this was a fairly simple diet to stick to, and easy to enjoy at home. The real challenge was eating outside of home, especially while traveling or eating out a lot. As I went on college tours this spring break and stayed in hotels, the bubble of Los Angeles popped and I realized that the level of ease in sticking to a vegetarian diet here is unreal. As I’ve noticed, the proximity of the central valley makes Los Angeles a more affordable place to purchase produce than many other US cities and is generally a vegetarian-friendly culture.

While this month wasn’t exactly the greatest challenge of my life, there are definitely a few tips I would give to any newbies:

My first piece of advice would be to plan meals in advance. The popular “meal planning” phenomenon might seem a little intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be all zip-lock containers prepped and ready to go for the next week on a Sunday night. Simply planning ahead and buying everything for the week over the weekend makes for easy cooking throughout the week.

Another benefit of meal prep is nutritional planning. Some drawbacks of adopting a meat-free diet include Vitamin D and B12 deficiency, as well as iron, calcium and omega-3 fatty acid shortages. However, these can be easily worked around to give proper nutrition every day. These nutrients are really only difficult to receive on a vegan or very strict vegetarian diets. Including colorful foods and fish can easily supplement any nutrition lost from the switch to meat-free diets.

Some things I ate frequently this month included grilled salmon, pastas (I visited Seattle and bought some wonderful lemon parsley pasta from Pike’s Place Market that I would recommend to anyone with a soul), quinoa and vegetable dishes, lentil salads, yogurts, chickpea everything and much more.

While preparation may be essential to a newly meat-free diet at first, I became adjusted just a few weeks in and at times forgot that I was not eating meat. I’m not yet sure if I will continue to be a pescetarian for the rest of my life. However, I think I will continue to eat pescetarian at home, but eat meat if I am offered it until I have made up my mind about the whole situation.

This experience has been extremely positive, and one of the best parts was having real discussions with my vegetarian friends and being able to relate to them. I would recommend pescetarianism to anyone who is open to trying out new lifestyles.