My Journey From Meat Eater to Vegetarian, Vegan, and Back

Updated on February 18, 2020
Jonathan Jara profile image

I work as a cook for a corporate cafeteria. This is the story of my personal culinary journey.

Piles of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Piles of colorful fruits and vegetables. | Source

Chef Gone Vegetarian

The first true effort I made to adopt vegetarian eating habits was January 3, 2016. I had just returned back to work from the company's annual winter break, a rarity for large corporations. I work as a cook for a corporate cafeteria. My title of 'cafeteria worker' is a far stretch from the culinary culture that I have been accustomed to my whole career (I just came across my next article subject).

Before the break, I was given the task of revamping the salad bar of the cafeteria. So I took several weeks to gather information and recipes, scout Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and conceptualize how the new salad bar would look and what we (or I, as the chef) would be offering. Looking back, the salad bar was a great success—but the best part about it was that it allowed me to easily transition into vegetarian eating habits.

How Vegetarianism Changed Me

Once I was able to focus on fresh produce, grains and everything that has nothing to do with meat, my palate changed. I learned about flavor profiles and what worked well together and what did not work as well. Not eating meat helped me become a better cook. Not eating meat provided me with the opportunity to learn more about foods that I was not familiar with.

I wish I could speak about the health benefits and health improvements that this way of eating promotes, but I do not see a doctor at all (I haven't been to a doctor's office since 2003). What I can speak on is the boost of energy that I felt and increase in energy I had. Another thing I remember was clarity in my head.

Being vegetarian led to me cleaning up my diet, abstaining from the large amounts of beer that I regularly consumed, exercising daily, and ultimately going vegan.

From Vegetarian to Vegan

Naturally, with my addictive personality, I dove deeper into vegetables and health. Veganism was the next step. It was difficult. Let me be more specific: It was difficult giving up cheese.

Life Without Cheese

This is coming from someone that gave up cigarettes, cold turkey, after 20 years of smoking. I was like Steve Urkel when it came to cheese. The flavor of cheese is irreplaceable. It makes everything better, whether it be processed and cold on a smoked turkey sandwich or hot, oozing raclette on a crusty loaf. I was all in on cheese.

But once I kicked that habit, being vegan was just ok. The best thing about being vegan was that I could announce that I was vegan and stupidly look down on people who were not vegan. My vegan days did not last long. I estimate it at four solid months.

From Vegan Back to Vegetarian

So I was back to eating a vegetarian diet, feeling more like Stefan Urquelle now that I had been to the deepest and darkest place of restrictive eating. I came out the other side cooler, with a better understanding of what my personal limitation was. I was able to enjoy food much more, and I was happier for it. It's really interesting, as I recall in my memory as I write this, that food affects you on so many levels—cellular, physical, and emotional.

So, by this point, my health was good (in my opinion), I was a better cook, and I was understanding that many people were looking for alternatives in their eating habits and that I was able to affect numerous people by providing delicious vegetable and fruit-forward dishes. Diving into vegetable cookery brought me to one of the sweet spots in my cooking career and changed my relationship with food forever.

It was time to introduce meat products back into the mix.

From Vegetarian to Carnivore

I eventually fell off the wagon (or got back onto the wagon, depending on who you are talking to) and introduced meat back into my diet. Meat is delicious; that is undeniable.

A ribeye steak that is seared just right and cooked to 125°F, left to rest on a rack and seasoned with fleur de sal is a great dish by itself. When I was able to combine that flavor profile with a simple charred cauliflower, hard-roasted baby carrots, or grilled broccolini, misted with sherry vinegar and tossed with olive oil, it truly was the best of two worlds combined. Like when Remy from the movie Ratatouille was describing combining flavors to his brother, they sang together.

The Apex of Good Food

Once my palette was exposed to eating different kinds of vegetables and different techniques for handling vegetables, my appreciation for good food had really come to an apex.

But I became seduced by the sexiness of meat, and the vegetables faded into the background again. My health was ok, but I could feel the heaviness of the meat in my body and the sluggishness returned at times. I realized I had to cut back.

Carnivore Gone Flexitarian

I would call myself a flexitarian now. I get the best of both worlds but monitor my meat consumption closely.

What I've Learned

The lesson that I learned from this unexpected journey is that I really wanted to learn about something I had no idea about, so I committed to it fully. I was lucky enough to be put into a situation where this thing that interested me was given to me, so I took it and ran with it. Then I went as far as I wanted to go with it, took a step back from it, reassessed it, and made an educated analysis of what worked best for me.

Even the side effects from that experience taught me more than I could have learned from just reading about or observing the habits of vegetarianism. Sometimes the answer is already made out for you, but you never understand the answer until you go through the experience. Which brings me to another lesson I learned, something I have heard countless times before: Everything in moderation.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • PDXfoodfan profile image

      Rida Verduax 

      9 months ago from Seattle

      This is similar to my lifestyle. I was vegetarian for a long time, went vegan, went back to vegetarian and now I eat meat on occasion. I think more and more people are joining 'club flexitarian'!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)