Vegetarian or Vegan Meat Substitutes - Craving or Physical Need?

Today, I was listening to a show on vegetarianism on The Splendid Table (NPR), a radio show for people “who love to eat.” A food expert and vegetarian was talking about vegan meat substitutes. When asked why vegetarians would want meat substitutes, he said he thought it was to allow them to go in baby steps to move toward a plant-based diet.

Lynne Rossetto KasperSpeaking of my favorite NPR Show The Splendid Table

Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s The Splendid Table interviews Heather Dane and Louise Hay on learning to love yourself: ‘That’s the most important thing in the world’. They explore the connection between digestive and emotional health. January 2015. (Listen)

Baby Steps

This gave me pause. Over the past 10 years, I have learned to listen deeply to my body and feed it what it needs. I’ve learned that once I listened deeply, I could decipher true cravings from fake cravings. This allowed me to go from someone who had to work to control cravings, to someone who trusted my body to guide me to the types of food AND the AMOUNT of food that was needed by my body. This was challenging at first, and as the years went by, I had the proof that I could trust these signals.

So Here’s My Question…

Do vegetarians want meat substitutes because of a very REAL physical need (which becomes a craving) for animal protein or is it all about the taste?

This is not a philosophical vegetarian vs. omnivore question. This is a question for all of our bodies individually. We do have a physical reason for craving animal protein. There is vitamin B12 that can only come from animal protein — there is no true B12 that the body can use from plants (science has proven this more recently, well after the vegetarian movement thought seaweed and other plant foods had enough B12).

I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan and have spanned the map to follow dietary guidelines, but it wasn’t until I started listening to my body that I was free from the prison of cravings and food fears. I ask this question to invite everyone to truly listen deeply to their bodies and see what they need.

Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, MD, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) says that we can be more likely to trust any craving for a whole food (vs. cravings for sugar and processed foods).

In my new book, Loving Yourself to Great Health, written with Louise Hay and Ahlea Khadro, we discuss how to listen to your body to find out what it truly needs, including tips for really getting to the root of a true physical-need craving vs. a “taste bud” fake craving. We also offer you a list of wholefoods to emphasize and ingredients to avoid — you know, those ingredients that mess with your body, moods, memory, ability to sleep and willpower.

I will be writing more of my thoughts on this over the next week and until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts so that we can have the most well-rounded conversation about this!

What do you think?


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As a coach, writer and recovered former executive, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle when over-scheduled. In my journey to radiant health, I created a whole health system of eating, exercise, renewal and recharging -- a roadmap toward health & vitality. I empower clients to create their own whole health systems, in their own unique ways. I have seen amazing results in working with my clients!