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Vegetarian readers share tales of temptation

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Strict vegetarians, sometimes vegetarians and unapologetic meat-eaters all responded to a story about a vegetarian who struggles with cravings for meat.

Some readers were haunted with dreams of fried chicken after they switched to vegetarianism — and some sneak a bite or two when no one's looking.

"I've been a vegetarian for years, but recently I've been sneaking deli sliced turkey from the fridge when no one’s around, or ordering chicken when I'm alone," writes Sara of Eugene, Ore. "It’s proved to hurt my stomach a little, and I feel extremely guilty, because the only reason I don’t eat meat is for the animal cruelty sake."

But others never looked back after forsaking the carnivore life, partly because there are more options available for vegetarians now.

"After a while, being a vegetarian is very easy," writes Melanie of Nashville, Tenn. "These days, it's particularly easy to not eat meat. Our culture is becoming more vegetarian-friendly. It's hard to find a restaurant or grocery store that doesn't make an effort to accommodate vegetarians."

Keep reading for more reader responses.

I'm an 18-year vegetarian and two-year vegan and I am never tempted to eat meat. The smell makes me ill. … I've never “resignedly” ate a plate of steamed vegetables. It's more like I've tastily enjoyed a delicious plate of steamed vegetable knowing that my dinner is not going to clog my arteries or result in the slaughter of defenseless animals.

— Susan, Battle Creek, Mich.

The first year I became a vegetarian, I often dreamt I was eating barbecue sandwiches. The dreams stopped after a while, and five years later I'm still a vegetarian. Some of my friends completely forget and offer me part of their meaty lunches, but I haven't accepted. I wonder how different I will be if I have children, or if I'll start craving meat then.

— Justy

I am a vegetarian and have been for almost three years. Telling my family definitely made me the "squeaky wheel" I grew up in a meat and potatoes kind of family. I realized one day that I really didn't like the taste of meat and quit eating it. Now three years later, I am completely concerned about the death of animals for people to eat. My boyfriend is not a vegetarian, however, since we have been together he has cut down the amount of meat he consumes dramatically. His family still doesn't quite know what to do with me … I also have a hard time going to friends’ houses for dinner.

— Robin, Seattle

I eat meat happily and often. White meat, red meat, fish meat and any other cooked, and sometimes uncooked, meat (as in the case of sushi) that looks tasty. … I think I'll go back to my bacon and egg omelet with my side of biscuits with sausage gravy now.

— Carlos, Weston, Fla.

I've been a vegetarian for over two years and I admit that it used to be hard. It's awkward to go to a dinner or a barbecue and have everyone eye you because someone asks if you'd like a hot dog and you have to politely decline saying, "I'm sorry, I don't eat meat." I had nightmares the first couple of months about eating fried chicken, which I had a lifelong love for. The easiest way to deal with being a vegetarian in a world where everything has meat or animal products in it is to sit yourself down and really think about the reasons why you're doing it. If you really care about animals and believe in what you're doing then you have to ignore what people say and what your stomach wants because in the long run, you know you can sleep easier at night knowing you went without a hamburger or a meatball so that another living creature might have another day on this earth.

— Christa, Westminster, Calif.

I have been a vegetarian for over 15 years and have two children (11 and 7) who have always been vegetarian. As a result I have been in the company of many, many vegetarians. The notion that the commitment “comes at a price” is insulting and arrogant. It somehow suggests that we are secretly craving forbidden meat. … We don't tuck resignedly into a plate of vegetables anymore than we would a plate of vulcanized rubber, or potting soil. We are vegetarians because we want to be. If you are doing such to lose weight then it's a diet.

— Michael

With food being so abundantly available, we simply do not need to eat meat. ... It is a choice between a veggie burger and a hamburger. Is the veggie burger different? Yes, but you get used to it very quickly. There is a national restaurant that begins with a D and ends with y's that substitutes a Boca patty for the hamburger patty at no extra charge. Go in and try it. ... I think you would be surprised at how easy it can be.

— Jim, El Cajon, Calif.

For the past three years my husband and I have been strict vegans and it has been hard. I work in a high-end financial boutique filled with lunch meetings and client dinners. The best way to handle it is to keep my mouth shut and order a salad — hold the cheese. Though being vegan I have developed a great love and talent for cooking and baking — something I had never thought possible before. In my spare time I cook and bake for local organizations and fairs showing people that vegan doesn't have to taste bad.

— Patience, Seattle

I have been a vegetarian since early college years. It started for moral reasons which still continue to be the main reason I avoid meat. It doesn't hurt that it is healthier to avoid meat either. I find that when I have a meat craving, I'll eat a bite of whatever it is. Usually I find myself enjoying the taste but thinking about the animal I am eating and the craving goes away quickly! (And disgust sets in!) My family has learned to just make extra side dishes and I always bring some veggie burgers to cookouts. The occasional meat meal won't kill me, but it makes me feel guilty for days!

— Jodi, Stafford, Conn.

I've been a vegetarian for five years now (after two decades of eating meat), and I have to say I've not once missed eating meat. With the abundance of fake meat products that are available today, there's no reason to feel you're "missing out" at the dinner table. Gone are the days when "steamed vegetables" ruled the vegetarian's plate, and since becoming a vegetarian I've learned to appreciate the flavors of so many more foods that I was never exposed to as a meat-eater.

— Nick, Los Angeles

I have been a vegetarian for eight years. Do I get tempted by meat? Absolutely! The smell of burgers on the grill or fried chicken makes me crazy. But I don't eat it, because I made a conscious, voluntary choice not to eat animals. I don't claim to be morally superior to those who eat meat, but would like them to acknowledge what they are eating and where it came from.

— Susannah, Arlington, Va.

It's not hard for me at all. Sure, I remember the taste of beef — it's delicious. But it's just not worth it. … I think of all the people that die of complications from eating too much animal fat. All the environmental problems caused by animal agriculture. And I choose the steamed vegetables every time — the choice is easy.

— Anastasia, Ames, Iowa

I am a quasi-vegetarian, which means that I don't eat mammals, but still drink milk, eat cheese, chicken, turkey, and tuna fish. I do it for moral reasons, and to make matching my diet with my partner easier. I frequently find myself craving meat, especially pork sausage. Every six months or so, I allow myself a single sausage and egg breakfast sandwich, and feel very guilty about afterwards. My partner doesn't know, because I tend to do this on a Saturday or Sunday morning when he is still asleep in bed.

— Martin, Cincinnati, Ohio