sudden aversion to meat
April 19, 2022 9:43 AM   Subscribe

I think I need to switch to a mostly vegetarian diet. Maybe pescaterian. But the reason is weird, can anyone help me figure out what is going on?

I honestly just have gone off meat.

Like, I hate it. All of it. Beef, chicken, pork, lamb. Bacon and salami are fine, weirdly. And I can deal with chicken salad.

It's something about the texture. It's too chewy, the flavor is icky, it turns my stomach.

It may just mean I just am not eating meat cooked decently. I'm a mediocre cook at best. My boyfriend is about the same.

However, he LOVES meat, and I hate hurting his feelings when he puts in the time to cook something with meat in it and I literally gag when I take a bite.

I already eat mostly vegetarian/pescetarian during the workday. I think I just need to finally declare this is my diet. But it will make dinner logistics tricky, and we may have to just stop collaborating on meals unless there's an easy way to have a veg/non veg option (pasta with sauce, tacos, etc).

What do I need to know about making this change? What vitamin/deficiencies do I need to look out for? How do I ensure I get enough protein? I already am mostly low-carb as it is.

Also - what the hell? I used to love steak. I used to love roast chicken. Why am I now gagging when I eat it?

(No, there is no way I could be pregnant. The plumbing doesn't work. I can't have kids. Also I'm on birth control to be safe.)

Thoughts welcome. Thanks!
posted by nayantara to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This happened to me. My wife stopped eating meat, so we only ate vegetarian and pescatarian meals at home, which was fine with me. After a few months I realised I didn't like meat much any more, and started avoiding meat when I was at restaurants. I still eat meat occasionally, but I don't really enjoy it much any more.
posted by el_presidente at 9:59 AM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This happens to me off and on. I just roll with it and reduce how much meat I’m eating when it happens.

People get weird about protein, but a diet that includes fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, beans, etc isn’t going to create a protein deficiency. If you were doing some paleo vegan thing where you ate no animal products and no legumes then you might have to worry.

This can also be a way that you choose to eat right now and not a major declaration and change. You deserve to eat things that are appealing to you and avoid things that you don’t like. If you and your boyfriend have to eat separately that’s fine!
posted by jeoc at 10:02 AM on April 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Have you had a recent case of COVID? "Long COVID" can greatly affect your sense of taste including, reportedly, turning people off the taste of meat.

I have been vegetarian by choice for a few years. Vegetarian diets can be very healthy, I do eat a lot of dairy, beans, and nuts. If you can stomach eggs that is also good. I don't take supplements except Vitamin D and I have no nutritional deficiencies or other health problems related to my diet. However we do occasionally eat fish, so an Omega-3 supplement might be helpful if you can't stomach fish either. Reportedly iron can be a problem but green veggies & fatty dressing helps to absorb vitamins & minerals. My iron levels have actually been better somehow since I went vegetarian.

I am lucky that my husband (the main cook) was willing to cook and eat vegetarian at home. It took a few weeks adjustment period but we basically make the same foods, just without meat. Like instead of steak and potatoes, we will just have a baked potato with lots of toppings and a salad with dressing and nuts. He can make himself a steak on the side. Basically just flip the main and the side.
posted by muddgirl at 10:02 AM on April 19, 2022 [7 favorites]

This is very rare but could you have had a tick bite?

The more likely and benign answer is that tastes change throughout your life.
posted by jennypower at 10:08 AM on April 19, 2022 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I was gonna say, is it possible you had an asymptomatic case of COVID or one so mild you didn't notice/test? Covid kind of fucked with my whole appetite, and not in particularly straightforward ways either. It hasn't put me off any one thing in particular but very few of my previous favorites really appeal at the moment--but I'm starving all the time. It's felt very weird in much the same way you are describing, so might be worth looking into.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:10 AM on April 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My spouse will sometimes pick the meat pieces out of meals they cook. Or plate up my meal first, then finish cooking theirs with meat. I don't get any flavor or texture problems if something is simply cooked in the presence of meat or in, say, a chicken stock. Obviously, that's still a bit of logistics, but it can work.

Switching to vegetarian dinners often happens for weeks at a time on accident. Which is only inconvenient for the begging pets around the table.

(I'm vegetarian/pescetarian, but certainly not vegan. Mostly because of fish sauces and umami stocks...)
posted by Snijglau at 10:15 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Tastes change; otherwise Spaghetti-Os would be the basis of people's diets well into their 40s (*not that I know anyone who does that*). You don't eat the same thing you did when you were 12, so it's not unusual that you don't eat the same thing you did when you're now minus a year.

The good news is that meat, because you can usually buy it by the serving and/or freeze what you don't use, is a lot easier to buy for one than most other foodstuffs. Something like tomato sauce or frozen potatoes comes in predetermined portions, usually for an entire household, which is why cooking for one is usually difficult. But if you stop eating meat, your boyfriend can just buy a single steak, make a otherwise vegetarian meal for the two of you, and slap that steak on top of his. It's not hard.

Does restaurant meat still taste OK to you? That's the first thing I'd try, to see if it's the meat, or just the preparation.

The fact that bacon and salami still taste good makes me wonder if fat is helping the taste. Lamb tasting bad throws a wrench in that, but is it possible that you're eating too lean? Does deep-fried meat, or something like chicken Kiev where there's a ton of butter also work for you?

Bacon and salami also have a lot of salt. Maybe you're not salting your meat enough? Try brining a chicken?

Is there anything else that has suddenly started tasting weird to you? I'm wondering about dairy or eggs specifically, but any other observed changes might help figure it out too.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:16 AM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

It could be hormonal. I loved fish as a kid, then went through puberty and BAM it tastes like poison. Transitioned later in life and BAM fish is delicious again. I don't know why, but apparently it's not just me-- it happens to premenopausal people and pregnant people too.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:23 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you do end up taking the path of permanent vegetarian/pescetarian, I think you will find it easy enough to modify many meals to suit both meat and non-meat.

Here's a short list off the top of my head (plus those you already mentioned) where you can make the meal entirely vegetarian and simply add meat to the existing dish, either as an individual's topping choice or maybe half of the original veg meal:

- Tacos with beans, peppers, salsa, veggies (brown meat separately)
- Pasta with marinara sauce (add meat to half of sauce)
- Bean chili (brown meat separately, combine with half of veg mix)
- Soup, similar process to chili
- Salad (add chicken as a topping)
- Stir fry with veggies (add beef to half of veg mix)
- Pancakes, eggs, toast (bacon on the side)

I've been vegan for a long time. My extended family eats meat. When I'm around, they modify dishes this way to appease my ridiculous requests. For me, it's only a matter of being easy going about it. For them, after a brief adjustment, this type of cooking became normal and no more time consuming than before.
posted by mr_bovis at 10:32 AM on April 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

Are you neurodivergent, by any chance (autism, ADHD, etc.)? I'm on a cooking/food FB group for ND folks and I see a LOT of people discussing sudden food aversions, even for things they formerly loved and/or considered safe foods.

I have ADHD with a significant sensory processing disorder component, and I have experienced this myself. For years my regular breakfast was two hard-boiled eggs and a glass of V8. I ate it most days because it was easy and I enjoy it. And then one day, I just didn't like hard-boiled eggs any more. This was mildly alarming because I need to eat low carb and eggs are a staple in my diet. But for weeks, I couldn't do the hard-boiled ones. So I found something else to eat for breakfast for a while, and eventually I tried the eggs again and I was fine.

Recently, I wound up with a stupid amount of frozen shrimp, thanks to a mix-up with my grocery delivery. I was annoyed but I figured it would be ok because I like shrimp. Except, apparently I don't care much for shrimp any more. I've loved it since I was a kid, but right now the thought turns my stomach. I'm just going to lay off it for a while and hopefully I'll eventually like it again.

I don't know that anyone in my group knows why exactly this happens, just that it's a thing ND people seem to experience. Possibly non-ND people as well, but I can't speak to that. Nobody seems to have any idea what to do about it either, other than to leave the food alone for a while (weeks, months) and try again later.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:32 AM on April 19, 2022 [8 favorites]

What vitamin/deficiencies do I need to look out for? How do I ensure I get enough protein?

Protein is a nonissue if you're getting enough calories. Even vegans get enough protein without any special effort. If you were going vegan, you'd need a B12 supplement, but that's really it. If this ends up with you eating more fruits and vegetables, you'll probably be better off in terms of vitamins. (When you say you eat low-carb, I'm assuming you're talking about low in white flour and not stuff like carrots.) If you are really worried about it though, you could get the chronometer app and check. (I went to a dietitian to have my diet evaluated, and that's what she used.) But people all over the world have eaten diets with little or no meat for literally centuries without ill effects.
posted by FencingGal at 10:57 AM on April 19, 2022

Bacon and salami are fine

I sometimes get sensitive to whatever it is that happens when meat is a bit old but not bad (other people eat it and don't notice anything and don't get sick), and I rarely get that ick from salami or bacon.
Despite loving it, I also don't like making pork stoco because of the smell. I'm on birth control too, but suspect it may be hormonally related? It doesn't happen every month but seems to happen around my period more often than not. This predates Covid, by the way.

On the other hand, it's not a texture thing and left over chicken is usually the worst offender, so whatever is pinging your yuck reflex is maybe different. But the concept is maybe still the same. Conversely, my husband is sometimes really sensitive to "fishiness" and I'm not. So I think it is something that just sort of happens.

We wound up going almost meat free for a bit just because. I wound up with really low iron, but there were some other things going on that could have also contributed which coincidentally (?) also resolved when I started eating meat again
posted by ghost phoneme at 11:00 AM on April 19, 2022

Best answer: Seconding muddgirl's question about COVID. A couple of my friends had COVID, and afterward, their palates and preferences significantly changed. Also, as we age, our bodies change. Some things that we used to enjoy, we can no longer stomach, and some things that we strongly disliked are now regular favorites. I've had to switch to soy milk because a glass of even 1% cow's milk will absolutely do a number on my guts, but I can still eat moderate amounts of butter or cheese without incident. I used to enjoy a nice, thick steak, but now the mere thought of it turns my stomach; though I still regularly enjoy chicken, ground beef, and pork chops just fine.
posted by xedrik at 11:10 AM on April 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also came to suggest tick bite.
posted by dobbs at 11:43 AM on April 19, 2022

Response by poster: I had Omicron back around Xmas (so did my boyfriend, we were both felled by his daughter who was asymptomatic but had gotten it from HER boyfriend; it was mild for both of us). I wish I could remember how long it's been since I went off meat after that. I did go on a super low carb/high protein diet for January/February but that's because I was going on tour with my band and was feeling fat and self-conscious (I have PCOS and need to lose about 50 lbs anyway) and we ate separate meals during that time, but I stuck with eggs, bacon, salmon, and tuna for protein for that time period and upped my legume intake. Maybe I was already off meat after I recovered from Omicron and didn't realize because I was doing the Self-Conscious Chubby Girl Musician food plan? I've sort of stuck with the same diet after the tour was over but relaxed some of the parameters (like I'm open to starchy things and white flour and sugar again, but in moderation).

Thanks everyone for the advice, I think we can manage me changing my diet without messing things up too much at dinner time. Honestly I think my boyfriend would prefer to eat a pork chop alone than make two and have me gagging after one bite. (Seriously I feel very bad for hurting his feelings when he is cooking the same meat recipes he has for years that haven't been a problem).
posted by nayantara at 12:59 PM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh yeah and chicken stock/beef stock isn't an issue at all. It's the meat itself that's turning my stomach.
posted by nayantara at 1:01 PM on April 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Bacon and salami are fine, weirdly.
I'm pescatarian because since childhood I gagged on meat, found it... fleshy...and just had to wait to be old enough to declare that I categorically don't eat it.
And yet, highly processed meat like bacon doesn't bother me. I don't order it or cook it for myself because I'm in the habit of not eating meat, but I occasionally have had a bite of bacon when I was with others eating it, and I realize I like it. Other highly processed meat like prosciutto is the same experience.
The reason for me: this stuff is so processed it doesn't even seem like it came from a pig! I don't feel like it's flesh. It could be tasty processed plastic for all its resemblance to "real" meat.
At least that's my experience.
posted by nantucket at 1:34 PM on April 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Wow, I'm dealing with exactly this now. Also coming off of having done a pretty meat heavy low carb diet for a while. I have not had COVID as far as I know, and I test very regularly.

I did have a stomach bug that was very miserable for a day and a half, and then went away, but I think it might be the culprit.

I'm rolling with it for now. That seems to be a lot of potatoes. I'm not worried yet but feeling kind of guilty about a lot of food in my fridge I may or may not ever get to eat.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:49 PM on April 19, 2022

I went through this a few years ago (pre covid). I used to love meat and even went on a Paleo-esque type diet for a while because i was having digestive issues I believed were related to sugars/carbs. I stopped doing that after a while. One day I ordered a bagel with eggs/cheese/meat and there was something gross in there. Another day I had a split pea soup with ham and something was off about it. A few of those episodes and I was completely turned off. I didn't want to touch or be next to any meat. I also described it as an aversion. The weird thing is it still would look tasty to me and I would have mild cravings but I just could not imagine myself touching it or putting it in my mouth.

I could and did drink broth. It felt like my body was missing something after a while. Anyway I recently started having very serious cravings for meat and have had beef and pork. No chicken yet. I don't like the idea of ordering these dishes I'm craving so I have to make them myself. It was a very stressful process dealing with the raw pork. I am planning to eat chicken wings soon and am dreading touching raw chicken. So who knows, that process may turn me off again. Oh and my husband just stopped eating meat as well. He didn't have to but it was just easier for him.
posted by mokeydraws at 11:25 AM on April 20, 2022

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