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January 24, 2008 11:52 AM   Subscribe

My sister has been a vegetarian for several years. She's contemplating eating meat again. Is there a safe way to do this that won't destroy her stomach?
posted by roomthreeseventeen to Food & Drink (28 answers total)
I've spent prolonged periods as a vegetarian, and even a vegan, and never had a problem when I added meat back into my diet. Not a murmur of a problem. In fact, the only change I could readily identify is that when I started eating meat (I started with some roast beef) after being a vegan for a year, my horrible gas went away immediately.
posted by OmieWise at 11:55 AM on January 24, 2008

There's nothing in meat that will 'destroy anyone's stomach'. They don't work that way.

That being said, I recommend either a ribeye steak "Pittsburgh Style" or some tandoori chicken. Mmmmm...
posted by unixrat at 11:58 AM on January 24, 2008

posted by JanetLand at 12:00 PM on January 24, 2008

This won't be a problem. If it is, it's psychosomatic. Humans are meant to eat meat - We've been omnivores since we were (approximately) chimps. Not knocking vegetarianism - I completely understand why some people would be put off meat. There's no physiological reason why going back to meat would be traumatic, though.
posted by mamessner at 12:03 PM on January 24, 2008

My darling girlfriend re-introduced red meat into her diet again by having small amounts of my meals (if I ordered red meat somewhere) over the course of a month or so. Which may have been a baseless concern, as unixrat says, as she never had a problem up till and including the steak she eventually ordered.
posted by phearlez at 12:03 PM on January 24, 2008

I was a vegetarian for six years and the first meat-thing I ate was a turkey sub with bacon. I was absolutely fine. And I have IBS and a generally sensitive stomach. No problems at all. I was amazed.

I will say this, though: I am far less regular as a meat eater than as a veg.
posted by amro at 12:06 PM on January 24, 2008

I have gone back and forth several times - I don't recommend starting off with a couple of McDonald's double cheeseburgers (unless you have a good thick novel to read on the john) but otherwise it shouldn't be a big deal.

(I tend to eat much less fast food when I'm veggie, so I'm perfectly willing to blame it on the grease rather than the meat itself - nevertheless, avoid!)
posted by restless_nomad at 12:06 PM on January 24, 2008

Every vegetarian is different. I started with fish, then moved to chicken, then pork and beef, and never had any problem. My girlfriend get an upset stomach if she eats something made with chicken broth, but I suspect that's largely psychological. The best approach would seem to be start slowly and in small quantities and work up to the all-you-can-eat beef buffet.

There's nothing in meat that will 'destroy anyone's stomach'. They don't work that way.
A common complaint among lapsed vegetarians is an "acclimation period" where their guts adjust to the different input. The problem doesn't lie in the food itself, but the body's adaption to a new input.
posted by lekvar at 12:07 PM on January 24, 2008

I was veg for more than 20 years. When I went back to eating some meat, I started with small amounts of chicken or turkey in curries and stir fries. No problems. I haven't had any beef but I don't think it will be a problem if I do.

And if anyone is wondering, I went back to some meat eating because I discovered that when I took protein supplements I had more energy and better muscles. Rather than eat whey that was produced from factory-farmed cows, highly processed, and shipped across the country, it seemed best for all concerned if I just ate some local, humanely-raised meat.
posted by PatoPata at 12:08 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think that this question has come up in the last year or so, as well.

My experience is that I can eat meat or not eat meat, with no digestive effects either way, although the psychological impact of switching from "meat is gross" to "I am eating a big piece of steak and loving it" can be kind of weird for the first couple of days if you've been veggie for a long time.

I've had friends who complained of stomach cramps and the like when moving from veggie to meat, but I've never had any discomfort or anything, so your sister may suffer nothing at all. Purely anecdotally, people have told me that it is easier to go first to fish, then chicken, then red meat, and doing it that way certainly couldn't hurt her; whether or not there is any benefit is a different question. One thing that many lapsed vegetarians I've known have done is to quit vegetarianism by going to a fast food restaurant and ordering a triple cheeseburger, which would give even the most committed meat eater problems. Stick to better quality meat, and she will be fine.
posted by Forktine at 12:10 PM on January 24, 2008

This article says one may have reduced quantities of the enzymes required to digest meat, which could cause discomfort at first, or maybe it's psychosomatic, and that "several experts said they knew of no studies on the matter."
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:13 PM on January 24, 2008

I have the world's most sensitive stomach, and yet I had no problem when I went from vegetarian to omnivore some years ago. If anything, I found animal protein much easier to digest than the beans, rice, and grains that I had been living on!
posted by chez shoes at 12:17 PM on January 24, 2008

I know my digestive system still does not like a big meal of fatty steak (ribeye) with buttery potatoes and veggies.

If her diet is relatively low-fat, try starting off with something that doesn't have huge amounts of fat, but otherwise I bet she'll be fine if she's ready to do it.
posted by that girl at 12:23 PM on January 24, 2008

One of my good friends became a veg when she was 15 or so, and then stayed that way until she was 25. Then one day she was in the car at Wendy's with her family and said "OHMIGOD I want a triple cheeseburger with bacon." So they ordered it, and she was fine.
posted by TomMelee at 12:48 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was a vegetarian for six years, then started eating fish again, then poultry, then moderate amounts of red meat. I never had any stomach problems with eating meat itself, but, along the lines of thatgirl's comment, I did (and do) find it was easier on my digestive system to eat low-fat meat than high-fat stuff.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:56 PM on January 24, 2008

Well my sister was a vegetarian for years and had her first non-veg meal at Thanksgiving several years ago. She ate tons of turkey, bacon, and sausage at that one meal and didn't have a bit of problem.

Me, on the other hand, I stopped eating red meat mainly because it made me sick to my stomach. When I was in grad school I was poor and never had time to cook so I almost never ate beef. Then the very occasional meal with beef that I gave me a very difficult time and i assume that I had somehow lost the ability to digest it, having mainly gone without for some long. So I cut it out entirely and now it's been almost 15 years. I sometimes will have a taste of really delicious looking beef from someone else's plate and it doesn't seem to bother me but I don't think I could jump right back in with a whole steak.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:04 PM on January 24, 2008

Just don't do this.
posted by notsnot at 1:13 PM on January 24, 2008

My experience goes along with that girl and hurdy gurdy girl -- like them I have not had problems with meat in general when going back to meat eating after a vegetarian stretch, but sometimes I have had a little queasiness from the high fat content of a particular meat dish (as you might expect, particularly beef). As with any change in diet / habit, taking things easy and in stages is always a good course. And it probably goes without saying that even if you are an omnivore, huge marbled steaks drenched in garlic butter, bacon double cheesburgers with fries, and heaping plates of fried calamari are not such a great idea, digestively speaking. But when you've been denying yourself such things for a while it can be hard not to overindulge when you fall, or swan-dive, off the veg wagon.
posted by aught at 1:16 PM on January 24, 2008

Still a veg-head here (well mostly - I do love a sushi binge every once in a while).

However, I would nth the advice to go very slowly. I havent had any red meat in years and I've been known to get mildly ill after accidently consuming even beef broth in a restaurant (not psychosomatic I assure you). Just ease into it. Your digestive system is wonderfully adaptive as long as you dont shock it by filling it with stuff that you havent eaten in years. After all, it adjusted from omnivore to vegetarian.

Tell your sister we'll miss her ;-)
posted by elendil71 at 1:30 PM on January 24, 2008

I asked this question two years ago. I had a turkey sandwich the first day, in order to "ease into it". The next day I had a bacon cheeseburger, and I was fine. It was the most full I had been in a long time, though.
posted by hopeless romantique at 1:57 PM on January 24, 2008

As a raw vegan with a high-fat diet, it was really easy to pick up meat again. Meat is a a food humans evolved with, but modern meat does have a higher fat content than wild meat, so I'd start with the lower-fat meats. The problem foods I had transitioning away from raw vegan were foods humans haven't been eating very long like milk and soy.
posted by melissam at 2:21 PM on January 24, 2008

I recently ( last few months) started eating meat again, after 14 years, and so far I have not had any problems at all. I have stayed away from red meat so far ( no steak or hamburgers ), for fear that it would cause problems. Never was much of a fan of steak anyways, so I'm in no rush.

On a side note, after being married for 8 years, it really nice for my wife to be able to cook meals for the both of us ( she was not a veg, so we always cooked separate).
posted by brent_h at 2:56 PM on January 24, 2008

Adding another anecdote, I spent 2 years vegetarian and another vegan after that, and my first meal as a non-vegan was my first night out eating sushi. It was a bunch of us, so we got a sushi boat. I loved the rolls, but the nigiri was a bit of a mental hurdle. There wasn't any intestinal distress as a result. And wow do I have a hankering for sushi now...
posted by nobeagle at 3:14 PM on January 24, 2008

but modern meat does have a higher fat content than wild meat,

Melissam, are you sure about that? Supermarket pork, for example, is bred to be so lean as to be dry, unlike the fattier (and more tender and flavorful) pork I get from free-range farms. Though if you're talking about the fact that we eat steak instead of bison, yeah, we don't eat as much lean meat.

Anyway, poultry and fish are easier to digest, high amount of fat are going to feel weird, at least psychologically, and she'll probably notice some change in her bowel habits.
posted by desuetude at 7:02 PM on January 24, 2008

When you start feeding babies solids, they give you the order at the pediatrician's office: Lamb, chicken, beef then pork for ease of digestion and getting the system acclimated from milk to grains to animal. (I have no idea where fish fits in as fish isn't a kid food thanks to mercury.) I'd venture a guess that it's similar.
posted by Gucky at 7:17 PM on January 24, 2008

desuetude, you are probably buying Berkshire pork, which is pretty fatty, but there are even fattier breeds out there, like Wollschwein and the other European "lard" breeds. Early agriculturalists prized fat and bred animals for it. However, modern vs. agrarian isn't the same as modern vs. wild. Game meats like wild boar, elk, reindeer, etc. are usually so low in fat that in order to turn them into some products, like sausage, you usually need to add fat from conventional animals.
posted by melissam at 9:29 PM on January 24, 2008


No folo on the slider contest?
posted by baylink at 10:48 PM on January 24, 2008

However, modern vs. agrarian isn't the same as modern vs. wild. Game meats like wild boar, elk, reindeer, etc. are usually so low in fat that in order to turn them into some products, like sausage, you usually need to add fat from conventional animals.

True 'dat.

(And mmm, that reminds me that I have wild boar sausage in my freezer.)
posted by desuetude at 8:54 AM on January 25, 2008

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