I feel that this is like a phobia which I have to overcome. Do you see this is a problem I have to get rid of, or it is ok to live with such thing and I don’t have to bother about solving this issue? In general, I do not feel this is something that irritates my life, except may be in Eid ul Adha when I feel I am not celebrating like others. I feel odd and I don’t like this feeling. Also, I heard that there might be some soy alternatives for meat. Do you advise that I resort to such alternatives? If yes, please provide me with a list of them.
In this counseling answer:
• Many animals today are not raised like they were in the time of the Prophet (saw). An animal that is raised with care and love and slaughtered with the same is not the same as an animal raised in crowded conditions, fed antibiotics and other drugs, and slaughtered at a slaughterhouse.
• When you attend ’Eid celebrations, you will be able to enjoy the high-protein almond-based desserts, the delicious high-protein hummus, the tasty high-protein yogurt with cucumbers, and perhaps even some of the other dishes that are not made with meat.
• Another option is to offer to “help” by bringing two dishes yourself.
You do not need to feel any guilt or discomfort for choosing a different way of eating. Historically, in small, extended families, people would eat from a small local and seasonal selection, and many households would actually take the temperament of the person (or any illnesses or imbalances they had that day) into consideration when cooking the meal. In addition, traditional Islamic medicine often recommends eating only certain foods for certain situations or conditions. If you consider how often the Prophet (saw) recommended a special diet for one of his followers, you can imagine how common it might have been for at least a few people to be eating differently during a meal. This was an understood necessity.
Eating in a different way is even more acceptable today. As society split into smaller and smaller parts (now we have couples and even single people living alone), people started to explore new ways of eating. Add to that the number of people eating special diets for diabetes, weight loss, hypoglycemia, heart disease and more. It is pretty rare to find anyone who actually eats the entire meal being served. Many people may give the illusion of eating “together”, but if you look closely, many people choose only to eat from part of what is being offered, or they do not eat everything on their plate.
People have a variety of reasons for not eating certain foods. Many people do not eat wheat or consume milk because they have a food intolerance for these items and cannot digest them properly. However, they are not intending to deny that the Prophet (saw) listed both of these items as healing foods for certain conditions. Other people do not eat peanuts or strawberries because they are allergic to them; some people do not eat red meat because they have high cholesterol, and even more people avoid dessert because they have diabetes. Additionally, some people simply don’t eat certain foods because it makes them ill to taste, smell, or look at them. Foods that often fall in this category are spinach, broccoli, or peas.
For you to avoid eating animal meat is no different. A psychological reason is just as valid and as common as any other reason people have for avoiding certain foods. Many people put psychology and physical health in different categories. However, they both hold the same power over your health. To maintain a healthy balance, one must have a peaceful emotional, spiritual, and physical lifestyle. If it makes you ill to think of eating an animal, then this would damage your emotional and spiritual well-being and would be just as harmful as if people with heart disease were doing something to damage their physical well-being. The psyche is just as powerful as the physical body.
Additionally, many animals today are not raised like they were in the time of the Prophet (saw). An animal that is raised with care and love and slaughtered with the same is not the same as an animal raised in crowded conditions, fed antibiotics and other drugs, and slaughtered at a slaughterhouse. Even the sheep that are provided for ‘Eid are often kept in crowded conditions before they are properly slaughtered, and many are raised using pharmaceutical and unnatural foods. Even though they may be slaughtered with respect, love, and care (not doing it in front of other animals, doing it quickly, etc…), their conditions before the slaughter were not good. If you take this into account, then it is not surprising that you feel ill when you think of eating an animal.
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It would be interesting to see if you would feel the same about eating animals that were raised in a completely humane way and slaughtered with kindness and skill. However, it would be impossible to know this as there are so many animals being mistreated. It would be impossible to remove these images from your mind and concentrate on the other images. But it is an interesting question to wonder about. Although this is not the main reason people become vegetarian, it is one of the reasons that people state as to why they became vegetarian.
I do not recommend using meat substitutes as they are often soy-based and many people are allergic or intolerant to soy. In addition, heavy consumption of soy can be damaging to many systems of the body. Instead, you should focus on combining whole grains (such as brown rice or brown bread) with beans (fava/ful, garbanzo/hummos, kidney, navy beans, lentils, etc…). This combination forms a complete protein. In addition, the following foods are high in natural protein: eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, and flax seeds.
To give you an idea of how much protein you need each day and how much you have to eat to get it, consider that a person weighing 150 lbs. should eat 55 grams of protein, and a person weighing 200 pounds should eat about 74 grams of protein. One hamburger patty has about 28 grams of protein, eggs have 6 grams of protein, yogurt has 12 grams per cup, beans have about 10 grams per half cup, peanuts and almonds have 9 grams per half cup, and cashews have 6 grams per half cup. Cottage cheese actually has 15 grams per cup!
The vegetarian foods that are high in protein are cottage cheese, yogurt, hummus, muesli, almond butter, Miso, Edame, Quinoia, and Spirulina. If you are in a situation where you are not able to get enough protein from the meal at hand, you can eat some of these as a snack before you go out or after your return home. Yogurt and hummus are usually readily available at all ’Eid celebrations.
When you attend ’Eid celebrations, you will be able to enjoy the high-protein almond-based desserts, the delicious high-protein hummus, the tasty high-protein yogurt with cucumbers, and perhaps even some of the other dishes that are not made with meat. You will certainly not be the only one on a “special diet” at the celebration, and you will certainly enjoy the desserts just as much as anyone else – and those are always the height of the celebration!
Another option is to offer to “help” by bringing two dishes yourself. You could make vegetarian stuffed grape-leaves, a mixed vegetable salad, a vegetable stew, or any other dish that you enjoy. In this way, you are sharing in the celebration in more ways than one – you are sharing your food with others AND you are able to eat even more with them.
In sha’ Allah, this is helpful.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.