Two years ago I spent a week as a vegetarian. We were still living in Florida at that time and Chris had been sent to work in New Jersey for a week. I’d been toying with the idea of being a vegetarian for awhile, mostly because I’d become interested by learning from my friend Eliana who went from being a vegetarians to becoming a vegan, and I wanted to give it a whirl. Chris being gone seemed to make it a perfect time to put it all on trial. The week was spent well and I learned a lot, mostly that I could be a vegetarian and it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought. Around that time Alicia’s Silvertone’s book (insert book) had come out so I purchased that and absorbed all of the information.
Since we were going on our hike it didn’t seem very feasible to jump into this for the long term so I put it on hold. Then we were living with our families and everything was so transient that it seemed too much of a burden to handle at the time.
On May 1st of this year I decided to go full on with it. we were going to be working in the field and for some dumb reason I thought that since we would be eating out a lot that it would make it easier. I couldn’t have been more wrong on that account. Eating out has to be one of the hardest things to do as a vegetarian.
In August we finally settled down and were able to get better on planning meals and figuring things out. Chris decided he would eat vegetarian with me at home and eat meat when he was out. That helped a lot as I know people who are the only vegetarians at home tend to have a harder time with it, cooking separate meals and issues like that. We borrowed vegetarian coookbooks from the library and scanned our favorites for future use. The internet of course is a vast resource, too.
It is easy to fall into being a cheese and pasta vegetarian. I love both, but it isn’t a very nutrious or healthy way to eat either. Hence the problem with eating out; you are resorted to cheese covered items or lots of pasta. Salads are a good option but most of the time they are covered in meat. Sure you can get them without meat but you are a: paying for the meat even if you get it without, restaurants rarey adjust the price for no meat and b: you are usually losing a protein source and only a few restaurants, typically Asian fare, have tofu on hand as a substitute. You can definitely be a vegetarian and be unhealthy.
As you can tell I still eat cheese and eggs as well as milk products, though not milk itself. For milk I have switched to almond milk, even though for years I drank soy milk. Once I tried almond I never went back to soy. I’ve also found that almond tends to be a bit cheaper than soy milk.
Once we started planning meals I realized there is quite a variety of foods to eat and that for the most part I never feel deprived. It also healthier because we aren’t relying on pasta and rice only, we come up with other ideas to make things interesting. Sure, we add in meatless crumbles into our spaghetti or to use in chili and we’ve also bought faux chicken to spice things up, but we by far do not rely on those for meals.
I’ve had meat, I think four times, during this period. Twice I’ve had fish that Chris caught, something I decided that I will eat if the opportunity arises. I splurged and had sushi on my birthday and I ate meat when I met a friend for dinner because my other options were slim. Of course I still think about meat from time to time, particularly when people talk about it or when I smell something delectable. I’ve decided I don’t really miss chicken or lunch meat. I do miss Chic-Fil-A chicken and I could probably eat a mess of Wing Stop wings, but both are fried and drenched in other stuff. I also miss shredded pork, either bbq or Cuban style. Lately I’ve been wanting meat some and I decided that I’m going to eat meat at Christmas. Ham, turkey and gravy….I can’t pass it up! I could, but you know, I’m alright with not passing it up.
I’m sure some people will think it is sacrilege to eat meat a handful of times a year, but I’ve read many blogs where people are vegetarian but allow themselves meat on special occassions. There’s no reason I can’t make my own rules as I go. Will I eat meat next Christmas? Who knows? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll see about that next year.
This vegetarian thing, though, will be sticking around for awhile I think. With enough planning (and it really isn’t that hard to plan for two people) it isn’t difficult to be a vegetarian. Eating out and visiting friends…yes, but you will find that most people are willing to accomodate and will even do it without you asking. I certainly appreciate that and don’t expect my friends to bend to my dietary needs, usually I’ll eat what I can find or try to eat something before I go somewhere. I was ecstatic when I went to a party in August where my friend had considered me the meal planning—something I did not expect!
A few tips:
-Don’t go crazy with buying all sorts of new foods. Try new things out one at a time. For one, if you don’t like what you bought, you are just wasting the food. Two, if you are the only vegetarian in the house it will take awhile to go through it. Want to try quinoa and couscous and all sorts of new grains? Pick one each week or two and try new recipes with each. Master a few recipes so you can have on hand when you buy that product.
-Buy your fresh vegetables every few days. You will be more enticed to eat them when they are fresh. If you see produce on sale, particularly if it is in season, buy extra for out of season times and freeze it. It will be great added to yogurt, oatmeal, or to make smoothies out of later.
-Prepare meals in advance and freeze them or make extra for leftovers. This works with any way of eating, but it eases lunch issues at work and will help you make better choices than ordering unhealthy vegetarian food at lunch. Plus, making your own meals will reduce buying premade items that potentially have unwanted additives in them—even if you buy organic and/or natural premade items they can be more expensive than making it yourself.
-Know that you will probably have to make weird food choices in a pinch at a restaurant. Ask the waiter questions about how the food is prepared. If you are flexible (some vegetarians are not) you may have to accept a bowl of French onion soup that has beef broth in it. Yes, don’t forget how your soups are prepared. Rice could easily be prepared in chicken broth. If you are willing to bypass that, eating out might be easier—if not, there’s always salad! I still forget and order sides of beans and they come with tiny bits of meat. My choice is either to share it with a meat eater, eat it myself because wasting food is stupid, or not eat it. Usually it gets eaten.
-Also. be prepared for weird looks by the waitstaff, comments that appear to be funny but are actually snide, and for your meal to come out wrong despite ordering it without meat. While there is plethora of vegetarians these days, and the lifestyle is much more prevalent than in previous decades, we live in a omnivorous society and folks love their meat. That said, be polite, slowly educate and spread the word without being militant about it. Actions always speak louder than words.
I’m definitely not the be all and end all on resources, I’m stil learning. Here’s some of my favorite websites and books:
No Meat Athlete
Brendan Brazier, Thrive in 30
Oh She Glows
Forks Over Knives: Haven’t watched this yet, need to borrow it from my library but it has a long list of people in front of me.
Meatless Mexican Home Cooking
Super Natural Cooking
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
That’s just a few. A Google search or a trip to the bookstore will allow you to find tons of information out there. There is definitely a lot of research that has gone into the vegetarian lifestyle.
I’ll probably do another self review again when it has been a year, see how I feel and write about it again. Until then, eat a few more veggies (you too dad! 🙂 ) next time you have a meal.