Thoughts on Two Years of Being Vegetarian
Two years ago I embarked on this experiment of going full on vegetarian. Initially I thought I’d just try it for a few months but then I chose a weird time to do it, jumping in when Chris and I went and did field work for three months. Not exactly an ideal time I came to find out once I started eating at restaurants. My delusional idea was that it would be easier to try this without cooking….boy was I wrong! Restaurants are the most difficult place to be vegetarian.
Well, here it is two years later and I’m pretty much a committed vegetarian. I’ve dabbled in the not-so-healthy vegetarianism too, loading up on cheesy, greasy items, probably eating too much rice and pasta, but I’m working on cleaning that up. Pairing the clean diet I’m trying to get back into a regular workout routine. Going from being extremely active to sitting for 8+ hours a day has not been good.
During these two years I’ve read and listened to a lot of food and foodie related items. I’ve learned a lot about our food system and have committed to being better about buying locally at two farmers markets that are near my house when I can’t grow something or for eggs (now I’ve been getting coffee too!), and attempting to buy organic or in season as much as I can at the grocery store. Now, not everything is organic or in season but I do my best. Chris and I had a discussion in the middle of the store back in early December about some butter. I wanted the organic store brand butter and he wanted the brand that said “Go Texan” which is a symbol for supposedly locally made products. I definitely agree that sometimes local might be better than organic being shipped across the country but once I got online I found out that the final product butter *was* made in Texas but the brand itself was owned by a conglomerate and likely received shipments of milk from all over the southeast. Chris attempted to get more information from the manufacturer but I don’t believe he ever heard anything back.
Now that’s a little bit off the vegetarian thing but what being vegetarian has done has really just made me think about food and where it comes from even more. I watched Forks Over Knives and it hit home for me because heart disease is prominent in my family and I hope that being vegetarian will help me in preventing any problems that could be lingering down the road for me.
Of course there’s the environmental issue, but even bringing together knowledgeable folks to weigh in their opinions, there’s plenty of discourse in that. I think what resonates most is eat whole foods and eat as locally as possible….organic if you can. Or you know what Michael Pollan said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Which brings me to ‘fake’ meats and the like. I don’t really buy them all that often. Sometimes we buy ‘beef’ crumbles to put into spaghetti or faux sausage for our Zuppa Toscana recipe, but in general I don’t buy it. Though I do have a weakness for Quorn Chik’n Nuggets and I think in the vein of fake meats Quorn products are far superior to any of the soy based fake meats. But I do treat them as junk food and don’t use them often, maybe once every few months. I don’t eat or like soy dogs or the soy lunch meats, they are pretty much disgusting and I don’t know any vegetarian who likes them (speak up if you do!). I’d rather just eat a veggie filled sandwich instead of fake meat, though I do like black bean burgers. Amy’s trumps Morningstar in this department. I have tried making my own, which means they don’t have soy protein isolates, but I’ve only done it once and I really need to spend more time and make more to freeze. Actually looking at Amy’s ingredients it appears they don’t use soy isolates/concentrates and instead use mostly whole ingredients. Anyway, that’s for the folks who get all woozy about soy…and I’m not even going to touch that subject because while soy is everywhere (oil, proteins, other weird things),and I tend to try to avoid it when it is added in things I don’t think should have it, I’m not against eating it in more whole forms.
As for taking it to the next level and going vegan, I don’t forsee going that route any time soon. I like cheese and I like eggs and I don’t have as much of a qualm about them as I do eating meat. I will probably try to reduce my cheese intake and would like to try to finding more organic and local cheeses, but since I can generally source yard eggs around here I don’t feel bad about eating eggs at all. Sometimes I’ll buy the organic eggs at the store if I can’t get to the farmers market, but that isn’t as common now that I found out I can generally get to a farmers market weekly.
I have eaten meat during these two years. Sometimes I order something and it comes with meat (damn you Mexican restaurants and your sneaky enchilada sauces or beans!) and so I eat it or give it to someone else, and of course I will look the other way for broths in soups if needed at restaurants. I also definitely look forward to my birthday because that’s my sushi day….mmmmm! And if Chris catches fish I will eat and appreciate eating the fish. I don’t miss meat on most days and I could definitely do without chicken for just about ever, but what tempts me most is ribs, pulled pork, and brisket. And sushi. Or turkey at Thanksgiving. Sometimes I have a bit or slice of something and then my taste is sated and I’m good for another year.
Will there come a time when I don’t do this at all? Maybe. I don’t know yet. This is a one day at a time thing for me. But what I do know is that I do appreciate the bountiful selection of vegetables that are out there and the different ways to make it into something delicious to eat for a meal.
Oh, one other thing, I don’t take supplements. I hate vitamins and they make my stomach upset, but I also believe in eating your vitamins through food instead. I know there’s the worries about B12 and while I haven’t had my blood tested, I don’t feel as if I am deficient in anything. I think I will try to get an updated blood test soon though as I haven’t had one done in many years. I guess this turned into a bit of a rambling post instead of the structured one that was going on in my head, but if you have questions or comments please feel free to ask away!
Just like gluten free, you have to take it one day at a time! Oh and restaurants generally suck In the gluten free department as well. Did you know most hamburgers at restaurants are made with bread crumbs so they could get more bang for their buck?!? Or did you know that you have to ask if their fries are fried in the same grease as other fried things, i.e. fried chicken?!? It’s a pain in the butt but well worth it for my health 🙂
I would love to try it too. I am allergic to soy/peanuts though .. Really hard to avoid soybeans. The darn oil is in everything!
I meant to put in some cookbooks we’ve really liked:
Essential Vegetarian http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/174045409X
Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook: http://www.rareseeds.com/baker-creek-vegan-cookbook-and-bonus-seeds/
The Kind Diet: http://www.amazon.com/The-Kind-Diet-Simple-Feeling/dp/1609611357
Stephanie & Beegirl, I’m just glad I’m doing this by choice and not because my life depends on it. I can’t imagine having to do it for an allergy or something else!
This is excellent! I adore the faux meat, but as Tom always tells me, I haven’t tasted meat in about 25 years so they are a little less tasty to people who are familiar with what meat actually tastes like. When I became a veg there were very few veg products available- the veggie burgers I got were a powdered mix I ordered through the mail and they were pretty gnarly but I was SO happy not to have to eat just bagels and pasta and salads that I ate them. So when “real” veggie burgers and “chicken” stuff and Boca and all that came on the market, I was ecstatic. And then our local grocery store had them! I feel like it’s an abundance of good stuff. But eating out is always a challenge.
I think the second best decision I made as far as eating is to only eat whole grains and no straight starches. I did that about seven years ago. My cholesterol shot straight down. It’s made me INCREDIBLY picky about food and it’s limited my choices at restaurants, but it also makes it easier because if my only choice at a restaurant is french fries and a salad, I just won’t eat there. Or if I have to so I don’t inconvenience everyone, I’ll get a double salad, ask for some veggies on it and always ask for extra olives (for protein!) Then I’ll eat again at home. Salad has become my favorite meal.
It’s an interesting thing, being a vegetarian, especially since I don’t cook! But I’ve made it work. I wonder if Gracie will wind up switching? We decided that it was such a life-changing decision for us, that she needed to make it for herself when and if she ever felt compelled to.
Good for you. Have you noticed any changes, good or bad, with your health? It would have been interesting to see a blood panel from before you started next to one now. I’m a nerd and like to look at that stuff!
I’ve been meaning to crack into the Essential Vegetarian cookbook. It’s been on my shelf for years (I stole it from my grandparents who made a few changes after my grandpa’s heart attack in the early 90s). Because of my health issues (already being very limited in what I am supposed to eat), vegetarianism isn’t an option for me, but I do appreciate a lot of the recipes that fall within my lower carbohydrate parameters 🙂
Well I done some reading lately about diet and my fibromyalgia and IBS and I really need to go gluten free. And now with your Dad in the hospital, we need to get him back on a heart healthy diet! I guess I need to get with it! Hopefully he gets to go home today then I am cleaning out the cabinets and fridge. May run to Sam’s to see what I can find. Back to lots of salads and veggies for me, salads and lean meat for Dad. Wish he would eat veggies. Maybe he can eat bruschetta a lot.
What an interesting post (I’m far behind in blog reading as you can see). Personally, I make no dietary modifications and go by the motto, “everything in moderation” and I know I can do a lot better, but don’t. It fascinates me to hear about ways you can do A, B or C, even though I don’t really act on it. I give y’all credit! And like you said in one of your comments, I am grateful I can do everything by choice because I would have a whole lot of learning to do!!