A lot of people are really surprised when they find out I don’t eat meat.
Oh. you’re one of those people.
Yep, I am. If you would have told me years ago that I would become a Vegetarian, I would have said you’re crazy. But… I’ve learned to never say never. I’m not going to try to sway your eating habits in this post- just in case you suddenly want to protect your bacon.
But I’ve had several people ask me about it so I’m going to share the most commonly asked questions with my meatless answers as well as give you some quick tips:
How long have you been a Vegetarian? A little over five years.
What made you decide to do it? In the years leading up to my switch, I noticed when I prepared the meat from a raw state I didn’t really end up eating it. I just sort of picked at it. I try to eat really healthy and I’m also a huge animal lover. I decided to educate myself more about what I was eating. I read some books and watched some documentaries. What I found changed the way I think about food forever. Here are two of books that had the biggest impact on me in the beginning:
The China Study– This book goes over the most comprehensive nutrition study ever conducted. It’s explores how diet is connected to disease- specifically cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Dr. T. Colin Campbell was a nutritional scientist at Cornell and spearheaded the extensive study via a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of preventative medicine. His data suggests that eating a whole-food, plant based diet will drastically reduce your chance of having these diseases, and it can also reverse the symptoms of of these diseases. This book is jaw-dropping. The factual data about a whole-food, plant based diet in relation to disease is astounding. Everyone should read this book.
Skinny Bitch– The catchy name is to snag your attention (it works!) but the two women who wrote aren’t actually trying to get you to lose weight by reading their book. They live a vegan lifestyle (vegan means you don’t eat meat or any animal product, so dairy is out too) and provide a lot of great information. One thing I loved about this book is that they encourage you not to just take their word for it- they want you check into what they are saying. I have to admit I came away from this raucous and witty read feeling like I everything I was eating was bad for me. I read it in one sitting and stopped eating meat cold-turkey… no pun intended. It was the day before the Super Bowl and my hubby had been marinating ribs for our Superbowl bash. I seriously think all I ate that day was carrots because I had no idea how to eat in a way that didn’t revolve around a main coarse of meat (more on how to cope with this problem below).
Forks Over Knives (Forks Over Knives Book, Forks Over Knives Documentary) is a documentary made by T. Collin Campbell (the father of the China Study) and Dr. Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task force for Cleaveland Clinic. Dr. Esselstyn had noticed many of the diseases he treated didn’t surface in areas where animal-based products weren’t consumed. Forks Over Knives puts food to the test for medicinal purposes.
Another amazing and staggering documentary is Food Inc.
I’m a believer that to elicit change in behavior a person must have a fundamental understanding of the REASONS behind their decision. My research left no desire for me to continue the way I had been eating. I made the change and I’ve stuck with it.
So… what can you eat? It’s funny because I remember asking myself that same question in the beginning. I think there’s a huge misconception that vegetarians basically eat salad for all their meals. I love salad, but I definitely don’t eat it every meal! Once I figured out my staples of substitution it became much easier. Here are some of my tricks:
- The meat in almost every dish can be omitted and/0r “beefed-up” some other way. For example I make a killer Veggie-Lasagna:
Brooke’s Veggie Lasagna
Layer the following three times-
Wheat Lasagna Noodles
Veggies- Diced up Zucchini, Squash, Red Pepper, Green Pepper, Spinach
Pepper-jack cheese with jalapeño
Top with layer of sauce and cheese.
Bake covered with aluminum foil at 375 for an hour. Take off foil for last 10 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the noodles are cooked through.
I’ve served this dish a zillion times to my meat eaters and everyone is completely full and happy.
- Add more veggies. You’d be surprised how many veggies you can pack into a dish to give it the substance you’re craving.
- Switch the meat for beans or lentils– lots of meat can be replaced with lentils, garbonzo beans/chic-peas, black or pinto beans.
- Replace the meat with vegetarian-meatless options or tofu. I’m not a huge tofu person, but there are lots of meatless options that taste very close to meat (check the health food sections of your grocery story). My very favorite substitution like this is Morningstar’s “Spicy Black Bean Burger.” It’s fantastic! I eat this a lot when we are BBQ-ing and I dress it up on a wheat bun with all the fix-ins. I also use this a lot as a substitute for meat in tacos. I just cook and dice it up, maybe add in some diced green chills and voila- tacos!
Here’s some of things I commonly eat:
Eggs loaded with veggies- bell peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, cilantro, avocado & salsa.
Fruit/green smoothies (protein powder, greek yogurt, banana, kale/spinich, frozen or fresh fruit, almond milk/soy milk/milk or 100% juice)
Cottage Cheese & fruit
Protein Shakes (I have a few different kinds, ranging from 9-32 grams of protein)
Crunchy Salads- I add LOTS of stuff into my salads. I think people would eat more salad if was presented better. Common things I put into a salad: Leafy greens, arugula (LOVE), bell peppers, cabbage, sunflower seeds, spinach, gorgonzola cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Black bean burgers on a whole wheat english muffin with guacamole, pickles, lettuce, tomato and mustard.
Hummus (did you know hummus is just pureed garbanzo beans with different flavors?) on pita chips or Naan bread (Costco has some awesome Naan bread you can freeze and just pop in the toaster).
Grilled Cheese Paninis- Smoked gouda cheese, cheddar & wheat bread.
Caprese Salad- Buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, basalmic vinegar, fresh basil.
Yakasoba (broccoli, carrots, onions, bell peppers, cabbage with a soy/Worcestershire sauce served over noodles)
Taco Salad (Leafy green lettuce, kidney beans, black beans, corn, avocado, tomatoes, Doritos and Italian dressing)
A variety of soups (in the fall and winter)- Lentil, minestrone, butternut squash, tomato basil with wheat rolls
Veggie Curry (red potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini, squash, onions, carrots and curry)
Burritos (flour tortillas, pepperjack cheese, refried beans, pinto beans, taco seasonings, spanish rice, salsa, guacamole)
Fancy Quesidillas (ground black bean burgers, caramelized onion, bell peppers, spinach, goat cheese, blue chip tortillas, sour cream)
These are just a few things I love and have in our rotation regularly to give you an idea of some vegetarian-friendly meals. If you would like to see other recipes I may use, you can check out my Healthy Food Ideas Pinterest Board.
What do you eat when you go out to dinner? I can find something to enjoy at almost every restaurant. Many times I just have them exclude the meat on a dish and load up on the other pieces of the entrée. The labeled “vegetarian items” at many places (at least near me) must not have been tried by someone who is actually vegetarian because they usually lack imagination. I tend to order a delicious entree and just request it without the meat.
How about fast food? I don’t get fast food very often. If I do it’s usually some sort of sandwich place where I can have wheat bread and lots of veggies.
What about when you go to someone’s house for dinner and they aren’t vegetarian? I never expect people to provide me with a veggie-friendly meal at dinner parties. I always bring something to contribute to that could also be my main dish. If someone is cooking specifically for me, I mention it ahead of time and offer to bring something.
Is your whole family Vegetarian? They still eat meat but not nearly as much. I love to cook and I’ve found lots of delicious and filling recipes that don’t have meat in them. I try to provide excellent meatless options for my family and let them choose what they want.
How do you get enough protein in your diet? It’s a common misconception that it’s hard to get the amount of protein you need with a vegetarian diet. Most veggies, beans, grains, nuts and seeds contain protein and as long as you’re varying your diet to include them you will be fine. Web MD says an average adult male needs about 56 grams of protein a day and an average adult female needs about 46 grams of protien (more if you’re pregnant or nursing).
I hope that you were able to learn something new about having a Vegetarian lifestyle from this post. If it’s something you would like to try, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can start out by adopting Meatless Monday’s and go from there. Or try out these Six Tips for Becoming Vegetarian.
I’d be happy to answer any other questions you may have. Except this one:
Have a great week! See ya next time!