Afe few weeks ago Kris mentioned that he has been thinking more and more about going meat free. I was surprised in some ways, but in others I’m surprised he didn’t come to vegetarianism sooner. Especially with his recent obsession with the FBI’s search for two missing piglets.
I’ve been vegetarian at three different points in my life, one of which was while we were living in Michigan. Kris has never gone veg. But when he said it I knew that I could do it. Especially with my constant ethical dilemma over eating meat. I also know that it’s easier to do with someone else. So we decided that Friday night, once my work peeps had departed Vermont, we’d nix meat until Thanksgiving. For this week’s Tip Tuesday I’ve got some insights on how to make the transition as seamlessly as possible, including a few meal hacks.
First Things First: Vegetarian Facts & Fictions
Let’s face it: for those who have eaten meat their whole lives, vegetarian is uncharted waters and there’s a lot of noise out there. Here are the main things to understand about adopting a vegetarian diet. For the purpose of this article the definition vegetarian is not eating meat but still consuming dairy (including eggs).
Fact: Vegetarian Diets Can Reduce Your Cholesterol
Cholesterol is that sludgy stuff that blocks your arteries when it’s out of balance. It comes from animals so if you cut down on animal-based food by going vegetarian you will likely reduce your bad cholesterol. Obviously if you move to a diet rich in milk, cheese and butter this is not likely, but for most people the shift to veg sees a pretty quick shift for the better.
Fiction: Veg Folk Get Less Protein
Nope! This is the most common thing I hear from people who eat meat. In fact, I got so sick of it that after a while I simply just didn’t tell people I was vegetarian. I think there is a safety in believing that you can’t get protein without meat. But believe me, you can. I know people who have been vegetarian for decades and have never had a protein problem. Including several athletes.
First, here’s some math: the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that we eat .37 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you’re 120 pounds, then, you should get about 44 grams of protein a day.
Second, here’s a breakdown of protein in one cup of non-meat foods. Please note that protein is protein, and that plant-based proteins come with the added benefit of no cholesterol.
Peas: 9 grams
Green beans: 13 grams
Spinach: 7 grams
Non-dairy milk: 7-9 grams
Lentils: 18 grams
Quinoa: 9 grams
Beans: 13-15 grams
Tempeh: 30 grams. A ground beef hamburger patty only has about 6 grams of protein so there’s great proof right there that you can eat no meat and still get your protein.
2 slices sprouted grain bread: about 10 grams
Vegetarianism isn’t about iceberg lettuce and diet soda. It’s about eating real food in real portions and getting your nutrients without meat. If for lunch you have a sandwich with cheese, hummus (made from protein rich chick peas) or bean spread and some spinach you’re well on your way to getting your protein for the day.
Another great way to get protein is by having a smoothie for breakfast. I love Designer Protein Lite Protein powder in both vanilla and chocolate. One scoop has 10 grams of protein. I have it with a cup of almond milk (8 grams) and nut butter plus fruit, starting my day right.
Fact: A Veg Diet Is Better For The Earth
Cows and other livestock eat a LOT of grain which means tons of water to keep the grain growing. If we were raising fewer cows for slaughter we’d need far less and we’d be eating healthier diets with the land saved where we would grow for our own consumption.
Fiction: Food Is Boring Without Meat
First and foremost: most pizza is vegetarian so there is no way veg food is boring. Living on pizza, though, is neither fun nor healthy. But eating veg is exciting and never gets dull. One thing I love about veg cooking is that it is often quicker than cooking with meat.
Our go to veg meals are bowls. Rice, pasta or quinoa makes a great base (lentil pasta and quinoa bases are a great source of protein). From there you can add all sorts of things. A friend of ours shared her veg hack Friday night at dinner. She starts with the base and then pours on a thick vegetarian soup.
Last night Kris and I had brown rice, black beans, salsa, cheese, sour cream. Warm, filling and we didn’t miss the meat. Today, lunch took about 5 minutes to make thanks to leftovers.
|Black Bean Soup||Tomatoes
|Chickpeas||Roasted root veggies||Simple herb pesto
Drizzle maple syrup
|Pasta||Chickpeas||Roasted toms||Fresh basil
Making pesto cuts down on waste. Place herbs in a food processor with a small about of olive oil, some sort of roasted nut or seed and some dried seasoning. Basil/pepitas, cilantro/red pepper flakes/cumin/cinnamon. Pretty soon you’ll make all kinds. These work great on any bowl.
How To Transition To Vegetarianism
Here are some tips to help you try out or permanently switch to a veg diet. Whether you’re doing it in the short or long term this should help you out.
- Clean out your fridge and pantry. Not just to get rid of the obvious offenders but also read the labels. You’d be amazed how much food has meat in it. For example, soup that sounds totally vegetarian will often have chicken fat in it. Many dressings and other condiments have anchovy paste.
- Buddy up. If you have a live in partner or serious romantic relationship or best friend, try to get them to do it with you. Whether or not you live together, having someone else makes it more fun. And you’ll both have someone to get ideas from and share insights with.
- Tell people. You don’t need to preach, in fact: don’t preach. But do tell anyone you regularly eat with that you’re eating less meat. This will make picking a lunch or dinner spot far easier. It’s often easier to say, “I’ve been eating less meat so let’s think about skipping the BBQ joint for lunch this weekend.”
- Try new restaurants. Asian restaurants, including those with cuisine from the subcontinent, often have LOTS of vegetarian dishes. Indian, Thai, Japanese… you’d be amazed how many options you’ve never known you had. I have a seafood allergy. One of my favorite things? Sushi! Most Japanese restaurants have avocado, asparagus and my absolute fav, sweet potato tempura sushi.
- Cook! I absolutely love any cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Appetite For Reduction is great for healthier recipes. Recipes have only 200-400 calories and the book is easy to navigate for those who are gluten- and/or soy-free. Isa Does It has meals that are 30 minutes or fewer from prep to table. If you’ve checked out her earlier books some of the recipes took FOREVER to make (Kris boycotted them for a while because of the ridiculous prep). If you buy only one vegetarian cookbook, Isa Does It is the one.
The Question of Fake Meat
Many people flip out when they try meat alternatives and that’s okay: you don’t need them to be veg. One thing that opens many people up to it, though, is to approach it not as a substitute but as something completely different. It doesn’t look or taste like chicken and, the most important thing to tell yourself, it doesn’t feel like chicken.
If you’re going to try out fake meat, first get one thing to start and try it. I recommend Quorn for two reasons. First, it’s delicious. Second, they are moving toward 100% recyclable packaging. Right now their black trays are the only thing that cannot be recycled. Here’s some other reasons to try Quorn:
- They issue a Sustainability Report
- Their ground “meat” has a carbon footprint that is 90% less than beef.
- They are focused on meat free as a green, humane option. Not a trend or style statement.
Still Want To Eat Meat?
It’s okay! Seriously. It’s okay. Consider trying meat free meals and experimenting with veg cooking because they are tasty and good for you. Furthermore, if you want to, pop June 11, 2018, on your calendar and try out one day without meat on World Meat Free Day.