I haven’t eaten meat in years. I couldn’t remember whether it was 2006 or 2007 when I went quasi-vegan, but luckily I have a blog to remember things for me. It was just after Thanksgiving, 2007. I had been toying with the idea for a while, but I didn’t know if I could really do it. I remember very clearly, though, taking a bite of turkey at Thanksgiving, putting my fork down, and thinking, “I’m out.” I just re-read my blog post about it, and in it, I said I didn’t know if it would last. The vegan part of it hasn’t lasted, but the vegetarian part has and will. I honestly don’t know what would happen to my stomach if I tried to eat meat now, but I don’t think it would be pretty.
People always want to know what I eat as a vegetarian, and it’s a fair question, though a bit silly in my opinion. I eat food, just not animals. If it never had a face or a heart, it’s fair game. That leaves:
- fruit (anything but melons – I don’t like melons)
- vegetables (except a few I don’t care for – cucumbers, eggplant, raw tomatoes, raw onions)
- grains (bread, pasta, rice, cereal, couscous, quinoa, farro, bulgur – Yes, please.)
- beans (Chili, anyone?)
- nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
- dairy (yogurt, cheese, butter, milk, ice cream)
- ALL the herbs and spices
Y’all, that’s a LOT of things. With all of those as options, I can literally walk into 98% of restaurants and find something on the menu that I can eat (unless I’m in Gatlinburg, TN, but we won’t go into that right now). My only problem is that up until about a month ago, the majority of my diet consisted of things that my body turned into sugar – dairy and pasta. So much pasta. Delicious, delicious pasta. I was eating the amount of starch that I should have been eating protein and vice versa. A typical day would have looked like this:
- Breakfast – Krave Double Chocolate cereal with unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- Snack – Fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt
- Lunch – Left-overs from the night before (generally some kind of grain and veggies, usually with beans, possibly with cheese or other dairy)
- Dinner – We try a lot of new recipes, but most of them involve rice or pasta, beans, and veggies. We’ve also been known to order pizza or get Chinese take-out.
- If I was still hungry after dinner, I might have eaten another bowl of cereal or some applesauce.
I know, it doesn’t seem THAT bad, does it? But what I’m learning is that not THAT bad is also not very good at all. And vegetarian or not, you can make good and bad food choices. Oreos are vegan. So are Twizzlers. And I have a whole book of vegan cupcake recipes, each more delicious than the next. That doesn’t make them good for you, especially when you make a whole batch and eat them all yourself.
So I’m trying something new. And I’m not doing it perfectly, but I’m working on it.
These are my food containers. They are color-coded so I know how much I should eat of what. Green is for veggies, purple is fruit, red is protein, yellow is starch, blue is good fats like nuts and avocado, and orange is not-so-good fats like salad dressing. When I got them, I thought, “Is this all I get to eat in a day?! No wonder it makes you lose weight!” But no. Every day, based on my weight, I get 5 green containers, 3 purple, 5 red, 4 yellow, 1 blue, and 1 orange. I’m supposed to eat all of them every day in 5 small meals, and there are days when I could eat that and WAY more, and there are days when I skip a container because I’m full. Like I said, not perfect, but I’m working on it.
This requires a LOT of planning, but that’s the hardest part. Once the planning is done, the eating is easy. I would say it’s even easier than trying to force yourself not to eat certain things by sheer willpower because you never have bad-for-you things in your plan. I make a chart of what I’m going to eat, and that’s what I eat. I’m never rooting around in the kitchen looking for something to eat. I’m never tempted to just swing through the Taco Bell drive-thru because I have food waiting for me at home, and usually it’s vegetables or fruits that will go bad if I don’t eat them, so I feel obligated to go home and eat them. Otherwise, I’ve wasted money on good food that went bad while spending even more money on bad food.
If you’re super-curious, here’s my first week on this plan (and for those who don’t know, Shakeology is a protein shake to which I add fruit and/or almond or rice milk):
I’ve color-coded it for my own benefit, so I could easily count how many of each container I had planned into each day. Again, not perfect, and some days got tweaked as I went, but not bad for my first go.
If anyone has tips, tricks or recommendations for how I can get more non-dairy protein in my life, I’m all ears. I’m eating a lot of plain Greek yogurt at this point, and I’d like to eventually cut back on that, but the struggle is real, especially if, like me, you can’t eat that much soy in a day (or any soy at all like some folks).