Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Vegetarian meal ideas

Been three weeks without meat, and I feel fine. I've had fish three times in the last 21 days, and I might once more before switching fully to lacto-ovo vegetarianism. Maybe it's too early to tell if I'll need to take any supplements, but so far, so good. (The caffeine withdrawal is another matter, but I'm only on day three of that, so I'm expecting another few days at least of feeling lethargic and taking epic three-hour afternoon naps before I get over the hump.)

I think the secret to becoming vegetarian is having a real conviction for doing so. I had tried before, back in 2008, to cut meat from my diet, but it didn't stick because it was just an idea, a fad I wanted to try, and I didn't really like the idea of making any concerted effort to change my eating habits. But now I'm fully committed to improving my health, and everyone knows diet is one of the big three – along with sleep and exercise – in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I don't know that a vegetarian diet is necessarily the best for everyone, but I do know that focusing on cutting out meat for a certain amount of time forces a person to look carefully at what they're eating at every meal, and become more conscious of how to get all the required nutrients through different foods. It becomes clear very quickly that plants are the best source of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and even some macronutrients (fat, carbs and protein). 

I've been really lucky so far in this vegetarian experiment, since I've had friends, neighbours and housemates offer to make me some great meals. For example, this was dinner at a friend's on Friday night:
Marinated tofu with pesto spaghetti, sautéd beans and mushrooms and side salad. 

And on the weekend I went to another friend's for lunch:
Homemade guacamole sandwiches with old white cheddar cheese and cucumber on rye bread.

I still think cooking at home is the best way to go, but for the quick meals needed while running errands there are some surprisingly decent vegetarian fast-food options:
Burger King's veggie burger. 
Subway sandwich with cheese, all the veggies, and chipotle and bbq sauce. 

From my experience so far, I'd say the first step in cutting meat from your diet is simply to have a list of ideas for meals and snacks that don't include animal flesh and stock up on those things. For example,

Breakfast:
  • eggs (scrambled, fried, etc. on toast or as a veggie omelette)
  • toast with cheese and dijon
  • toast with nut butter
  • bagel with cream cheese
  • smoothie (the NutriBullet makes great fresh fruit/veg options)
  • oatmeal (add raisins and other fruit, flax seeds for extra nutrition)
  • cereal 
  • fruit salad

Lunch:
  • sandwiches (avocado, cheese, cucumber, tomato, or nut butter and jam, etc.)
  • salad with boiled egg
  • tortilla with chopped veggies and humous
  • soup (any variety of vegetables, barley, lentils, beans, etc.)

Dinner:

Snacks:

  • fresh fruit
  • nuts, trail mix, dried fruit
  • crackers and cheese
  • smoothies
  • chips and salsa (and/or guacamole)
  • celery with but butter 
  • carrots and humous
  • air-popped popcorn (with butter)




Further reading:
Zen Habits: 20 Tips for Becoming Vegetarian
Scott Young: How To Become A Vegetarian
Vegetarian Society: Going Vegetarian

2 comments:

Jessica said...

Celery and but butter!!!! that sounds...interesting, lol :P
Reading all your suggestions for sandwiches makes me want to make homemade bread.
But I have to ask, are not worried about becoming B defficient by skipping the meat? I understand that some B vitamins, like 6 and 12, are exclusive to animal sources.

Marelle said...

Homemade bread sounds great, Jessica! Maybe I'll give that a try sometime soon.

As for the Vit B12, it's something I'm going to look into soon because as of May 1 I'm cutting out fish and seafood, going fully lacto-ovo vegetarian. Not sure what that's going to do in terms of fulfilling all my nutrient needs. I'll do a post about supplements soon.