Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thoughts on Vegetarian Month

A month ago I would say that I had never gone through an entire day without eating some sort of animal protein. I had never done a Meatless Monday. If I had a salad for lunch, it had to have something, be it fish, chicken, or steak. And I bet there are plenty of you that are like that too. So when I decided to do a vegetarian month, I thought it would be pretty hard and I wondered if I would have meat cravings.

My “month” is over now. Yes, it was only three weeks long. (I have a trip to Texas and I figured there’s no way you can be in Texas and not eat beef sometime during the trip.) And I did cheat a couple of times for special events that I went to. For the most part, though, I did keep to my vegetarian month and had a few foodie revelations along the way.

First was that I could easily substitute fake meat products for some dishes and never really miss the animal version. I used Gardein’s Chick’n Scallopini for my salads and to make a nice picatta with grilled asparagus.  I used their Beefless Cubes and did a great stir-fry with vegetables and Asian sauces. The tempeh chili I made for Crockpot Wednesday was so good that I’m thinking I might never use ground beef in my chili again. I’ve often wondered if I would be able to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet and realize that with beans, of course, and these products, it would not be a challenge after all.

Some cuisines make the transition easy as well. Tandoor Chef meals are frozen Indian dinners that also come in vegetarian and vegan varieties. I was sent an assortment of the vegetarian ones to try.  I’m not all that knowledgeable about Indian food and some of the dinners made me a bit nervous. After all, I don’t like garbanzo beans and had never been a big fan of paneer. These meals were delicious and I ate every last bit. All that matters is flavor and Indians are experts with the use of spices. With a majority of their population being vegetarians, it’s no wonder they are experts with such fare.

Using those shortcuts certainly helped me out. To truly convert to vegetarian full time would certainly be a challenge, let alone going all the way to vegan. But I did manage to go through without craving any meat. Unfortunately, I did not see any difference in my energy levels. I probably would if I had gone totally vegan.

My biggest revelation was just realizing I had been a bit of a food snob. I'd shut down when confronted with the idea of vegan foods. Silly really. After I realized that margarine subs for butter and there are egg substitutes, the idea of vegan baking became more palatable to me. I'm still not sure how I'd get past cheese and cream in cooking though. Perhaps that will be another month - to go completely vegan and learn about those substitutes.

I will use this experience to make changes and will eat less meat now. It's all about learning what will work best for your lifestyle. I'm not interested in giving up meat completely, but I am interested in eating less of it. 

Now if I could just wean myself off sugar.
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