My Heart is Among the Veggies

Up until I left for college, being a vegetarian was a defining part of my identity. When I was born, my parents decided that they wanted to be vegetarians and raise me in that lifestyle. Growing up, I was repeatedly asked why I was a vegetarian. For example, people wondered if I was an animal rights activist or if I looked down upon those that ate meat. They were overall difficult questions for me to ponder because I didn’t really know the reason behind my diet; it was the only thing I had ever known. The truth was my parents had simply wanted to be healthy. They had recently had multiple encounters with bad meat that made them sick and question their lifesyle.  For the most part, I never had a problem with it or felt different. However, I always felt awkward on school trips whenever we stopped at fast food restaurants with no options for me or at cookouts where I had to respectfully decline the main attraction, all-American hamburgers and hot dogs. Eating vegetarian meals outside of the home was much more challenging 10 years ago than today, especially in small Midwestern city. A lot of new products have been developed recently, and the overall attitude towards vegetarianism has been shifting to a more positive realm. My parents never forced me to continue being a vegetarian once I had the ability to consciously make my own decisions, but I was scared to enter the unknown territory of eating meat both because of how it would impact my body and self-identity.

Ultimately, I decided when I left for college with my boyfriend Noah whom I was fairly certain I would marry ( I was right on this point, and he is now my wonderful husband) that I would begin incorporating chicken and turkey into my diet. I thought my limited diet would be a burden for him to work around. Surprisingly, my body handled the lean meats very well, and I ended up enjoying them once I got my brain to overlook the fact that the food in front of me used to be a real bird. I tried a small bite of red meat once…never again. My body seemed devoid of the ability to properly break it down, and I didn’t really desire to eat red meat in the first place. Every now and then, I felt a twinge of sorrow that I couldn’t label myself a vegetarian any longer, but then I would remember the look on Noah’s face when I tried and loved his homemade chicken and noodles.

You may be thinking at this point, “Okay, but how does this apply to your life now?” If you are, then here is the answer:

Last week, my husband voiced his desire to start a vegetarian diet to see how it would affect his digestion and energy level. When he asked if I would support him, I was thoroughly excited to jump on board. This was like asking me to return to a piece of my childhood that I held so dear to my heart. I honestly had no idea where the inspiration came from, but as I had just watched Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food that bears the motto “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”, I was more than ready to begin. I ended up watching the film again later in the week with him, and we both highly recommend it. If you want to learn about him and his ideas, the link to his website follows: http://michaelpollan.com/books/in-defense-of-food/ .

The only thing that worried me was if I was going to get enough protein since I am currently eating a higher than average percentage of calories from protein. After one full week now of eating vegetarian, I realize that my fear beared no substance. I have greatly enjoyed finding plant-based protein sources and combining foods to create protein-rich, delicious meals. Noah has loved it too, and he is more on fire than ever! We enjoyed every meal together, and we feel energized going into this new week. While I don’t believe vegetarianism is for everyone, I believe it is the best thing for us in our lives right now. If people don’t actively seek nutritious foods, vegetarianism can actually lead to a poor diet: vegetarianism does not equal healthy. Consider for example candy, donuts, and french fries just to name a few items. I have included below some examples of meals that we enjoyed last week. I will continue to post new ideas for meals as I come across them. These dishes are just the beginning, but I feel like a piece of me is back that I didn’t know was missing. I found a piece of my heart among the veggies.

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This salad is topped with egg whites, refried beans, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and a black bean chipotle burger from Aldi.
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This is Banza chickpea pasta, https://www.eatbanza.com/, with a Boca chik’n patty and pickles on top. Trust me, the pickles add something special.
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This is a mixture of greens, brown rice, chipotle mango salsa, and one of Bush’s new line of cocina latino beans.
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This is mix of refried beans with a mediterranean quinoa mix from Aldi that is garnished with baked parmesan chips.

Comment or contact me if you have any questions!

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