Sunday, January 25, 2009

Giving Up The Ghost

All right, guys. I give in. After seven years of happy meat eating, I am re-vegetarianizing myself. Well, I'm giving it a six week trial run anyway.

I am not happy. I like meat. I don't want to stop eating meat. But lately, I feel like I can't justify eating meat. Especially considering how many things I've let slip lately. (Don't talk to me about my soda consumption. Just don't.)

I think there are sustainable and ethical ways to eat meat ... but, I'm not really doing it. I've been eating meat from who knows where, and I've been doing it far more often than I should. So, there you go.

Anyway, if you want to tell me really awesome things about being a vegetarian, I would appreciate it, because, like I said, really not that psyched about the whole plant-eating thang. And frankly, I clearly need a change of attitude because if this six week trial is going to be useful at all, I need to be approaching it with positivity. 

Does no meat mean I can eat more chocolate and drink more beer? Probably not, right? Ah well.

34 comments:

Thistle said...

:) Sorry, arduous, but I'm a firm believer in eating sustainably raised meat (in moderation, of course). I know too many vegetarians who are anemic, who don't make sure they get enough protein and iron, and who have been given strict orders by both their doctors AND their naturopaths to consume a bit of meat once every week or two at least.

Still, there are some great veggie (and vegan) dishes out there that are fun to make and definitely very healthy, too, so as long as you're enjoying it, keep it up! Have lots of quinoa and sprouts, too!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to check back with this post to read the comments as they come in. I'm trying (trying) to cut way back on our meat and dairy consumption, so any ideas for making that really enjoyable would be appreciated.

Allie said...

We still eat poultry and fish. I buy whole chickens from a local organic farmer and cook one every other week or so. We get a lot of mileage out of one small bird. And then the rest of the time, we eat mostly veg. Because I can't eat wheat, I just don't feel like imposing any more food rules on myself. But I had a traumatic incident with a pig when I was in 3rd grade, and haven't eaten a mammal since. That's not something that's likely to change. But TVP is still my friend. As are beans. We eat a lot of beans around here.

ruchi aka arduous said...

Vanessa, I agree with you in theory and it's great that you can do that, but the problem is, I wasn't eating sustainably raised meat in moderation. I was eating evil unethical meat, and too much of it. Which is why I'm re-trying vegetarianism. I hope, one day, to be able to find a balance that allows me to eat sushi and korean bbq occasionally but doesn't result in me over-indulging on a regular basis, but I can't figure out how to be properly moderate right now.

Anon, I'm with you, dude. Keep checkin back!

ruchi aka arduous said...

What is TVP? And, no wheat is a far greater sacrifice than no meat. ;)

I love carbs so, so, so good.

Mouse said...

Pretend this post is a snarky meat-lover's post.

ruchi aka arduous said...

Dude, after the amount of meat we consumed at Korean BBQ, I really should be set for a year meat-wise!!

Young Snowbird said...

TVP is texturized vegetable protein - soy solution that was liquified then dried. I get Bob's Red Mill brand. Its great reconstituted as part of bean burgers.

If you like wheat, you can try seitan, which is made with wheat gluten. There are some nice recipes out there on how to make seitan yourself. I used to eat it alot, then found I was overly sensitive to gluten, : (

Do you think you're eating more meat because you're stressed? Does your eating resemble what you ate at a younger time - is meat a comfort food for you? Or is it just a convenience factor -let someone else cook for you? I know when I am low on food in the house and there's not too much time to cook, I end up eating out, which means more meat.

Why the forced return to veg? Is it for your health or just out of guilt about the sources of the meat? If its just about the sources of the meat, just focus on finding good sources of meat first. The search may naturally reduce your overall meat intake anyway.

Dr. Snowbird is done now. Good Luck Ruchi.

curiousalexa said...

Why 6 weeks?

I will be very interested in any details you wish to post. I have thoughts similar to what you wrote here.

I love beef far more than is environmentally healthy...

EcoGeoFemme said...

I know you are a person with a LOT of self control, but it seems like you are setting yourself up to fail if you don't really want to quit meat. It might be more sustainable in the long run to cut your consumption by 50% or something while looking for sources of sustainably raised meat.

Heather @ SGF said...

Hmm. This is tough. I can tell you all the wonderful things about being a vegetarian or vegan, but I've never been a big meat eater (never liked the taste or texture much). But I'll try:

1) Fruits and veggies rock - I love the taste of both. I always have a nice fruit salad on hand and rely on easy veggie dishes like soups, rice dishes and stir fries for my veggie love. Add a little peanut or almond butter to a stir fry for a fabulous sauce; potatoes, onions and mushrooms stir-fried in olive oil are THE BEST! And of course, as long as you're not vegan, there's homemade mac-n-cheese. Mmmm!

2) Health - I feel better without meat and dairy - cleaner, lighter. And I have FAR less digestive issues with those items out of my diet. A big plus was when I went vegan and my cholesterol level went from scary to very healthy in four months. Of course, you can't substitute meat products for heavily processed grains and expect to feel good. Concentrate on fresh, whole foods.

3) Cheaper - Meat and dairy are huge parts of a grocery bill if you eat them regularly. If you're on a tight budget, reducing (or eliminating) these items will make a huge difference.

I'm sure I'll think of more later, but hopefully this helps...

Beany said...

Chocolate is vegetarian and delicious.

Doing dishes is a helluva lot easier. None of that fat to deal with.

You don't get so sleepy after a heavy vegetarian meal (like I do after a heavy meat meal). All the more time to work on grad school :)

Crunchy Chicken said...

We're mostly vegetarian, but have been eating more meats lately since my husband has to eat something like 120 grams of protein a day (doctor's orders!). Which is more or less impossible without consuming animal protein.

That said, the meat we buy is local and sustainable. And, frankly, unless you eat beans and rice all the time, I've noticed that buying local, organic beef is cheaper than local, organic chicken, which is cheaper than local, organic fresh mozzarella or organic cheeses.

So, the argument about cost works if you are eating vegan and only if you are not eating a lot of weirdly processed soy or alternative protein sources. I guess if you allow eggs, those can be cheaper.

Anyway, I'm rambling here, but I've been vegan in the past, which I couldn't stand because I like eggs and dairy too much. Eating vegetarian will take some getting used to, but I think you'll adapt.

Just don't try to substitute meat dishes with fake meat in the same dishes. I think that's where a lot of people go wrong because you end up comparing all the time and you'll, inevitably, be disappointed.

Melinda said...

I've been a vegetarian for 20 years now. I am healthier and I feel better, physically and mentally.

Do eat whole grains, though - that's important!

I've never been anemic and I haven't known more than one vegetarian who was anemic. But just like meat eaters, vegetarians can't just eat anything - we have to eat well. ; )

We don't eat processed food much at all, so we don't buy fake meats and such - I'm not convinced they're any better for you than processed meats. We have made seitan before - it's easy - but we don't do it regularly.

And I agree completely with all 3 of Heather's points.

Sherri said...

I love being a vegetarian!!! I always get really frustrated when people talk about vegetarians being anemic and not getting enough protein. (Not just referring to above poster, it's everywhere.) Most people who eat meat regularly actually get way more protein than their body needs. I get plenty of protein and iron and I do NOT eat a lot of processed soy (like 'veggie' burgers). MUch of my diet is delicious whole foods.

It took my a bit but I've found nuts that I enjoy (get good fats and protein here) as well as beans and creative ways to incorporate veggies into amazing dishes that are tasty. It might take more than 6 weeks to really find your niche, but the food I enjoy now is the tastiest I've ever had in my life. Sometimes it just takes adding veggies to a dish you already like (spinach in your pasta sauce), or beans to your favorite salad (kidney and garbanzo go well) and other times you make entirely new dishes. I actually learned how to make my own 'protein bars' at home (basically peanut butter, raisins and nuts) so I knew I always had a healthy snack that would keep me full and give me good stuff. Some of these things can be time consuming (I'm a phd student so I understand your lack of time), which is why I mention the easier things to start with like altering dishes you already like first. I only experimented with new dishes and homemade bars when I was on break and had extra time.

I'm not entirely vegan, but I do not eat much dairy/eggs at all. I notice that I have less sinus/phlegm issues because of this. (I tried veganism and it wasn't for me.)

Overall, just from the vegetarianism I feel so much better physically. I've run marathons, did a triathlon, sleep great, and best of all, to me, am constantly eating great food! I'm drinking a strawberry and banana smoothie right now and it's awesome.

Sample day of food for me (this is abbreviated because I snack A LOT):

Breakfast: Smoothie (just the fruit and a bit of water) or fruit (watermelon/blueberries/banana) plus homemade bar AND/OR a generous warmed piece of Judy's lovesticks (http://www.lovesticks.com/) with Smart Balance (I get a lot of Omega 3's and 6's here!) AND/OR jamfrakas peanut butter bar (http://www.jamfrakas.com/peanut-butter-blisscrisp/)

Snack: popcorn

Snack: apple

Lunch: Salad (lettuce, carrots, avocado, tomato, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans) plus sandwich (whole wheat bread with hummus, onion, lettuce, cucumber)

Snack: cashews

Snack: small bowl of cereal with rice milk (cereal such as pumpkin flax seed granola from Nature's path http://www.naturespath.com/products/cold_cereals). You get some needed B12 from the rice milk and more omegas from the cereal.

Dinner: Whole wheat pasta with side of steamed green beans and carrots and your choice of sauce.

I hope that sounded at least somewhat tasty to you! I'm not one of those people that preaches to friends/fam that they HAVE TO BE vegetarian. However, since you want to try it, I thought some of these tips might help. :)

Allison said...

Why not - try it and see how you feel. I've been vegetarian (ovo lacto) for 15 years. I have a bunch of free veggie recipes on my blog in case you're looking for some inspiration.

sealander said...

My theory is that since chocolate is brown, it must contain lots of iron ;)
I've been trying to gradually cut down on the household's consumption of red meat - without them noticing ;) The idea is to cook more dishes where the meat is more of a seasoning than a mainstay, e.g. bean dishes with a some bacon pieces or chorizo sausage, stir fries with heaps of vegetables and a little mince meat, soups with some beef bones or mutton neck chops - a cheaper way to cook too. And at least one full vegetarian meal a week.

Alison said...

Of course on the chocolate and the beer! Well maybe not in greater quantities, but why not everyday? We are not strict vegetarians (in fact we had burgers for dinner last night) but we have cut back to eating meat only about once per week and or eating less than a full serving at a time. However, we do usually have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner and a square of dark chocolate after wards. Definitely helps us feel satisfied, spoiled and all that jazz ;)

Our favorite simple, fast, satisfying veggie meal right now is a bag of Quorn Chik'n tenders baked for 10 minutes in Soy Vay Island Teriyaki, served with brown rice and a green veggie (broccoli, bok choy, edamame are all great).

Today Wendy said...

Going vegetarian for a while really expanded the variety of things I eat. Somehow restrictions seem to force you to be more creative, at least when you have the energy and motivation to be. Just like everything else you've been trying it will force you out of your comfort zone, and help you find new things.

Good luck :)

Di Hickman said...

Been vegetarian for almost 20 years and wouldn't go back. For me the diet is hands down the healthiest. I used to be an aerobics instructor and personal trainer, I taught 6 classes a day whilst vegetarian. Never been anemic never had health issues related to my diet, in fact my diet has helped some health issues :)

Any diet that is poor in nutrition will result in some deficit of nutrients regardless of whether you eat meat or not, the key to good health and nutrition is to eat clean. Meaning eat as close to natural as possible.

We eat lots of Indian dishes, gobi aloo, saag, channa (dude channa rocks! protein frenzy!). If you want convenience you can turn to processed stuff, like the soy/gluten 'meats' etc we use those occasionally. You're in England right now right? Quorn is great and vegetarian.

Also remember that the average American eats way too much protein. We only require 0.8g per kg of body weight for health/body maintenance.

Each week I put up our weekly menu (on mondays) so check it out if you want to see what we eat. On an average day I get around 60g - 80g of protein. I know this because I track my diet through www.livestrong.com :)

If you need any help just shout!

Dasha said...

I like this idea. Think of it as a "cleanse" and after the six weeks of no meat, reevaluate.

ruchi aka arduous said...

Curiousalexa, six weeks because I think it's a good length of time for a trial period. Also, I kinda look at it as a purge. Even if I go back to meat after six weeks, I suspect that my habits will have shifted slightly and I'll be used to eating less meat.

EcoGeoFemme, yeah I hear you. But like I said, it's just a trial so far. I suspect I am not ready to become a life-long vegetarian, but the whole "meat in moderation" thing wasn't really working for me ... I just wasn't being moderate enough.

Thanks, Heather. Hopefully this will get me off my ass eating more veggies!!

Beany, yeah, I definitely couldn't give up the chocolate, so I'm glad it's vegetarian. ;)

Crunch, yeah I'm not sure I buy that being a vegetarian is cheaper either, but I guess it depends on the choices you make. If I end up making a lot of daals and stuff, it will be cheaper.

Melinda, by fake meats you mean the veggie burgers and such? Or do you mean more generally that you don't buy tofu, etc?

Sherri, that DID sound tasty. Thanks. :)

Thanks, Allison!

Sealander, I think that's a great idea, to use meat sparingly and as a side or topping rather than a main dish. :)

Alison, see if I could only eat meat once a meat, I would be happy. Let's see if this purge will allow me to find a happy medium in the long run. :)

Today Wendy, yeah, good point about how restricting yourself ups the creativity. Thanks!

Thanks Di, I appreciate it.

Dasha, yes exactly. It's a six week cleanse, and then I'll reevaluate. Let's see how it goes. :)

Green Resolutions said...

Between Heather and Sherri, the whole vegetarian thing sounds delicious :) Good luck! Hope the dissertation topic development is going well!

Random thought re: the anemia comments. Certain kinds of tea can inhibit the body's absorption of iron, so if you've picked up the English tea habit, you might want to look into that if you're concerned about it.

Green Bean said...

As Beany said, you can still eat plenty of chocolate. Yum!

I'm a lifelong vegetarian so I cannot really tell you what is easier or such about eating veg v. eating meat. However, I will say that so many vegetarian dishes can have really amazing, complex flavors. Dive into some Thai food. Revel in Indian. Enjoy Italian and Mexican. And have no guilt.

Heather said...

I've been a vegetarian for more than 15 years and the only time I miss meat is when I smell bacon cooking. It was really hard when I was younger and the only readily available substitutes were gardenburgers, really nasty tofu dogs and tofu. Now however, there are so many great products out there that are meat free, healthy and relatively responsible. Tofurkey is a wonderful product. Their Philly cheese steak slices taste great if you warm them up in a pan with some fontina cheese and put on a toasted bun. It's hard for me to compare, taste wise, how similar they taste to meat, bc it's been so long, but my boyfriend has been a vegetarian for only about a year and he says they taste almost identical. Another great trick is to freeze tofu before using it. It gives it a nice meaty texture. It's pretty easy nowadays to get enough protein...on an average day I get more protein than most omnivores I know, over 100 grams, but I supplement my diet with protein shakes and bars. I have to in order to be able to play sports. It's a matter of eating thoughtfully, but that applies to everyone, vegetarian or not. If you eat Doritos and pasta (or Doritos and burgers for that matter)all day, you aren't eating well, and that applies to everyone. Good luck, it's not that hard and you will feel great.

Heather said...

Just had to add to my last post, I am extremely busy...in addition to working one job 9-5 with a 1 hour commute, I act as a courier 4 days a week and fill in at an animal hospital on the weekends. I also have 2 dogs, a boyfriend and play roller derby 3 times a week while working out 2-4 more times a week. If I had the time, I would eat things like tofu and whole grains and beans, but since I am short on that, I fall back on things like tofurkey. In a perfect world this would not be the case, but I figure I can eat those things when I am too old for derby. :) If you have the time to do things like make your own protein bars that is absolutely the way to go, but if you don't check out some of the substitutes in the freezer section.

Eliane said...

I understand where you're coming from. I do eat meat which is from my good local butcher and a lot of the meat I eat is from the farms around the village I live in. You currently live in central London and I should think finding ethically raised meat where you are is difficult and expensive. I also imagine you're not doing so much cooking yourself and finding ethically raised meat in restaurants and cafes would be nigh on impossible. The upside for you going veggie is that you are in a multicultural city and can find pretty much any vegetable or spice you need close by. And there are lots of good restaurants too. So good luck and enjoy. Personally I'd be heading to Drummond Street, Rasa in Stokie, and the shops in Chinatown, the market in Ridley Road, Dalston. I'm jealous just thinking about it!

Rosa said...

One real plus of being a vegetarian, if you're eating on the go a lot:

The quality of the fast-food places that offer vegetarian food is usually *way* better than the fried meat places.

Hummus & falafel from a gyro stand, or the lunch offering at any random Indian buffet are *way* better than ham sandwiches from the vendo...you'll find sources for great fruit and then you'll have those options all the time.

You're going to
*save money
*be healthier
*do a public service by supporting the takeaway places that have vegetarian offerings
*probably have fewer acne breakouts

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I hear you Ruchi... I get organic meat whenever I see it, but it's all too easy to just go with whatever's available.

I have cut out meat in all but 1 lunches per week, and in all breakfasts/brunches other than 1 every 2 weeks (love my bacon). I just don't miss meat as much at those meals. And I've also started to cook more vegetarian meals in the evening, and tend to go for sustainable fish choices (I have my little reference card!) when I'm eating out. My husband is getting on board now as well, which makes a big difference. We'll often get 1 meat and 1 veggie option at a restaurant, and share both (he takes more of the meat portion) so no-one feels like they're missing out too much!

Good luck and let us all know how you get on!

Melinda said...

A, actually we don't buy either - though I meant the packaged veggie meat products.

jennconspiracy said...

Chocolate and beer were a big part of my diet in the last year and probably responsible for a 20# weight gain. As for beer being vegetarian - it depends. Many beers are filtered with isinglass or animal fat -- including Newcastle (sorry, it's not vegetarian). However, most Belgian beers are by nature entirely vegan because they are not filtered.

Ruchi, when you come visit again, I'll make you a super yummy veg dinner. I made up the Golden Chanterelle & Nettle ravioli from The Artful Vegan, with the saffron aoli, the candy cap balsamic reduction and cress puree over a bed of bitter greens (arugula from my yard, mizuna, radicchio). Sadly, despite the fact that the pasta filling recipe was enough to make 60 or so raviolis (dinner for 4 on Saturday, dinner for 3 on Tuesday, dinners for 2 on Friday and Saturday) - I didn't manage to get any pictures for food porn to entice you.

Sorry. Bad jenn. Eated all the yummy gourmet foods she made.

Oh - and there's also Millennium. That's a really good reason to be veg.

Ashley said...

Dude.

Being a vegetarian ROCKS. One reason? You never have to worry about cross contamination or meat juice on your counter.

Seriously.

Also: Not eating meat feels so right. I mean, seriously - unless you can afford perfectly raised meat, it makes sense! :)

(Here's a blog post I wrote on the matter: http://ourlittleapartment.blogspot.com/2008/06/preach-it-sista-meatless-eating.html)

MichelleB said...

Try the orange glazed tempeh posted on 101 cookbooks last week. I made it last weekend and my meat loving husband is asking for it again. Tempeh is a super satisfying form of tofu if you are looking for meat alternatives.

Rosa said...

Tempeh's not a form of tofu. It's made from whole cooked soybeans & a live inoculant.

Tofu is way more processed - it's beans cooked & ground in water for soymilk, then coagulated with a chemical coagulant.

Tempeh's the bomb but it's harder to make small batches of than tofu, I think.