In Food

Got Veg?: Transitioning to Vegetarianism

Posted by: on Jun 29, 2012 | No Comments

Diet is a touchy subject. And changing your diet is a personal decision that takes time, commitment, consciousness, and effort. I often hear carnivores say they could never stop eating meat. Nevertheless, carnivores seem genuinely interested in how someone can stop eating meat. So, I thought I’d try to shed a little light on the process of becoming vegetarian and what I eat (you can also check out the recipes section for more on this).

As I’ve mentioned before, I took my sweet time becoming vegetarian. I thought about it a lot. Taking the time to think it over (before even talking to anyone about it) gave me time to build up my commitment and my reasoning. I needed to be behind the decision no matter what other people said. And I needed to be able to firmly state my reasons for making the choice. I know that sounds dramatic. But you may be surprised how attached people are to what they eat and what those around them eat. Food is social and cultural and when you stop participating in the social norm, it becomes difficult for others to share the eating/dinning experience with you. For example, my step dad’s family is from North Carolina and they eat a lot of pork. And by a lot, I mean it’s in everything. It’s a cultural and social tradition. It’s how the food is prepared. So, my abstinence made meals complicated. Fortunately, I’m comfortable in other people’s kitchens and willing to share my creations. Furthermore, my step dad was happy to prepare some of the vegetables sans pork parts or fat. But it still made things more complicated and it took some adjustment on everyone’s part. My choice affected everyone else. Similarly, a friend of mine stopped eating meat in college. When she went home for Thanksgiving her mom said, “I made the stuffing with chicken broth. You can eat that, right?” (Vegetable broth is an often forgotten staple of vegetarian foods) Since then, her family has quickly made the necessary adjustment. But the point is, you have to be ready for your choice to affect those close to you.

Once I thought over my choice and felt 100% committed to it, it was just a matter of figuring out what to eat. It seems easy–just don’t eat meat. But sometimes it takes a little experimentation in the kitchen and some ordering savvy in restaurants (more on that later). I already ate some vegetarian meals, like spaghetti and chili. I like salads a lot and those certainly don’t need meat. Although, many people do put meat on their salads. If you find your salads need a little more pizzazz, I suggest using black or garbanzo beans or even potatoes instead of meat. The salad pictured to the left is a Greek cucumber and tomato salad I made for lunch the other day. It has a little bit of sheep’s feta on top (I do eat cheese…sometimes). (Also, I find you eat large salads not side salads.) Alternatively, many salads can be made into delicious wraps. Today I had a wrap with humus, lettuce, cucumber, onion, a few olives, and sriracha.

While my decision to be vegetarian was based on what I wouldn’t eat (meat), I find it’s best to focus on what vegetarians do eat rather than what they don’t eat. If we think about what vegetarians don’t eat, we find ourselves at square one because, well, they don’t eat meat and seafood is a BIG maybe. But if we think about what they do eat, we’ll find the options are endless. Because as a rule, vegetarians eat vegetables. The basis of a vegetarian diet is vegetables not cheese, wheat, and soy based fake meat. Luckily there is an abundance of edible delicious vegetables out there. By focusing on what I do eat and want to eat, I’m able to come up with some scrumptious meal options.

I love Mexican inspired cuisine. Burritos are often made with hamburger, steak, or chicken. Unfortunately vegetarian Mexican food tends to get stuck in beans and cheese. (I feel a massive tangent on cheese coming on…I’ll try to spare you this time.) Surprisingly, potatoes make an excellent filler for tacos, burritos, or Mexican style salads. I even have a recipe for tacos. Also, I tend to just use more vegetables when making tacos. If I don’t use potatoes, I might use zucchini or yellow squash. I might use extra peppers. And I ALWAYS use guacamole and fresh salsa (recipes to come).

I’ve also found that zucchini or yellow squash can be prepared as pasta, making vegetarian spaghetti even more vegelicious. And you don’t even have to add cheese to make this a filling, satisfying meal. Look at all those amazing vegetables! You can even do this if you aren’t a fan of tomato based sauce (as ridiculous as that would be). I tried a pesto last summer with pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and basil. It was amazing over the julienned zucchini and yellow squash.

My point is stop thinking meat substitute and eat more vegetables.

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