Thursday, October 2, 2014

How to be Vegetarian

Nine years ago this fall, I took a trip to India with my good friend, Laura. We arrived to a land which had quite a lot of errant trash scattered about the streets and hillsides, as well as chickens running around who also appeared to be eating up that trash. It didn't take a lot of deep thinking to decide that maybe it was best to stick with the non-chicken, vegetarian plan. For three weeks, I didn't touch meat. It wasn't hard. In India, about 50% of the population is vegetarian so we were in good company.

When I returned to the States, I didn't have a particular plan to stay vegetarian, but at the time was dating a guy who was vegetarian for mostly ethical reasons. He fed me tasty meat-free food like roasted beets with goat cheese, marcona almonds, and more. After a while, I decided to try out the vegetarian lifestyle. He left the picture but continues to have an impact on me.

I'd never been a big meat eater, so it was a fairly natural transition. Years of being a student with limited funds meant that meat was low on the totem pole of affordable foods. I'd always been not very fond of the texture/gristle, not so good at cooking it, and not keen on handling raw meat.

My early years, I spent a lot of time with fancy vegetarian cookbooks making things that took a long time, ingredients and caused a fair amount of digestive distress (gas!). It was not until I moved overseas that I learned to simplify my diet for the better all around. I no longer include much beans, tempeh, or heavy grains as dietary staples, but instead feature vegetables as the main course.

Rather than complicated recipes, I rely on salad in the summer (mostly arugula, mixed greens, spinach) and cooked veggies (mostly broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus) in the winter. Or winter salads, which means cook some veggies and throw them on a bed of cold greens and drizzle with pumpkin seed oil or cheese, and you have a meal. Most days I have an apple and some nuts as well. Decaf coffee with a tiny splash of half & half is how we start our day.

I've experimented with veganism but I don't think dropping the small amount of cheese, butter and cream that I consume would be beneficial enough for health reasons to go that route. As well, drawing black and white lines in the sand can make it harder to get through life and enjoy food and social activities, which are something we all should do.

So my nine year anniversary is coming up this month. If you're thinking about going vegetarian, I'd say go for it. And if you don't think you are sure, well just try to be mostly vegetarian. There's nothing wrong with that and you'll still benefit healthwise and help improve animal welfare and the environment.

I personally find it easier to just be vegetarian, and have that particular line drawn. I feel great and as well have completely normal blood work, in case you were wondering - low cholesterol, normal iron, normal cbc, and normal blood sugar/HbA1C.

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