I’m happy to say we made it through Project Veggie with flying colors. During this month we followed a predominately vegetarian diet that included eggs and dairy, and seafood once a week. Technically, I suppose this would make us temporary lacto-ovo-pescetarians. Some would probably say pseudo-vegetarians. The labels aren’t so important to me.
When my daughter, Claire, suggested this experiment, I think her main motivation was curiosity. She knows several people who are vegetarians and wanted to see what it was like. My main motivation was health. Many studies have shown that if you eat a mostly veggie-based diet you have lower risk factors for heart disease, cancer, and many other nasty ailments. I’ve had a plethora of family members in poor health lately so that sort of thing weighs on my mind these days. The possibility of shedding a few pounds was a nice thought as well.
A few things that surprised me this month…
• I didn’t miss the meat. I like meat and I really expected to have unbearable cravings. I thought I would miss it. I didn’t. We were having too much fun eating delicious food and finding new recipes. The food we made was tasty and satisfying.
• It wasn’t boring. Veggie-ism encompassed far more variety than I had expected. In a month we made a wide selection of soups, pasta, casseroles, curries and other dishes. We explored the cuisine of 8 different countries. Our diet went far beyond tofu, mac & cheese and salad. We didn’t repeat a recipe once.
• I had more energy throughout the whole day. It was a welcome change.
• I didn’t need any special cookbooks, though there are many good ones available. Every cookbook I already own and every cooking magazine I read has vegetarian recipes in it. I had hundreds of recipes to choose from already on my shelves.
• This was a far easier diet to stick to than the gluten free thing we had to do a few months back. The few times we ate away from home we had plenty of options to choose from. Our greatest temptation was actually the food court at the mall!
• I really like writing a blog! It’s something I’ve found fun and relaxing, and not bad for my ego. Thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting. I appreciate the feedback and support. After a month I have 24 followers and I don’t think most of them are even related to me!
A few other thoughts…
• It is entirely possible to be a vegetarian and still be overweight. I lost a few pounds during this month but overall I think vegetarian eating (particularly if you still eat dairy) can still be quite fattening. Chocolate is vegetarian. As are brownies and birthday cake and cookies. And there is definitely a temptation to gravitate toward lots of carbs for easy meals. But if you stay focused on healthy grains for your carbs, and eat reasonable portions, overall I do believe it’s a healthier diet. You still have to watch the amount of calories you’re shoveling into your body, and you still have to stay active.
• We spent a little more on groceries. Not a lot more, but some. I think in our particular case, there were several factors that came into play beyond the diet. I went from cooking 4 nights a week to cooking 7 nights a week right around the time we started. We didn’t eat out at all for dinner, but cooked every day. I splurged on some gourmet ingredients from time to time. We also went to the store more often, which admittedly led to some impulse buys. But I did find ways to keep the grocery bill reasonable as well. I bought some things in bulk when it was cost effective to do so. I buy extra pantry items like pasta and rice and canned goods when I see them on sale. The more spendy ingredients were used in smaller portions and stretched over several different recipes. Also, veggies are cheaper when they are in season, and grown locally, so I try to shop according to what’s fresh and plentiful and growing in my part of the world (which means it’s usually less expensive!). Incidentally, vegetables in season also taste better. There are several good farmer’s markets around here, even in the winter. As the season progresses there will be even more variety available. Also, I didn’t buy any “fake” food, which tends to be more costly (and in my opinion, generally not that great).
About the animals…
It’s silly to talk about vegetarianism without discussing animals so here’s my thoughts on that. I personally do not have a problem eating animals. However, the farming and processing practices are, in many cases, appalling, particularly in the big industry segment of the market. News reports of “pink slime” have been running rampant recently. This nasty additive includes chemicals which were never meant to be eaten. It was nice not to worry about whether or not it was in anything we were eating this month. While I don’t plan to stop eating meat completely, I will be eating substantially less than before, and I will buy the bulk of it at farmer’s markets, where I can be assured the animals are treated more humanely, are chemical and hormone-free, and the processing is minimal. If you haven’t tried local, free range, grass fed meat, there is a definite taste difference (for the better!). It does cost a little more, but since we are only planning to eat it occasionally, in my opinion it’s worth it.
• We all agreed that we enjoyed eating a mostly veggie diet, but we all want to eat meat once in a while. We are planning to limit meat from land animals to once a week, and will continue to eat seafood at least once a week as well.
• I found out I really don’t care for the taste of vegetable broth. Unless there are a lot of other ingredients to disguise the taste, I will stick with beef or chicken broth even in “vegetarian” dishes. Or maybe experiment with making my own.
• I’m going to keep blogging and posting recipes. From now on they will include the occasional dish that includes meat. Let me know if there is something in particular you think we should make!
• Today is St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t eaten meat in 31 days. I’m going to celebrate my little slice of Irish by making corned beef and cabbage!