As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been a somewhat reluctant convert to vegetarianism. I happily joined the meatless crowd decades ago and was a vegetarian for a little over a year, but it was more or less just an experiment in alternative lifestyles. At that point in my life I didn’t have any serious health concerns to motivate me. Fast forward to the latter third of my life and I find myself almost forced to seek solutions for my health problems; I think I have found them within the plant world. My cholesterol levels are out of control and the medication I took for years is no longer compatible with my body- too many side effects for too long. My doctor allowed me to try three months of meatless meals in hopes that my diet would lower my numbers, but alas, I seem to be in that small group of people who have a genetic propensity for creating their own cholesterol at impressive levels without the help of meat. So, yes, I’m on a new medication. However, my thinking is that if my body is already creating too much cholesterol, and I’m taking medication to get rid of it, why should I feed it more? That would be totally illogical. Permanent vegetarianism seems the best course of action.
I admit to being a bit lazy and no longer a fan of elaborate cooking. I’ve joked for a long time about not being able to cook, but the truth is that after years and years of cooking for a family I just got tired of it. And what is the point of cooking complicated meals for two people? Simple, fast, and easy has been my cooking style for the past five or six years. A piece of meat, rice or potatoes, vegetable, salad… done deal. Thank goodness I have a husband who is not a picky eater! Tacos or pizza once in a while and a restaurant meal once or twice a month and we were both happy.
With that bit of information it should not come as a shock to anyone that my first attempt at adopting a vegetarian diet was to simply substitute a “fake” meat for the real thing. I tried lots of brands and types and found about three that I like. So I continued with the same basic meal planning and cooking; just cooked in two different pans so Gary could have meat. I’ve also read that many people add more bread or pasta to their vegetarian meals to give them a greater sense of fullness. That fortunately has not been an issue for me. I don’t normally eat a lot of bread and I prefer brown rice over pasta, so I’ve stayed with my usual preferences there.
My eating has evolved over the past few weeks into a diet that I think will carry me through the summer and then I will probably make a few changes in order to have a portable lunch for school. You won’t find me eating sea weed or stocking up on wheat gluten any time soon. I’m not a “save the planet” vegan. Just trying to save me. Not even totally adhering to vegetarianism because I still eat fish once a week. But I have made some changes that I think will benefit my health and also help me to lose weight. Yes, I’ve lost a few pounds in the last month. Hoping that being home and walking more will mean an even greater loss. However, if I never lose another pound I will still continue to eat this way for one very selfish reason: I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER!
So here are a few changes that are becoming permanent components of my new diet:
- Oil. I’ve used olive oil sporadically for years. Now it is all I use for my own cooking. I keep two kinds- one for sautéing and one for drizzling on salad.
- Butter- Don’t buy, don’t use. Switched to Smart Balance light spread with extra virgin olive oil. I’m not one to use much of this for anything. Gary likes buttered toast.
- Cheese- My weakness, so I started buying Kraft fat free cheddar singles. Still looking for other cheese alternatives- if you have some let me know. I need low cholesterol, low salt.
- Milk- This was the big switch for me. I watched a news program on milk alternatives and finally tried almond milk. Great on cereal and I really don’t need to “drink” milk, although the almond flavor would be good with cookies.
- Eggs- I’ve used Egg Beaters for so long that I don’t even think about the real things. I love scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach and cheese!
- Meat- I prefer Morning Star substitutes over any others that I have tried. Only use the burger, chicken patty, and sausage patty fakes. They make a dozen other products but I just don’t need them. I also eat fish, mostly tilapia or salmon. Yesterday we went to a restaurant and I had shrimp. I was more concerned about the extra salt than the seafood!!
- Sauces, etc.- I still use a little barbeque sauce, mayo, mustard. I alternate salad dressing with plain olive oil- depends on what is included in the salad. I switched to fat-free sour cream. Nothing is better than peanut butter! I use Simply Jif.
- Ice cream- Another weakness, but I have found that what I truly crave is the cold. I make my own vanilla ice cream in the summer because I know exactly what is in it. Also like frozen yogurt- the Whipped kind freezes right in the carton! I like frozen fruit with plain (not vanilla) yogurt. I don’t thaw the fruit first, so it tends to freeze some of the yogurt. The key with these is portion control.
- Snacks- I’m supposed to increase my potassium intake, as well as a few other key vitamins and minerals so I’m snacking on dried apricots, walnuts, almonds, prunes, grapes, bananas, and chocolate. Yes, I seldom get through a day without at least one piece of Dove dark! A woman has to draw the “substitute” line somewhere!
- Breads and cereals- I prefer oatmeal, Cheerios, and Kashi Cinnamon Harvest. I like the little sandwich rounds and wraps and whole wheat anything. Just have to read the labels for extra salt and fat. There can be so much difference in the salt!!! Love Special K crackers! Yummy! I prefer brown rice or couscous over pretty much all other side dishes.
Am I always “good” and eating healthy foods? Well, no…macaroni and cheese made with Spicy Buffalo Velveeta probably qualifies as vegetarian, but hardly healthy. I didn’t eat much…honest. And Gary loved it!
Everything else is about the veggies, and fruits. I’m getting picky now! I prefer fresh, fresh, fresh and I hope our local produce market delivers their best this year until my garden starts producing. I planted lots of tomatoes, okra, squash, beans, cucumbers, and peppers, plus a little lettuce and chives.
That was probably more than you ever wanted to know about my eating habits, but maybe you read something that appealed to you and will encourage you to make a few changes or try one meatless meal per week.
Hope you are enjoying a great weekend! Please pray for the latest storm victims.