What being a vegetarian for the summer taught me

Most people attempt to make major life resolutions around New Years. I on the other hand, feel like I’m at the cusp of something new and spectacular when the school year comes to a close, and the summer sun comes out to play. Let’s be honest: the wintertime is NO time to try to up and change your life. Is it not the laziest time of the year?!

 

This time around, I decided to dedicate myself to vegetarianism for the season. And I must say, I haven’t been the same since. Here are eight things I figured out during my first three meatless months (Number 5 is some serious TRUTH, I’m not even kidding…).

 

1. People always want to get political.

 

It’s AH-mazing just how many people want to argue with you about an individual choice that literally, has nothing to do with them whatsoever. You say, “Oh, I don’t eat meat anymore.” And they hear, “LET’S GET READY TO RUUUUMBLE!” Some argued that people physically can’t survive without meat’s protein, some argued that animals were made solely for humanity’s consumption, some argued that meat is just too darn delicious. But whatever they believed was completely besides the point because if my memory serves me correctly, I. DID. NOT. ASK. 

For some reason, a lot of meat eaters would get weirdly defensive when I stated that I was a vegetarian, as if I was somehow saying that I looked down on their own lifestyle choices. So if you think you might want to give up meat, too: don’t forget: vegetarianism is still kind of a touchy subject. Be prepared.

 

2. Carbs are the MVP.

 

I refuse to believe that there is any way to get full as a vegetarian if you are not eating carbohydrates (or drinking a crap ton of water, but that’s a bit tedious). People always ask me what I eat as a vegetarian. “Salad?” they ask with a somewhat pitying look on their face. I mean, yes, that’s true. But I also eat wheat like a fiend. Naan, tortillas, rice, quinoa, french fries, pasta, you name it. If it’s a starch, it’s in my mouth (which I admit, probably isn’t the healthiest thing in the world). 

As it turns out, new research indicates that carbs might actually be the “sixth taste,” to go along with the other five primary flavors our tongues recognize: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. Maybe that has something to do with it...or maybe I just have a problem.

 

3. Eating out takes a little extra effort.

 

Dining with friends is by no means impossible. But it does require a little extra research. After all, you don’t want to agree to some place only to find out your only vegetarian options include fried cheese, edamame and like, more fried cheese. During the summer, I did a lot of before-hand googling, just to figure out what I wanted prior to going out. No muss, no fuss. Surprisingly, quite a few places already have designated vegetarian sections on their menus. But even if they don’t, asking for a certain salad or pasta without the meat is no big deal, either.   

4. You can still get a food baby.

 

When you’re a vegetarian, it’s actually super easy to get all lazy and start eating crap out of convenience. I mean, c’mon. Oreos are vegan for heaven’s sake. It’s totally possible to lose weight, don’t get me wrong. But you have to do just as much work on a meatless diet, as you do on a diet that incorporates animals into the mix if you want to adopt a healthy lifestyle. There are days when I feel great, and give myself a pat on the back for retaining more of a plant-based regimen. However, there are also times when I pig out, start bloating like nobody’s business and end up with a three-hour food coma, regretting way too many choices I’ve made. So if you’re worried that vegetarianism is going to bring you to the brink of starvation, think again. There’s plenty to munch on.     

5. Everyone mistakes you for vegan.

 

Okay, maybe not everyone, but still, a scary-alarming amount of people. And it’s kind of annoying because those same people also have a very stigmatized idea of what a vegan is. They think you never shave your legs (which is totally okay), support animal rights with a passion (which is totally okay), make cold-press cannabis juice and eat yeast all day (again, go for it if that’s your thing). Of course, all of those choice are nothing to be ashamed of. But regardless, being judged is never a fun time. 

6. Creativity matters...A LOT.

The best part about being a vegetarian, is the cooking! Over the summer, I spent so much time in the kitchen, getting out of my comfort zone and trying a bunch of stuff I’d never thought to explore before (Take note: soba noodle soup is “thebomb.com”). Seriously, every day is like an episode of Top Chef, because you’re constantly thinking about how to add flavor to plants that are naturally more bland. You don’t get to rely on the natural flavors that usually come from cooking chicken, beef and fish. 

It’s not brain science, though. As a Marylander, Old bay seasoning is a great place to start. But ethnic flavorings such as jerk seasoning, curry powder, asian stir-fry sauces and mexican spices are all great ways to get even more comfortable with different tastes. 

7. Morningstar Farms is a culinary messiah.

 

When you used to eat meat, but you stop eating meat, it’s not like you just forget about all the great times you had on friendship outings to Popeyes and family crab boils. There WILL be cravings. And that’s okay because meat substitutes have come such a long way! There’s a lot more to this world than just tofu and chickpea mash (although those can be really yummy, too.) There’s tempeh, black beans, lentils, paneer and the holy grail of soy protein products, Morningstar Farms. Morningstar’s products, which include “chicken” nuggets, black bean burgers and breakfast “sausage” among like, 100 other things, are packaged, frozen and ready to go in no time, perfect for when you need to scratch that itch.    

 

8. Once a foodie, always a foodie.

 

I think there’s a bit of a misconception that people who choose to go vegan/vegetarian don’t care about the joys of eating as much as people who have no limits to what they’ll consume, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Becoming a vegetarian actually reignited my appreciation for foods and flavor in a way I never truly recognized before I made my lifestyle change. A big part of that came from Instagram inspiration, and tons of vegan/vegetarian feeds that opened my eyes up to all the possibilities. And as far as the actual act of eating is concerned, I still do all the same stuff as a vegetarian that I did as a meat-eater. Drooling over dessert, eating out, pigging out, laboring over the stove, I still do all that stuff! It’s like that scene in Ratatouille. Remember? “Anyone can cook.”

Yeah, and anyone can eat, too.