Important Note: Consulting your doctor or dietician in order to make informed decisions about any major dietary changes is recommended.
Last month was #meatlessmonday BUT ALL MONTH! The vegetarian diet appealed to me for multiple reasons: a) it’s a step toward becoming vegan b) it has been argued as being the most sustainable for the planet, c) slaughterhouses make me sad and d) increasing vegetable consumption has a plethora of health benefits!
Going vegetarian has been pretty smooth-sailing. I’ve eaten a lot of stir fry, protein pancakes, smoothies, and the odd treats that I’ve always enjoyed. I did my research before I made this decision to figure out where I could get important nutrients like iron, magnesium, and proteins. It turns out, beans have been my saviour. What’s great about beans is that they are so affordable, very versatile and contain important nutrients like iron, fibre, magnesium vitamin B6, protein, potassium, and calcium. When I say versatile, I mean you can flavour chickpeas in as many different ways as you could chicken or vegetables, and (to me, at least) they always taste good! Tip: burritos are just as good without the meat. Beans are also much less expensive than chicken and beef, so saving on groceries has been really nice. I can honestly say that I never thought I would be gushing about beans.
In addition to cutting out meat from my diet, I have been experimenting with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting can be done multiple different ways, but it usually means you consume all of your calories for the day within a shorter window than the 3-meal-a-day rule that many of us grew up with, often in a 6-hour window. There are multiple reasons for doing this, including weight loss and diabetic reasons. *This is something which you should research before you take it on. Consulting a professional about making big changes in your diet is recommended. What works for one person might not have the same effect on another.*
Overall, I’ve really loved my vegetarian month. I haven’t missed eating meat and even cooked dinner for my boyfriend a couple of times, who claims he didn’t miss it in the meal either! A typical meal for me contains brown rice, black beans and/or red kidney beans, chickpeas, some type of leafy green, and a LOT of vegetables. This include spiralled zucchini, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, broccoli, carrots, peppers, etc. Experimenting with spices has also been really fun (says a total cooking-nerd). I’ve also taken advantage of how quick and easy smoothies are, especially when I think of how simple it is to sneak some greens into my blueberry smoothies. Becoming vegetarian wasn’t a huge jump for me, since I didn’t eat a lot of meat to begin with, but I do look at it as a step towards a healthier, more sustainable, and less-expensive lifestyle. I still get to enjoy the baked goods I love (cookies, I’m never leaving you…), and of course pancakes!
Toughest challenge: 1 cent wings at Patty Boland’s. I mean… if I were to break my vegetarian streak for anything, 1 cent wings would be a good reason, right? Funnily enough, I mainly wanted to go for the social aspect of it and was nervous that eating deep-fried chicken wings would disagree with my stomach. Fortunately, the place was already PACKED when my friends and I arrived 20 minutes EARLY. Hungry and not willing to wait, we walked down the street to Warehouse (a five-dollar-favourite) and I got a veggie burger, silently beaming that I didn’t break my streak!
A draw back: Being vegetarian for month made me realize how important it is to plan my meals ahead of time. Unless you buy canned beans, you have to soak the dry ones for ~ 8 hours before even cooking them, which makes a last-minute meal harder to accomplish.
The high points: It’s funny to think of how my palate has expanded since taking this challenge on. I used to be the pickiest eater when I has a kid. the fact that I now crave chickpeas and feel like something is missing when I don’t have a leafy green vegetable is a miracle. My mom is still taking all of this in. Another high point is that I don’t get the gross bloated feeling I used to have sometimes after eating a big meal that contained meat. I feel full and happy after eating my “rabbit food”. Additionally, I lost a couple of pounds. This doesn’t really matter to me personally, but eating a vegetarian diet could potentially lead to healthy weight loss. Just make sure you’re eating enough calories and getting all of the nutrients your body needs! Last satisfying change: I find that I crave sugar less. Instead of craving the sweetness of pancakes for dinner, I am hungry for more savoury meals. This is not to say I don’t have any treats, my body just learned that it will feel more satisfied from a meal with lots of vegetables and whole grains.
All in all, I’m happy I challenged myself to try a vegetarian diet. I’m glad I made it through the whole month, and I’ll likely keep going. I feel so healthy and satisfied with my meals that I may extend the challenge to two months! I invite anyone reading to challenge themselves to a healthy change in their diet, no matter how small, you may be surprised at what new foods you like or how good you can feel!