Lazy (but good) lunch:
I had 2 cups of Wolfgang Puck vegetable barley soup:
And a whole wheat bagel with Barney Butter and raspberry jam. Plus, carrots!
This morning, I opened up the floor for questions on being a vegetarian/my diet in general. I went vegetarian on April 26, 2009, but I didnâ€™t announce it on the blog for a few weeks â€“ hereâ€™s my announcement post.
I went vegetarian for a number of reasons, but the major catalyst was when I read the book â€œSkinny Bitch.â€ My review of the book is here. Although I donâ€™t agree with everything the books says, it really opened my eyes up to the realities of factory farming. Watching the movie â€œFood Incâ€ (review) also solidified my decision. By the way, I really recommend Food Inc for all types of people because itâ€™s not a â€˜pro vegetarianâ€™ movie, but a â€˜pro knowledge movie.â€™
Here are my answers to your vegetarian questions! (Some questions were repeats so I just listed one question for each topic.)
Lizzy asked, â€œIâ€™ve always thought about going vegetarian because i already donâ€™t eat a lot of meat to begin with, but because i still live at home i eat whatever is made (which most of the time is chicken and turkey). Anyways, when you became a vegetarian what were some of the things that you found difficult to cut out because they didnâ€™t fit with the lifestyle, and what are some of your go to meals to eat out at restaurants?
I really miss the convenience of pre-cut, individually fresh meat and fish filets. Pieces of salmon were SO good for dinner and were super easy to make! Making vegetarian protein â€“ such as tofu â€“ takes some pre-planning because you have to press it, cut it, and the bake it. Thatâ€™s why I really like Nasoya pre-cubed extra firm tofu. Because itâ€™s pre-cubed, you donâ€™t have to press it!
My go-to meals at restaurants are usually some sort of pasta dish or an egg-based dish if itâ€™s a breakfast joint, too. I try to go to vegetarian-specific restaurants whenever I can â€“ it makes eating out so much more pleasurable.
Greta asked, â€œIâ€™m not sure if youâ€™ve posted about this before, but Iâ€™m wondering if you take any supplements â€“ Iâ€™m specifically thinking about b12 and iron, since those are harder to get when eating vegetarian. Whatâ€™s your opinion about recommended doses of vitamins and minerals?â€
If youâ€™ve read any books such as In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, youâ€™d know that even non-vegetarians need to be taking whole food supplements because our food is much less nutritious than it was years ago! Scary! The only real supplements that I take are a calcium supplement and a Vitamin B supplement, both of which were recommended by my holistic doctor father-in-law.
Kristen wrote, â€œDo you miss meat? Do you think you will stay vegetarian forever? What about your husband?!â€
Yes, sometimes I really miss meat. I especially miss scallops and filet mignon. I do think I will live a mostly vegetarian lifestyle forever now â€“ Iâ€™m pretty committed and havenâ€™t had meat once in 10 months! However, I am pretty sure that I will â€œslip upâ€ and eat meat at least a few times in the next few years. :) The Husband eats a vegetarian died 99% of the time (he has been vegetarian since May 2009), but he sometimes prefers to order meat when weâ€™re dining out. He says he enjoys being be vegetarian because itâ€™s in line with his spiritual beliefs.
Maggie wrote, â€œIâ€™ve been listening to lots of Podcasts and reading lots of articles about the potentially negative outcomes of too much soy consumption. You may have addressed this issue earlier, but I couldnâ€™t remember so I thought Iâ€™d ask again. I love tofu and I love those Morningstar breakfast patties and Odwalla bars, which are made with soy. Are you concerned about eating too much soy? I try to be conscious of how much I eat. Iâ€™m just frustrated because first they tell us too much meat causes cancer, now too much soy causes cancer. SHEESH!â€
Yes, I am concerned about eating too much soy. For a while, research suggested that eating too much soy can cause hormonal issues, which in turn can increase a womenâ€™s risk for breast cancer. There is now conflicting evidence (see this article). However, I am concerned about eating too much soy because I am concerned about eating too much of anything, especially something as processed as soy. I try not to eat too much fake meat or tofu, for example. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s something to get TOO worked up over, but itâ€™s good to be aware.
EmpowerHealth asked, â€œIs there a secret to cooking dry beans?! I always get an upset stomach after eating them and they come out so bland. Iâ€™ve been getting canned beans lately but Iâ€™d really like to get the hang of cooking dry beans as they are cheaper.â€
I am a bad person to ask because I always buy canned beans! I just rinse the canned beans before eating them to remove some of the sodium. Anyone out there know how to make good dry beans?
Sarah asked, â€œI recently made the switch to vegetarianism and I was wondering what kinds of meals you order out at restaurants that arenâ€™t vegetarian/vegan restaurants? Also, what are some of your favorite vegetarian meals?â€
I answered the eating-out question in the first question, but for your second question, I have some of my favorite vegetarian meals on my recipes page.
Freya wrote, â€œHow do you get enough protein?/Do you think you do? I heard weâ€™re meant to have like 1-2g a day per kg of bodyweight, and more if weâ€™re training (for marathons etc), so yeah! I would like to go proper veggie, but that concerns me.â€
Once I tallied up how much how much I got on an average day of vegetarian eating (see â€œThe Protein Questionâ€) and the result was that I ate about 77.5 grams of protein a day. Personally, I believe this is more than enough protein for a woman my size, as I have good muscle tone, rarely get sick, and do a lot of endurance sports without feeling tired. In general, I think the protein issue is very overblown (just my opinion) and although protein plays an important role in weight maintenance and muscle recovery, I do not believe our bodies were made to eat and process large amounts of animal protein. I get my protein from sources such as Greek yogurt, dairy, nuts and nut butter, tofu, beans, soy products, and whole grains.
Megan asked, â€œI was wondering if you ever counted your calories and approx how many you aim for in a day?â€
I no longer calorie count (I did when I was losing weight), but I probably eat about 1,700 to 2,300 calories on an average day. I weigh 120 pounds and exercise 5 â€“ 6 days a week. When I was marathon training, I easily ate 3,000 calories on long-run days. I go by my hunger cues and try to eat more on hard workout days.
Tiffany asked, â€œMy question would be whether you have a trigger food that just throws you off of your healthy eating or not. i struggle with cereal and granola, and canâ€™t keep my hand out of the box!â€
I am triggered into unhealthy eating by the typical suspects: chips, cookies, candies, granola, and cereal. I actually have really poor self-control around unhealthy food and try not to keep chips, cookies, or candy in the house at all. We donâ€™t have any junk food in our pantries â€“ if I want ice cream, I will go to the ice cream shop and get 1 serving. I keep a measuring cup in my granola to help me portion it out reasonably. I realized last month I was eating double portions on accident! 🙂
Alyssa asked, â€œHow do you keep your energy levels and iron levels up?â€
I already talked about supplement, but I think a big thing for my energy levels is eating lots of small meals/mini-meals (like two or three afternoon snacks). I also am a firm believer in SLEEP! Sleep is so important.
Meredith asked, â€œIâ€™m making the transition to vegetarian and have no problem coming up with great dinner recipes but I find it challenging to come up with creative lunches to bring to work. Any suggestions?â€
Although I wasnâ€™t a vegetarian when I worked in an office, I did pack a lot of vegetarian meals. My favorite to-go vegetarian meals include: sweet potato and black beans, rice with beans and salsa, hummus wraps, and casseroles.
Amanda asked, â€œHow do you handle situations where people donâ€™t support or understand your views/decision to be a vegetarian? Do you debate with them? Just leave it alone and let them think they â€œwinâ€?â€
When people ask me why I am a vegetarian, I usually say that I do not support factory farming and find it easy and fun to be a vegetarian. Sometimes, people have said to me â€˜A factory farm is not that badâ€™ or â€˜The animals are happy!â€™ I usually respond by asking if theyâ€™ve seen Food Inc. because I think itâ€™s a really good, unbiased look at our food system. I will explain things if they ask about it (like the fact that 80% of our meat is prepared by four companies!), but I try not to get into a debate about it. After all, pretty much nothing they can say is going to make me believe itâ€™s acceptable to eat factory farm meat. I will usually say that I â€œmightâ€ eat meat if I knew where it came from and how it was slaughtered. I also try to point out that Iâ€™m not judging them because of their food choices; Iâ€™m just making a judgment about the SYSTEM.
Amanda also asked, â€œOh and I wanted to share a question my grandmother actually asked me yesterday â€¦â€œI know you donâ€™t eat meat, but if I cook vegetables with meat in it as seasoning, will you eat it?â€â€
Oh man! I will not eat vegetables prepared with meat broth or anything similar. I donâ€™t eat baked beans made with pork. However, I will eat marshmallows that contain gelatin. I think everyone needs to decide what is acceptable for themselves and what is not acceptable. Vegetarians donâ€™t eat meat, but that can be a blurry line for some people, and Iâ€™m OK with some gray areaâ€¦ but only some!
Tracy wrote, â€œIâ€™d like to know what you do if there are absolutely no options on a restaurant menu? Also â€“ a lot of vegan blogs talk about how much better they â€œfeelâ€ â€“ the glow and what not. Do you feel better since youâ€™ve gone veggie?â€
Not really. I think the biggest part of giving you a â€œglowâ€ is to stop eating processed foods, which I wasnâ€™t eating much of when I ate meat anyway.
If there are no vegetarian options on the menu, Iâ€™ll ask the waiter what the chef can do! There is always something they can whip up. Or Iâ€™ll get soup. 🙂
Jessica asked, â€œWhat is the worst faux meat product that you have tried?â€
In hindsight, the Toforky sausages were really gross. I thought they were OK at the time, but looking back, they were too salty and weird to be enjoyable. I also really hate fake grilled chicken strips, but only because they look too much like the real thing.
Ashley wrote, â€œI really want to become a vegetarian for the sake of animals â€“ but I find it very hard to do! I love chicken and steak so much. Any tips on how to get started? Did you just stop eating meat all at one time or was it a process?â€
Iâ€™ve actually gone vegetarian a few times before and then reverted to meat eating. This is the longest Iâ€™ve been a â€œtrue vegetarianâ€ and it feels different. I feel totally committed and although I occasionally crave meat, I havenâ€™t broken down and eaten a hamburger or anything. This time was â€œcold turkeyâ€ (hehe) because I was so scared after reading Skinny Bitch.
Becoming a vegetarian is a huge shift for most people, so I would recommend becoming a flexitarian first â€“ eat mostly vegetarian and eat meat on special occasions or every other day only. Also, educate yourself on the benefits of becoming vegetarian â€“ whether youâ€™re doing it for the environment, the animals, or your health â€“ because knowledge is power!
Heather wrote, â€œIâ€™m thinking about giving up meat for Lentâ€¦do you have any tips for fighting off meat cravings? Or recipes for something that has a substantial texture like meat (but not tofu?)â€
To fight meat cravings, simply watch some scary PETA undercover videos. Haha, just kiddingâ€¦ kinda of. One non-vegetarian but meaty recipe I really like is to make Spaghetti Bolognese with Morningstar faux-meat crumbles. It tastes just like hamburger when itâ€™s mixed into the pasta sauce! Also, Iâ€™ve been enjoying canned artichokes lately because they have such a meaty texture.
Kayla wrote, "How do you deal with social situations and your vegetarianism? For example, going to dinner at someoneâ€™s house, and youâ€™re the only vegetarian?â€
Most of my family and friends know Iâ€™m a vegetarian and try to accommodate me. Iâ€™ll often offer to bring a vegetarian casserole that can function as a side dish for meat eaters or a main dish for myself. There was actually a really interesting discussion on being vegetarian for Thanksgiving on the blog a few months back â€“ check it out.
A bunch of you also asked about my training plans.
I create my own training plans based on what I know works for me as well as what other plans suggest I do. I like to create my own because I often have multiple goals at once (like training for a triathlon and weight lifting). Some of my favorite pre-made training plans include Hal Hidgon (he has plans for every race distance) and Couch to 5K (for newbies).
Next up: Got any questions about my workouts, running, blogging, or the rest of my life? Feel free to ask them in the comments section, and Iâ€™ll answer tomorrow morning (donâ€™t be shy if youâ€™ve got a burning curiosity â€“ Iâ€™m a pretty open book!).