Happy World Vegetarian Day!

Happy World Vegetarian Day!
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image by dboy

Okay, so I am a day early. World Vegetarian Day is Oct 1. For me, though, vegetarian day is every day.

I have been a vegetarian (this go around) since 1999. My rule is if it had a face I don’t eat it. So I do still eat eggs and dairy. My official “name” would be ovo-lacto vegetarian. There are many flavors of vegetarianism. For those who don’t eat eggs but still use milk products the term is lacto vegetarian. Those who do eat eggs but abstain for dairy are ovo vegetarians.  Those who say no to all meat except for fish are pescetarians or those who eat no animal products at all are vegan.  There is even a name for the part time vegetarian who eats meatless mostly but does consume the occasional meat dish (flexitarian).

I never really had a huge appetite for meat growing up. As a kid if you gave me the choice of a burger or a grilled cheese, the grilled cheese would win every time.  The problem was I didn’t really have a taste for vegetables either.

In high school my first stab at the vegetarian lifestyle was not a healthy one. I ate lots of carbs like pasta and bread. I ate tons of cheese. My vegetables of choice were French fries, baked potatoes, peas and corn. Not a healthy diet.

After a couple of years, meat drifted back into my life.  And not in a good way. Bacon and lunch meats became a staple of my student budget eating plan. Is it any wonder that the pounds started to pack on?

Shortly before I began my fitness journey, I decided once more that meat no longer had a place in my diet.  In the beginning I went back to my old habits. Lots of pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches.  It was when I started to make my way towards a life of health and fitness that I realized a vegetarian diet wasn’t inherently healthier. It had to be the right kind of vegetarian diet-one that includes vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats from nuts and seeds. Once I stopped trying to mimic the typical Western diet, just sans meat, I got on the right track.

A meatless diet opens up a whole new world of cooking possibilities because you no longer have meat as the centerpiece of every meal.  It allows you to be more creative in the kitchen and reinforces the need to plan when on the go and ask questions about how your food was prepared when dining out. You have no idea how often they sneak chicken broth into the vegetable soup.

I realize giving up meat is not going to work for everyone. However I think everyone can benefit (including our planet) by eating less of it.  Less meat allows more room on your plate for vegetables, beans, soy foods and fantastic grains like quinoa. It can also be a lot easier on the budget. My frittata probably costs less to make than your chicken pot pie. Beans are much less expensive than pork chops.

I also feel better. I found that once I eliminated meat from my diet, and I started adding the right foods in, my energy levels went up and I didn’t get sick as often as I did before.  And, contrary to popular belief, I do not have any issues consuming enough protein. I get about 100-125 grams per day. I work out hard with energy to spare.

If you’ve flirted with the idea of moving meat out of your life, maybe today is the day to start the process. Perhaps you start by just going meatless a couple of days a week, that’s okay. Just like anything it’s a process, a process that has to start with the first step.

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