Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Weekday vegetarian

[Source: Eatwell Plate]

A while ago I was asked to write a guest post for her blog while she was away. I thought I might share it here too as it's all about why we eat a mostly vegetarian diet, what we eat and includes my blood test results!

January 20, 2012
I love a good vego meal, and even more than that ,when I was in uni I liked the kind of mystique and ‘coolness’ of vegetarians. There was something about them that intreged me and their commitment to the their non carnavoric ways. However beans and lentils never excited me, and being a child of two European parents, vego was hardly an option…. Until my sister was rebellious and went Vegan at age 15. Oh, there was a war, and my mother, being the wise woman that she was, fought the war with some insider knowledge. She worked at a uni and bailed up some ‘vegetarian looking’ folk, quizzed them on what they eat and then hot footed it to the organic store and bought all of the blandest looking options. My sister then lived on tomato paste and pasta. My mum didn’t have to cook an extra meal and all were unhappy and a little unhealthy - for there was no compromising being made and the wellbeing of the body wasn’t the primary focus. Both parties were being defensive and reacting to the situation rather engaging with the issue.

Fast forward 15 years and I’m now beginning to engage with the issue, filled with it’s hang ups and misconceptions. I’m wading in the debate… the difference being that I don’t have a preconceived notion of what is ‘right’, I’m simply on a quest to work out what is healthy for us, our environment, our wallets and the social context we live in. So here’s our families journey on the vegetarian spectrum.

A few months back we made some rather large lifestyle changes, some intentional some not so. I intentionally quit my job to move to another, however my hubby began working overseas part time, and so I unintentionally became a stay at home mum – Ekk! This lead to A LOT of time to think…. and between loads of washing, cooking, cleaning, play dates and my new need to fill time with educational exploits for my “3 year old” (read: me) I started reading about sustainability.

While I have always loved the concept of being sustainable, I was an extremely career driven and busy individual and I was looking forward to doing this in my planned hippie retirement! However I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, with all that washing and cleaning to avoid!

Then in the mail popped the G Magazine and a nifty little article on Weekday Vegetarianism. While I loved the concept of not eating and especially cooking meat I always thought it would be a hassel for eating out and of the belief that we were made to eat meat. I still do think we are made to eat meat, I just think we are taking the cause a little too seriously and our meat portion sizes are getting ridiculous – some may say causing an ill-health epidemic!

So why did I convert – I watched this TED Talk by Graham Hill, and what he said made sense:
· Environmentally, meat causes more emissions than transport.
· Health wise you will live longer if you consume less meat.
· It’s cheaper.
· You are likely to lose weight.
· You will feel better.
· And best of all – you can still EAT MEAT!!! This was my issue as I didn’t want to visit friends and family and be an inconvenience or eat meat and then feel sick.

I sent the talk to my hubby who was a TED fan and hoped he’d be willing to give it a go. He did, probably because he wanted me to have a project as I was starting to go stir crazy at home!

The Vegetarian Quest

Firstly I did a lot of research and looked at charts of how much of each food group we need to be healthy. I was pleasantly surprised by how little protein we needed and how easy it was to get from beans, lentils, quinoa etc. Here are my two favourite diagrams that makes it easy to visualise: here and here.

Secondly I started to look for recipes that provided nutrients, were quick to prepare and didn’t have too many unheard of ingredients. I also looked for recipes that had a variety of vegetables in them as vegetables (especially different colours) have different nutrients. Here’s some that are a staple in our house hold:

· Quinoa Packed into this little grain is all kinds of goodness (including protein and iron) and tastiness! It’s easy to cook and you just use it instead of rice or pasta. Genius!
· Cous Cous This is another good option and even easier to cook than Quinoa. Use it as you would rice and pasta.
· Ratatouille
· Chilli con lentils This can be used with Cornchips, quinoa, pasta, couscous, baked potatoes etc. to make this versatile dish a little bit different!
· Nachos: Throw diced tomatoes, spinach and/or kale, four bean mix, capsicum in a saucepan then spread it over prebaked corn chips. Spread some avocado and sprinkle some cheese and then bake for a bit!
· Spaghetti Bean Bolognese This is a staple in our house hold, I now don’t even look at the recipe! I just use the principals of the recipe and add whatever beans and veg I have based on the season and my pantry!!
· Gratin
· Chickpea Curry
· Veggie Lasagne – your recipe books at home probably have this one, if not you could replace the Spaghetti Bean Bolognaise for your regular Bolognaise to revamp you trusty meat lasagne!
· Fried rice: There’s no recipe it’s kind of an empty the ‘needs to be eaten’ vegetables into a pan with rice cooked from last night, onion and garlic. Then in a separate pan cook a few beaten eggs and cut into squares. Chuck it together with a favourite Asian sauce or three and voila!
· Tofu stir fry

After three months I got a blood test to check all my levels as I was concerned that the ‘diet’ would not have enough nutrients for our growing three year old. So when the results came back fine with only a deficiency in Vit D (and it was the end of winter) I was over the moon as usually I am low in iron. So it can be done! In fact I think I may be healthier than I was before as I’m actively putting in a variety of vegetables rather than the ‘same old’ ones we used for most of our meals.

While not everyone is convinced by our unconventional ways we have discovered that many families are having many vegetarian meals every week – which is great as we never set out to be different or to prove a point. We are being more sustainable and healthier so it’s a win win!

Now if only I could reduce the amount of sugar I eat…!

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