30 Days: 2/3 Vegetarian
The Self-Imposed Challenge
Inspired by hellogiggles.com‘s One-Week Diet Diaries and my vegetarian friends, I decided to increase my understanding of vegetarianism by reducing my meat intake for 30 days in August.
Not full-on vegetarian, mind you. When I told Hubby of my plan, he looked at me with fear in his eyes and sadness in his meat-loving heart. “Do I have to do it with you?” he asked with trepidation. (Nope, just me)
I figured the best way to get a taste of this way of life without over-complicating our lives was to start small: no meat for lunch. Eggs were ok, I decided, both because some vegetarians eat them, and trying to figure out what products contained egg seemed too difficult for my first time out.
The first couple of days went well. In fact, I began to get cocky: thanks to my morning ritual of a peanut butter-banana smoothie, I wasn’t just a lunch-time vegetarian; I was 2/3 vegetarian. Rock on!
With overconfidence comes mistakes. Within the first 10 days, I accidentally had soup with meat in it. I’d been thinking of meat as tangible items like burgers, fried chicken, etc. and had forgotten that meat is used for flavoring too. D’oh!
The Rules, Revisited
That’s when I decided to update my rules: 2/3 vegetarian simply means that 2 out of 3 meals are vegetarian, right? If I had meat for lunch, I could just get back on the wagon for dinner. This worked out really well because it just so happened we had 3 huge work lunch shindigs throughout late August and while abstaining from meat in small groups was fine, I wasn’t committed to explaining to EVERYONE why I was suddenly turning down meat-y goodness.
- Going out with a group is more difficult when you’re not eating meat. Even simple things like shared veggie flatbreads might be topped with bacon, for example. I suppose it could be easier if everyone recognized you were vegetarian and thought to order something with you in mind, but in this case, I just went without.
- Meat is in a lot of things that you don’t realize. At the same group luncheon, I made sure to ask if the corn chowder had meat (it didn’t). I didn’t think to ask if the dressing for my entree salad contained it, because I figured the server already realized I was going without. A vegetarian friend later advised me that likely wasn’t the case because I didn’t specifically ask, and that most Caesar dressing has anchovy paste in it. Oops.
- Turns out I typically order meat out of habit, even when it doesn’t necessarily add flavor. A Thai dish tasted just as good with tofu, for example, although I must confess that my vegetable fried rice later in the month just wasn’t the same without pork.
- Going meatless doesn’t always save you money. I just assumed that ordering things sans meat would be less expensive, but at a burger place I visited, a veggie patty was the same charge as the ground beef. Which makes sense, I suppose, because vegetables can be pricey…
- Being vegetarian doesn’t equal being healthy. I’ve had several people tell me that they lost 5 pounds as soon as they stopped eating meat. I can’t say the same, but part of that is because I was only 2/3 vegetarian. At the same time, not eating meat doesn’t always translate into fewer calories or eating piles of fruits and vegetables every day. It literally just means no meat, not necessarily good choices.
- As long as a meal is hearty, most people won’t notice that it’s vegetarian. I made a Mexican casserole (layers of brown rice, black beans, salsa, mushrooms, onions and cheese with tortilla chips on the side–delicious!) for a dinner guest and until I mentioned my challenge, he didn’t realize I’d left out the ground beef or pork you might typically expect.
I only broke the rules that one, meat-flavored-soup time (and on that same afternoon, popped a few pieces of cheese that had bacon in it…yes, there is such a thing and yes, it’s pretty amazing). To atone for my mistake, I extended the challenge an extra day. There were even a few days that were entirely vegetarian, so I definitely maintained 2/3 vegetarian for the month as a whole.
This challenge opened my eyes: to the intricacies of a vegetarian diet, to how deliberately I choose my food, to how much meat I typically consume. I likely won’t continue my rigid 2/3 vegetarianism rules, but nor will I continue my old style of eating either. I’ll probably hit somewhere in the middle: eating meat when I can truly appreciate the flavor but more mindfully overall.