Almost 5 months ago now I decided to turn vegetarian. I didn’t really know how long it would last, and I hadn’t really made a plan for how I’d go about it, but morally and nutritionally I wanted to go through with it. I said then, in a post about weight loss (which you can read here), that once I was more sure of my diet I would write of what exactly I ate. So here we are and as a disclaimer I would like to say I am not a nutritionist, nor do I know everything there is to know about the best things to eat as a vegetarian. Yet for any interested in the diet or in turning vegetarian this is what I enjoy eating and which helps me to keep my health up.
At the very start I wasn’t very adventurous. I bought vegetarian ready meals, or cooked pasta with a little sauce. I threw together some vegetables and hoped it made for a tasty meal. I didn’t really know what I was doing, I just knew meat wasn’t involved. I wouldn’t say it was too difficult, but as it was the start I had small cravings every now and again. I did previously eat a lot of meat, and although I enjoyed most vegetables I didn’t eat them as much as I do now. So for anyone that feels that they are in a similar situation which might hinder them at the start, the truth is once you’re into it, and you start to let your experimentation go wild, it’s relatively simple. It also helped that I’d wanted to be vegetarian for a long time, and had done so for a little while (but I was younger then and had less self control over my food cravings).
This is the first meal I put a little more thought into, and felt proud enough to post on Instagram as my first public vegetarian meal. It was literally just pasta, kale, peppers and pesto. Pretty simple, and I think for the start that’s a nice way to ease yourself in. It doesn’t feel like you’re changing too much because at some point you would have probably already had a similar meal. But it’s feeding those nutrients in through the high fibre nature of the kale and the protein/potassium of peppers with the great taste of pesto and pasta. Like I said, it’s nothing fancy but it was enough for me to begin enjoying the idea and concept of experimentation. The concept of not just buying ingredients to chuck together, but looking at the benefits and nutritional value of each ingredient and creating a meal based on a well-balanced relationship of all of them.
As you can see with these two, pasta really was a large ingredient in my first vegetarian meals, which while easy isn’t necessarily a good thing. There are obviously benefits to pasta but there are two main downsides I find. The first being that it can just get boring, eating the same base each time regardless of what the toppings and extras are, can feel autonomous and repetitive. It is the spontaneity and random nature of vegetarian cooking that helps to keep me interested, so had I stuck to pasta and not ventured further I may have given in. Secondly pasta and rice, the two bases we are so quick to use, being that its a simple and fast meal to make, are also rather fattening. They’re high in carbs, and while that’s great if you’re more of an Ectomorph and need help with gaining weight, I’m more Mesomorphic and gain weight without too much struggle.
One thing you can see in the second picture, however, is that I had discovered meat substitutes. Substitutes are a great way of keeping the flavour you enjoyed before with meat, while making you feel a little better about eating it and also giving yourself the same or more nutritional benefits. A lot of the Quorn substitutes I use (meatballs in the picture above) and many vegetarian substitutes are made of Mycoprotein. Mycoprotein is a fungal, meat-free protein form that is also high in fibre (as Mycoprotein.org will tell you). What this then provides is a large dose of protein, fibre and meat-flavour without the actual need for meat. Also, as an addition, a lot of the stuff I’ve eaten (including a pie at Christmas) that is made of Mycoprotein often tastes stronger or more interesting than the original meat.
Now before I move on to the more experimental and present state of my diet, I want to briefly show you a couple of essential parts of my food and nutrient intake.
These two things are almost essential in my diet. From a taste and ease perspective Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Sausages are absolutely fantastic. They taste, arguably, better than most sausages I’ve had in the past, and they work with pretty much any meal, from break through to lunch, dinner and a late night snack. It is the most consistent ingredient I buy and I guarantee you the majority of vegetarians and vegans will vouch for it’s taste and for it’s ease and relative value. Linda McCartney’s vegetarian range in general are varied and a gem within the meat-free food industry.
The second of the two essentials as you can see are Multivitamin and Mineral tablets. They are everywhere and most are a good price, and having them regularly is a highly beneficial thing. Not only does taking multivitamins everyday improve your general health, and help through the everyday tasks, it is also replenishes any vitamins you maybe lacking from the meat you are not eating. Iron being one of the most important minerals to keep taking, many vegetarians and vegans at the start, without the right food and without supplements find themselves extremely tired. This is normally because of a lack of Iron and other nutrients that we get from certain meats. Supplements mean that we can be healthy, stay awake and still live a meat-free life.
5 months ago I was heavily unsure of how my vegetarian lifestyle would be going, or for that matter, if it still would be going. Now, happier and also even lighter than when I wrote the previous weight loss post, I can say that I can’t imagine me giving up vegetarianism anytime soon. I can’t speak for the far future, only for now, and for now I am enjoying the experimentation, I’m enjoying the taste without the guilt of how it was made/put on my plate. This blog post is not here to force anyone to become vegetarian, but to show anyone that it isn’t horrifically difficult, and that far from just a moral decision it can be a highly beneficial and for some, essential health decision. 5 months on from just pasta and sauce, I recently made stuffed aubergine as you can see below. While it is again nothing fancy, it shows you how the mind, in terms of food knowledge can improve, and make your meals more interesting if you put a little more time and concentration in.