For about 4 weeks now I’ve been eating mostly vegetarian (minus our vacation week when I happily enjoyed fresh seafood and whatever Fred served). I’m pretty sure that qualifies me as an expert in vegetarian eating and I am hoping to bestow my wisdom onto you today (lol).
I’ve really enjoyed trying new vegetarian dinner ideas and playing around more with beans, lentils, and bread. I hadn’t excluded those things previously, but only dabbled with them in favor of lean meats. The great thing about experimenting with my eating style is I get to find out what works for me. I am a huge believer in that the ideal diet (and exercise plan) is quite individualized. For example, I am grateful to have no food allergies so excluding an entire food group for an extended amount of time just doesn’t make sense for me. At the end of the day, I believe most strongly in moderation and intuitive eating.
However, I’m also always up for trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone to gain a new perspective. I’ve really enjoyed this vegetarian adventure and have realized a few things along the way:
Planning and Prep is Essential.
I’m pretty sure this is a universal theme in any whole-food, healthy way of eating. I blame (credit?) the vegetables, but with vegetarian cooking it can also be about remembering to soak the beans or cashews. It’s also about knowing what you’re going to make for dinner otherwise you (OK, I did) just end up with a bowl of romaine and some grape tomatoes and chickpeas.
Grain Bowls Instead of Salads.
I shouldn’t say instead because I LOVE a good salad and have eaten plenty over the past few weeks. However, even sometimes the heartiest salads didn’t satisfy my hunger longer than an hour or two. I found instead a bowl based with a grain (this week it’s farro!) plus vegetables of some sort and a healthy fat (olives, avocado, etc) stuck around much longer.
It Can’t Be Beans All the Time.
Yall, I soaked and rinsed and rinsed again until the water ran clear, but I still found that if I was relying on beans for more than one meal a day, then I’d pay for it with the ever-so-uncomfortable bloat. I did realize how much I love beans again (so versatile!) but I’ll be sticking to bean-based options only once a day.
Experiment with New Protein Options.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little uneasy with the faux-meat idea, so I haven’t explored that world to a large extent and have eaten boiled egg whites for protein (not exactly exciting). However, having tofu as an option when we went out to eat made my meal so much more filling. I also mentioned this minor frustration to my friend Courtney who convinced me to try tempeh again. I’ve never really found a way to make it taste great but she says thinly slicing it and searing it in a little coconut oil and coconut aminos will change my mind. It’s on this week’s lunch menu and I’ll report back on my instagram!
It Makes a Big Difference in the Grocery Budget.
I didn’t realize how much meat (chicken, fish, seafood, etc) was costing us until I bought grocery’s for a vegetarian meal plan for a few weeks in a row. We are talking a sincere noticeable difference even with snagging a few extras that weren’t on the list (Bitsy Brainfood Crackers for the girls and sprouted mung beans for me). I loved this perk and for this reason (among others) I plan to stick to 3-4 vegetarian meals a week going forward.
Keep a Stash of Chips and Salsa.
It’s my current go-to filler food for vegetarian dinners that don’t quite satisfy David. I stocked up on Aldi’s organic salsas (really good and less than $2 a jar!). We tried Newman Own’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa (delicious!!) and Willy’s Fresh Salsa (which is addictive). You can put salsa on anything to instantly make it tasty so I’ve been snagging a few jars of whatever is on sale and looks good.
Vegetarian Meals to Try:
(Based on what we’ve liked and your recommendations)
I also am really into baking sourdough and am realizing I need to be baking weekly to keep up with our demand. I get a lot of questions about it on instagram so a few tips: I use Jen’s step by step sourdough tutorial. It makes two loaves each time. It is a lengthy process in the fact that you feed the starter for a couple days before getting started, but it really isn’t complicated. I highly recommend trying it!
I don’t (and didn’t) have any intentions of becoming a vegetarian full time, but this trial has widened my culinary horizons and I’m enjoying trying new dishes in the kitchen. I hope to increase the amount of vegetarian meals we eat each week, aiming for 4/5 nights out of 7 to be vegetarian meals. I think I got into a rut of depending on red meat a little too much so I look forward to this new routine to benefit our health and our wallets- and if it is good for the planet too, well, that’s wonderful!
Do you experiment with your diet to see how you feel eating different ways?
What have you learned does or doesn’t work for you?
How did you know it did or didn’t?