Sometimes it’s a hell of a lot easier to say no in life, but that leads to one without stories, without laughter, and without love.
Challenge number one began the Monday after Christmas. Why wait until the new year when you can start now, right?
This seemed to be the most approachable challenge on my 30 before 30 list without really changing much during the final days of the year. To get ready, I spent time on Pinterest getting inspired by tons of delicious-looking food. Eating vegetarian doesn’t have to be boring!
Although inspired, I immediately noticed some difficulties in the first week.
- I work, sometimes long hours, in a restaurant where there are very limited vegetarian options. Day 1 of vegetarian eating, there were some employee mistakes, so there was extra food surrounding me – wings in every flavor, sausage pizza, pepperoni pizza! I was so hungry, it was definitely hard to resist stealing a bite.
- Simply breaking the habit of eating meat. I didn’t eat it often when I cooked previously, but when I go out, it’s just an easy habit to choose meals with meat. Also, with working in the restaurant, there’s always food to be shared. I have to change my mindset, stop and think, “wait, I’m not eating that.”
Another thing I didn’t consider before giving myself this challenge was everyone wanting to know why I stopped eating meat.
So why exactly am I eating vegetarian?
Well, I mostly consider it a health challenge. I want to see how my body feels when eliminating meat. I know vegetables should be a larger component of my diet, so this is a great way to focus on incorporating them more. Also, I’ve been really lazy lately, pretty much eating whatever I want and barely cooking. This is a good reason for me to get back in the kitchen and once again start thinking about what I’m putting into my body.
Lastly, it’s a discipline challenge. I’m not always good about sticking with things. This whole 30 before 30 list is a dare to myself to go after some big things that I maybe wouldn’t do otherwise. This is just the start.
So. It’s been 50 days since I first committed to eating vegetarian. What did I learn?
- When eliminating animal products, it’s easy to get in a habit of eating the same, quick meals. Variety is important. Get creative!
- Preparation is key. If I forgot to take a meal to work, I was pretty much stuck eating bread and cheese. Not exactly the healthiest choice.
- Protein is important. I felt so tired within the first couple of weeks and quickly realized I wasn’t getting enough protein. I felt so much better once I started getting protein outside of just dairy products. Beans and eggs became a staple and of course brown rice, but also peanut butter, almonds, and some high-protein veggies like edamame.
- I couldn’t beat myself up for accidentally eating meat. 15 days in, I ate some chicken during work without even thinking about it. Two bites in, my brain reactivated, “what the hell did I just do?”
So obviously, it is past the 21 day challenge and I have continued to go (mostly) without eating animal products. There are pros and cons to a vegetarian diet, as well as a meat-filled diet. I’m still not entirely sure yet which I prefer.
Has anyone experimented with both diets and find they have a preference?
The original goal on my 30 Before 30 list was to cook an entire cookbook. I looked at a few and I was having a hard time finding one that I loved enough to commit to 100%. What can I say? I have commitment issues and I like freedom. So, this became a Pinterest project instead.
On last count, I had 2,584 food-related Pins, spread out among 23 boards. And these Pins have been neglected and left to fend for themselves in Pinterest world for far too long. Better than newspaper clippings and handwritten recipes taking up space, I suppose. Wow, remember those days?
Anyway, I figured this would be the perfect way to encourage finally following through on all the beautiful kitchen inspiration found on Pinterest. Time to get cooking!
January 2016 Recipe Total: 9
This month was one of vegetarian meals because I also took on the 21-day vegetarian challenge. Of the nine recipes I tried, there were zero complete fails, yay! Let’s start with a couple of the favorites.
Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Skillet from Ambitious Kitchen
This was my most recent meal and I’m absolutely looking forward to the leftovers. My roommate ended home on this night and was beyond happy I shared. Two thumbs up.
Speedy Veggie ‘n Brown Rice Noodle Bowl with Homemade Teriyaki Sauce from Oh She Glows
Who knew veggies could be so tasty? This one surprised me by how much I truly enjoyed it. I knew it would be good. I love Asian flavors, but it was better than good. It was damn delicious.
Some other dinner options I tried:
Cajun Chickpea Sweet Potato Burgers from Peas & Crayons
Wondergrain Tacos from Wondergrain
One Pot Spicy Thai Noodles from Domestic Superhero
Beat the Cold Chunky Veg Soup from Butterfly Foodie
Spicy Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayonnaise from Skinny Taste
I also made some homemade Enchilada Sauce thanks to Gimme Some Oven. And it may not be fall, but it’s not a crime to still enjoy pumpkin, is it? I found some cans of pumpkin puree floating around my pantry and made the always delicious Pumpkin Spice Smoothie from Healthful Pursuit. Yum!