5 Tips for Becoming an Occasional Vegetarian
Dawn, our vegetarian healthy habits coaching client, has sure taught me a thing or two about commitment. During our first session, I learned that she dropped 75 pounds in one year (and three days, but who’s counting?) by making up her mind to do it.
After she made up her mind, she made a significant change: she bought a "Body Bugg," a device that she used to measure calories in, calories out. She counted so that she could keep a daily deficit of 1000 calories, and watched the pounds leave her frame at a sensible 1 to 1½ pounds per week.
This month, she committed to vegetarian eating two days per week. She did it the way she does things: she made up her mind. Which is glib, but true. And when I pressed, she shared these tips for how to not only do it, but enjoy doing it:
1. If you don't like it; don't put it in your mouth. While some love tofu, others don't, and Dawn falls into the latter camp. Tofu is often associated with a vegetarian lifestyle; after all, it's an easy-to-find lean protein that's a simple substitution for more popular meats. Yet there are negative associations with tofu and a vegetarian lifestyle as well as in...tofu is all you get to eat! Dawn and I agreed from the start that tofu would not be a part of her repertoire; there's a big world of protein out there, from beans and legumes to nuts and dairy; we set out to find non-tofu options.
2. Grab your passport. Dawn likes to cook, and there are plenty of cultures around the world who use a lot less meat than we do in the USA. Our first week, we took a trip to Mexico with Stuffed Poblanos and Enchiladas. Next, we visited France (Lentil Salad), and Italy (Basil Pesto). Week three was Greece with a sundried tomato pesto and feta pasta, and for our final week, we journeyed to India, a country well known for their vegetarian flavors. If you step away from traditional American cooking; a variety of interesting vegetarian options will present themselves.
3. Remember texture. In addition to flavor, texture plays a big role in our food satisfaction, and Dawn was keen to that. Dawn still wanted to chew, so she played with new ingredients like wheatberries and quinoa. She was surprised and delighted by the texture of the wheatberries; chewy and (let's just say it) meaty. Quinoa has that perky little pop that's also fun. Since Dawn decided against meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh and seitan, she played with proteins that she could rehydrate like beans and grains, which were less expensive and gave her more control in the kitchen.
4. Substitution, ref! "Don't discount a recipe just because it has two to three ingredients that you don't like. Be willing to put something else in there," says Dawn. And she lived it; we rarely found a recipe where Dawn liked (or could find) all the ingredients, so she subsituted. She had fun, felt creative, and made food that she liked.
5. Share with your friends. "It's one thing to make something and like it myself, it's another to see someone else's reaction," says Dawn. In addition to sharing meals with her partner (who has been a big fan of Dawn's vegetarian cooking this month), she's been sharing some of her creations with a work colleague who is a full-time vegetarian, and a bit bored with her repertoire. Dawn's friend has enjoyed loved the food that Dawn has shared; and that has fed Dawn in a completely different way.