By Emily McLaughlin
Well, everyone, I did it. I completed my January challenge: One full month being a vegetarian/pescetarian! I would like to go ahead and give a big shout out to my friends and some of my family members for helping me do this. Aunt Karen, thanks for not waving your famous meatballs under my nose — it was hard enough know that they were in the kitchen. Ryo, thanks for putting up with me and my daily “I just want a burger” banter. Hannah and Kathleen, thank you for subtly cooking chicken and other goodies in the kitchen and not getting aggravated when I would say, “Man, that smells really good. Why must you do this to me!?” … every day.
Also, big thank you to my friends at Chobani and Trader Joe’s for supplying me with plenty of alternative options for protein. Early in the month I receive my giveaway winnings from Chobani: 6, 32oz. cartons of Greek yogurt (I still have about 3 left). Then, Trader Joe’s has plenty of options for vegetarians: tofu, tempeh and other soy goodies were key. I also stocked up on some frozen fish from Trader Joe’s since it is reasonably priced.
Yep. Count ‘em. 6!
Other distractions during the month came from other giveaway winnings from GoodBelly and ENERGYbits. Lastly, mid-month, I got a package from my Foodie Pen Pal complete with PB, granola, soup mix and popcorn. Yum.
For educational purposes, let’s chat about the benefits of being a vegetarian (or pescetarian). There are a few things that I noticed as the month went by and I began to understand how to compensate for the lack of meat in my diet. First, I had an unusual craving for bacon, grilled chicken and turkey burgers. The thought of beef kind of nauseates me, but I might have to get a beefy burger tonight anyways (Well, well see… I’ll probably chicken out and get a turkey burger). Here are a few other things that I noticed this month being a vegetarian/pescetarian:
1. I saved money. Tofu and tempeh are cheap, chicken and other (good) meats are expensive. I bought a couple packages of frozen fish over the course of the month (usually pretty pricey), but I think I actually ended up saving money in the long run.
2. I ate more fruits and vegetables. Because I couldn’t eat meat, I increased my fruit/vegetable intake. This didn’t financially burden me, whatsoever. My local market has very affordable fresh, organic fruits and veggies. I took a trip over there about 1-2x per week to get fresh ingredients for meals.
3. Buying local was a priority. As I mentioned about, I went to the local market a lot because they had lots of fresh ingredients from my area. Buying local was easy, convenient and made a priority. I needed all the nutrients I could get and didn’t want to risk getting nutrient deficient fruits/veggies (< READ MORE) from the supermarket.
4. My energy levels increased. I don’t usually eat a lot of meat (bacon some mornings and maybe chicken/turkey once or twice a week). At first, it was hard to adjust. I had less energy and clearly wasn’t getting enough protein. Once I started eating more veggies and getting my protein in elsewhere… I had so much energy! I would go into work around 7 or 8, get a gym-session in after work, and still have enough energy to stay up til 11 PM/12 AM! Woah! ;)
5. I had more healthy cravings. While I craved protein, I also craved green things. After a weekend of drinking (Celtics game, a night in Amherst and a night in Faneuil Hall), a time where I usually would want something greasy or carb-loaded, I instead wanted a detoxifying salad. I got home from a night in Amherst and ran to the grocery store for kale, bok choy, cucumbers and other green things. I NEEDED them. This felt really, really good.
(Veggie) bacon, almonds, craisins and pomegranate over a bed of kale and bok choy.
Tuna, quinoa, pomegranate and craisins over kale and bok choy,
So, will I keep with the vegetarian/pescetarian lifestyle? No. BUUUUTT… I will become mostly vegetarian. I won’t be buying a lot of meat, but if there is a special occasion, I am invited to family dinner, or I go out to eat with friends… I won’t avoid meat completely. That was were I ran into a lot of challenges.
I challenge YOU to try the vegetarian/pescetarian thing for a month! It wasn’t THAT bad. ;) Stay healthy, stay happy, everyone.