Cooking has been a challenge. There is a learning curve. Thankfully my knowledge on the subject was not zero. I didn't begin this endeavour clueless. In High School I devoured (no pun intended) a book entitled, "Diet for a Small Planet" by Francis Moore Lappé which my mother had bought, read and placed on one of our bookshelves. I even bought and read it again later in my life. I currently don't have a copy but for anyone interested, it's a very comprehensively written book on vegetarian living in regard to health, environment and animal cruelty. Since that time I've read several other books, done a bit of research on my own and spent a significant amount of time over the years eating (and watching them cook) with several vegetarians friends. However helpful all that prior exposure has been, actually cooking vegetarian for oneself (and one's partner) regularly, on a daily basis is another matter completely. I don't know where I am on that learning curve, but my confidence level is high.
How am I doing? Who knows. I feel great. Before my dietary change I had to remind myself to eat. Really. I knew I had to eat because I would get quiet or cranky, usually at two or three in the afternoon. I am much more enthusiastic about food now. And I look at food differently. I am constantly considering what nutrition a food item will add to a meal I am preparing. And I eat until I am full. Many small meals. Whenever. And I am very slowly losing a bit of weight. I had weird hunger pangs a couple of times the first month that I attribute to adjusting to a much lighter diet. They screamed, "EAT" and I felt them throughout my entire body. At the time I was eating a lot, too. I don't seem so ravenous any longer. My digestion seems to be normal again. Before I deleted meat from my diet I used to have "low blood sugar" moments on a daily basis. I still have similar moments but not as often and the lack of focus that typically accompanied them is gone. My partner no longer has to take my hand and lead me to food. Or remind me to eat. Oh, and I smell different. Sweeter perhaps. And I am more "regular" and the consistency has changed for the better. I have to laugh because I know you probably didn't need to read that. Consider it the drama of the changes I've noticed. Ha. I am also lifting weights regularly and doing a bit of cardio. My weight is slowly going down and my fat as percentage of body weight is also lowering slightly. More work needed to be done there but it's a start.
I truly believe that vegetarian eating could be unhealthy. Thought has to be used to avoid certain pitfalls. Processed food is one, reliance on dairy is another. I am very careful not to load up on dairy, especially cheese. As mentioned in a previous post, I am not a milk drinker. Yuck. I do like yogurt but don't go near the industrial kind found in most grocery stores. There is a wonderful Greek yogurt my sister-in-law introduced me to that is very good and well made but (un)fortunately for me one can not purchase it (yet?) in Canada. I am trying very hard to choose foods low in simple sugars. I am very conscious about how much extra fat such as oil and butter I add to meals during preparation. When "necessary" I use Canola or Extra virgin, cold pressed, organic, unfiltered olive oil. I think I've used four tablespoons of butter in two months. Current dietary wisdom is stating that protein combining isn't necessary, but I still try to cook a bean and grain together when possible. And/or a pulse such as lentils. I am very aware of the colors of my vegetables and try to eat a variety every day (vegetables and colors). There are other guidelines but you get the idea.
I used to whine when my partner mentioned food shopping. I hated it. I love going now because I am excited about the food. Needless to say I don't shop very often at the local supermarket. It's all about organic, real, and (whenever available) locally produced food. Toronto has at least one food co-op, the Big Carrot, which is located on Danforth Ave. We also have a Whole Foods Market. Neither in my neighborhood, unfortunately. As an aside, I decided one of my life goals is to one day be able to shop in WFM without being concerned about offensively high prices. Great products but they don't call it "whole paycheck" for nothing. Ours is located in Bloor-Yorkville, go figure. I still find I can selectively shop there without emptying my wallet. Toronto also has a chain store called Noah's in various locations. I am not sure if I am more offended by the prices at Noahs or the patrons who actually pay them. The one in my neighborhood has lousy produce and is small. And expensive. There should be no doubts - I reject Noahs. My excursions for food are fun because I am much more aware of what is available now. And I make it a point to regularly learn to cook something I don't normally. An example would be beets. Not difficult. So I am trying and adding new foods to our diet.
And I think this needs to be stated. Designing, preparing and cooking is not difficult or time intensive with a bit of thought beforehand. I think most people would be amazed. The internet is of great help when deciding what to make and how. Recipes are ubiquitous and, for the most part, free. If you are interested, check out Vegetarian Times, Epicurious, Food Network, and Cooking light, among others. Choose a food stuff you want to eat or learn to cook and do a search on one of these sites until you find an agreeable recipe. And then cook...or go to the market and cook it the next day. You will be amazed at the awesome meals you can create.
One downside is eating out. It's not as difficult as some make it seem but it also takes some thought beforehand. Locally, here in Toronto, I am slowly learning where to go or, at least, what to look for. Even in Las Vegas, where Eric and I just stayed for seven days, we were able to find very satisfying eateries amongst all the fast food and burger joints. Most of the higher end cafes and casino restaurants have vegetarian options, it's just that one doesn't necessarily want to spend that type of money for every meal. We found a couple of buffets that were absolutely loaded with vegetarian food. The only real concern would be that the food was higher in fat content than that I would have made at home. But doesn't everyone have this problem on a vacation? Don't we all come home a bit heavier after a holiday? If I ever go Vegan I don't know what I'll do for food outside the home...but I have no serious concerns currently.
So what food choices are we making? And why? Who taught us to eat the way we do (or did) and how did they come to eat that way? Who makes these decisions? You? Your parents? The food companies? Lobbyists? What factors went into your food decision(s)? Or has there really been any thought at all outside of what taste good? Hmmmm. I am learning (more) about food. I am learning more about the consequences of my food decisions on me, animals and the environment. I am not being forced. I do not feel deprived. I am eating a more varied diet than I had been. My diet and my exercise routine are reinforcing each other in a positive way. And I feel good. I can't say I miss eating meat. I don't. But Eric and I did order pizza last week and admit I was craving pepperoni...greasy and crispy on the edges from being cooked (come on, you know)...the moment passed and was (almost) forgotten. The Vegetarian pizza we ate was delicious.