Vegetarian Update: A Year Without Meat.

It has been exactly one year, as of yesterday, since I transitioned to eating a vegetarian diet. I thought I would give a little update as to how the year has gone, what I have learned, and what the future looks like for CGR’s food in case you were wondering!

Back story: I tried out vegetarianism about three years ago. It was the trendy thing to do. I didn’t plan, I didn’t try new foods that would make up nutrient deficiencies, I was a terrible vegetarian and an even worse vegetarian athlete; I even dabbled in veganism for a few weeks. I was so tired, I was losing too much weight, and I couldn’t quite believe that this was what “healthiness” felt like. My doctor told me I either had to reconsider how I was approaching my vegetarian diet or start eating meat again because my body was NOT happy! I took the best route for me at the time and started eating meat again. Last year, I felt ready to try vegetarianism again. It came from my heart instead of my vanity! I truly wanted to stop eating meat for the environment and for ethical reasons. I decided to try it for six weeks. If I was tired or unhappy, or wanted to eat a burger at the end of six weeks, I would just eat meat again.

It has been a year and I haven’t looked back.

It is safe to say the year has flown by and I haven’t once thought about eating meat again. I’m not saying this is a forever thing or even that I won’t be demolishing a steak next week, but as far as I can tell, my body is happy with me as a vegetarian and as long as it stays that way I will stick to it. Vegetarianism can be seen as a restriction as to what you cannot eat; but I see it as an opportunity to explore plant-based foods that fuel your body and make you feel your best.

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75% of vegetarians return to eating meat. I am 100% aware of that fact and I can totally see how that is a reality. It takes planning, it’s a little bit of extra work, it is a lifestyle that goes against what the majority of the world is doing, but it is oh-so-rewarding. A few things from the past year:

  • Plants are delicious. I have explored so many new foods over the last 12 months and I now regularly cook with things I wasn’t even able to pronounce before like tempeh, quinoa, edamame, and lentils (<- ok, well I could pronounce lentils).
  • I’m not recreating a meat-lover’s diet with fake food. If you want to eat the same things you are eating now without the meat… you totally can. The food market has expanded a ridiculous amount in the past few years to accommodate those who want to be vegetarians… but not really. Fake chicken, fake steak strips, fake chicken nuggets… fake fake fake. I enjoy whole foods, ones that aren’t trying to be other foods, because they’re never going to be the same as the original, plus there are some super awesome foods that don’t have soy product, glucose-fructose, sodium, artificial colouring, or dextrose.

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  • You don’t have to label it. I never explicitly told people I was a vegetarian unless they asked. I was just that girl that always brought salad to work for lunch or offered to make chickpea burgers for a BBQ. You don’t have to label your diet. Vegetarian? Vegan? Raw? Pescetarian? Just call it healthy and delicious.
  • Eating out doesn’t have to be hard. Yes, not eating meat will limit some of the options you have at a steakhouse but there is ALWAYS a delicious meal available. Nowadays restaurants are very accommodating to those who don’t eat meat and usually have explicit vegetarian options on the menu. There are a ton of vegetarian and even vegan restaurants popping up all over the place. One of the best experiences I had was at The Meatball in Banff after a half marathon. I was STARVING and all of the dishes pretty much had meat. I asked the waitress about taking the chicken off of one of the sandwiches and she headed back to the kitchen to ask the chef. She came back and gave me a variety of options the chef was willing to create as vegetarian dishes. I chose the eggplant parmesan sandwich and it was incredible. I was so impressed with how accommodating the restaurant staff were and I made sure to let them know that!

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  • Plan. Plan. Plan. If you are not looking to supplement the shizz out of your diet, it is likely going to take some planning. You don’t have to write out your meals and make sure you have your weekly recipes laid out by Sunday night, but it does take an extra second to make sure you buy a variety of protein and nutrient-dense foods. Easy peasy.
  • BUT, you might still need to supplement. Hey, even meat-eaters take a multi-vitamin. It would be awesome if we could all live in the sun on the equator eating kale and mangos all day and not have to supplement some of our vitamins but that’s not the case. Take ’em if you need ’em and always speak to a health professional when you do! Check out THIS post about my vitamin supplements!

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  • It’s fun to be creative in the kitchen. Even without my February Food Challenge this year, I felt myself loving cooking and exploring new recipes that don’t have meat. I loved exploring different cuisines and new foods. You don’t have to eat garden salad every day when you don’t eat meat 🙂

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Vegetarianism has been a really cool experience so far. I have had the opportunity to educate myself in a whole new way about food. I enjoy cooking and exploring new recipes – black bean enchiladas or chickpea and corn burgers anyone? My family is super supportive and that has really helped me thrive on a vegetarian diet for this past year. Where do I go from here? Keep on keepin’ on. As of now I’m still loving it and haven’t even considered eating meat. I eat eggs, greek yogurt, milk, cheese, but not animal flesh and I think it is working for me. Who knows how long this will last, or if it will last a lifetime 😉

Vegetarians out there? Previously vegetarian?

What is the craziest diet you have ever tried?!

8 Comments

  1. It’s been really interesting to learn more about creative and varied vegetarian meals through your last year. We have “meat free” meals, even our major meal of the day, sometimes – partly because that’s what the cook feels like and partly to expose our kids to a wider variety of eating choices. Keep up the food posting!

  2. You’ve taken a great approach to vegetarianism. I eat more and more meat free meals because I just prefer it. But I would never touch a fake meat chicken or anything of that sort. If you want something that tastes like meat, eat meat. But there are lots of great vegetarian non-fake meat meals.

  3. I was a vegetarian for about 4 years but could never really make it work – I always felt hungry and it seemed to require a lot of work to prepare interesting meals. Then we sort of ate whatever. About a year ago we switched to eating “plants and meat” and for me that’s where it really clicked so I think it’s all about what works for you and that it is OK to switch it up when it isn’t any more.

    Your meals always look so delicious – especially the ones that feature pancakes!

    1. Love it. That is 100% true, everyone thrives on different foods! I love hearing that it clicked for you and you’ve found what works!

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