Vegetarian, Vegan, or Omnivore?

If I had a large base of readers, this post would probably start a big debate. As it is, probably not. 😉

I flirted with giving up meat a few years ago, in a vain attempt to try one more “fad” diet. Not that being a vegetarian is a fad, but I wasn’t committed to the lifestyle, and I was doing it strictly for weight loss reasons – not really a good reason to stick with it in the long run. The prime rib buffet at Harrah’s in Las Vegas was the end of this experiment…

I read several blogs written by vegetarians, including Healthy Tipping Point, The Simple Dollar, and No Meat Athlete. I’ve recently watched Food Inc. I have Michael Pollan’s books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food sitting in my pile of books to read (yeah, sure, as soon as I get through a couple of triathlon books…). I skimmed through a couple of chapters of Skinny Bitch last weekend (a couple of chapters was all I could handle, they aren’t my style). A couple of years ago I read Fast Food Nation, and I’ve watched Supersize Me in the past too.

I love Mark Bittman’s cookbooks, including How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Going meatless is also a frugal thing to do, and with a family of five to feed, including two amateur triathletes, finding ways to keep the grocery bills within budget is important. So the concept of going vegetarian seems attractive to me.

I will say, though, I resent the undertone of superiority many vegetarian authors (both bloggers and traditional) seem to convey. I don’t mean to paint them all with this brush, may of them are very non-judgemental. Unfortunately, too often it is the negative, judgemental ones who speak the loudest.

So, personal bias towards outspoken vegetarians aside, I decided to try a vegetarian experiment for 10 days (I lasted 8). It wasn’t too hard, I like beans just fine, I kept eating milk, eggs, and yogurt, and I already eat mostly vegetarian 2 meals a day anyway. In the end, though, I still found I was struggling to get enough protein, and I honestly wasn’t happy. I *like* meat! I’m learning to treat it as a garnish more than a centrepiece, which is good, but I enjoy the taste, the texture, and the way I feel after eating meat.

Which is not to say I’m going over to the Paleo side either – I also like my grains, breads and pasta, and don’t want to try giving them up. But I do intend to continue eating meat 3-4 times a week.

I did learn some good things during my vegetarian week though:

1) Almond Breeze (unsweetened) tastes pretty much the same as skim milk on cereal, for half the calories.
2) Over cooked tofu has the consistency of rubber.
3) I actually really like beans and rice, and will keep eating them.
4) I don’t have the motivation/desire to be anything but an omnivore, especially since my family will not give up their meat, and I cook for us all.
5) I love honey too much to ever be vegan.

In the end, the one thing I really walked away with was that reducing processed foods in my diet made more sense to me than eliminating meat. And I can do that without giving up meat. I’m becoming far more conscious of what we are eating, even though I thought I was doing a pretty good job before this! I’m starting with a few small changes – margarine is out, and we’ll be eating butter from now on. I’m still trying to figure out what to do about some packaged processed foods – English muffins, bread, breakfast cereals. I LIKE these foods, and don’t want to give them up, but can I find healthier versions? Are the ones I’m eating even all that bad? We already eat whole grain bread with no high fructose corn syrup (actually, here in Canada, HFCS is not as prevalent as it seems to be in the US). The cereals I buy for myself and the kids are lower in sugar and salt, and higher in fibre than most typical cereals. But I am trying hard to become more conscious of all our eating habits.

As well, the primary reason I’m having difficulty shaking the last few pounds of weight I want to lose is because I’m eating too many calories (duh…), mostly in the form of junky snacks! I need to STOP eating junk like chips, chocolates (Easter candy is a huge problem for me). The key to this is to STOP BUYING THEM! If they are in the house, I seem to have a real problem not eating them. So for the month of May, I’m going to try really hard to not buy anything new, and reduce the amount of the junk I’m eating now.

So I’m setting goals for May:

1) No purchasing processed junk food for me (no chips, granola bars, chocolates, etc).
2) No nibbling the snacks I make for the kids (homemade cookies, etc – this will mean no baking cakes for the month!)
3) Allow myself only one “junk” snack per day
4) Set a goal to lose 1 pound per week.

Fingers crossed, we’ll see how it goes, and I’ll keep you posted!

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