Beauty From The Inside Out: 7 Days Meat-Free

It’s February, time to revisit those New Year’s resolutions and see if they need to be adjusted for reality. What about you?  Lose ten pounds yet?  Quit smoking?

Number one on my list of resolutions for 2011 was “healthier eating” which I defined as eating less meat, more green stuff, and using low fat and organic food products whenever possible.

When January rolled by and I still found myself resorting to cheese on toast and Goldfish crackers, I decided to commit to one week of meat-free, vegetable packed meals to see if I noticed any improvements in how I felt.  Baby steps, right?

My main problem is that I always seem to be eating (and loving) some variation of cheese and carbs: grilled cheese, cheese on toast, quesadillas, pizza, macaroni and cheese… Although I toss in the occasional tomato or cucumber, this diet isn’t exactly packed with the nutrients needed for optimal health.

The good news is that I don’t drink coffee or eat sweets, and I’m not eating Big Macs every day so my diet isn’t that unhealthy.  In fact, almost half of my meals are vegetarian, but I still seem to find the thought of never again enjoying a perfect burger or a tuna sandwich too extreme somehow.  If I could find a vegetarian substitute that tasted as good as slow cooked roast beef, I would definitely go all veg for good.

I was happy to stumble upon environmentalist Graham Hill’s brilliant Ted Talk about being a weekday vegetarian. I can definitely subscribe to the idea of eating high quality meat occasionally and truly appreciating it as a balanced starting point on a path towards more conscious eating.

Although reading Skinny Bitch made me feel extremely guilty about eating meat for a few days, it failed to acknowledge that meat actually tastes good, or that it sometimes makes you feel energized and sensual in a way that is hard to duplicate with a rubbery breaded tofu mock chicken finger.  I can’t help but think that our senses are here to guide us.

For me, a gradual reduction of meat consumption is a much more realistic (and perhaps even healthier) approach to experimenting with vegetarianism, and learning how eating meat affects the body, for better or worse.

We often fail to pay attention to how the food we eat makes us feel.  For the past seven days, I have made a concerted effort to record the findings of my meat-free experiment.  Here are the results:

SUCCESSES:

1. Having fruit, juice or fruit smoothies for breakfast instead of toast.  This was easy and felt natural, it gave me lots of energy and started the day off on a good foot.

2. Black bean and portobello veggie burgers with roasted red peppers and pesto mayonnaise.  These were amazing and just as satisfying as a beef burger.  This recipe is a keeper.

3. Soft tacos with mexican flavoured ground round.  These tasted almost as good as beef tacos and in general, Mexican dishes were wonderful with beans substituted for beef.

FAILURES:

1. Faux tuna sandwich.  I tried this recipe twice, and while the sandwich filling itself wasn’t bad, it didn’t taste anything like tuna and so it felt like a let down.  I would suggest using less sunflower seeds than the recipe calls for, they overpowered the other flavours significantly.

2. Faux chicken fingers (tofu.)  I had a craving for chicken and these did not come close to satisfying the urge.  They were flavourless and impossible to cut (some of mine actually ended up on the floor after an unsuccessful run in with my knife.)

THE VERDICT:

I survived seven days of tofu, beans, chick peas, vegetables, and more beans, and I felt so good about myself that I went out and ate a massive plate of spaghetti and (real) meat balls.

I am convinced that it’s possible for meals to be extremely healthy, environmentally conscious, and wildly delicious at the same time.  While I search for more vegetarian recipes that meet all three of those criteria, I’ll probably eat the odd piece of salmon or maybe even a T-bone steak.  I have a copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals here for when I’m ready.

“My private measure of success is daily.  If this were to be the last day of my life would I be content with it?  To live in harmonious balance of commitments and pleasures is what I strive for.” – Jane Rule

 

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About Julie Blake
Julie Blake is a writer based in Montréal, Québec. Her work covers a broad range of topics including travel, health and well-being, food and beverage, spirituality, and popular psychology.

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