So, you’ve put down the steak knife and taken your first tentative steps into the world of the vegetarian living. Don’t worry, it’s easier than ever to maintain the diet of your choice in today’s culinary climate. Just in case though, we’ve got some ideas that might make your meat-free lifestyle a little more bearable.
Yes, You Can Have Cheese. No, You Cannot Have ALL the Cheese
With meat off the menu, cheese may rightfully come to mind as the next best thing. Bear in mind, however, that while cheese provides a welcome source of protein, calcium, and iodine in a balanced diet, it is essentially curdled fat (what, how else did you think it was so delicious?). It’s fine in moderation, however, and cheeses like mozzarella and halloumi can supplement a meat-like texture in a host of dishes.
Ladies and Gentleman, Please Mind the Carbs
One of the ways the absence of animal protein might be most keenly felt is in how less full you start to feel. In response, you may be tempted to raise your carb intake to make up the difference. Remember though, not eating meat doesn’t automatically equate to healthier eating: potato waffles, curly fries, and hash browns are all meat-free, but no good for you in excess. Concentrate on carbs with a low-glycemic index rating like sweet potatoes and brown rice to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Increase the vegetable component of your meals where possible.
Be Wary Of Meat Substitutes
There are certain veggie alternatives to meat on the market that are fine in moderation. In excess though, they present problems. Soy-based products like tofu are known to increase levels of the growth hormone oestrogen when consumed in excess. Similarly, while mimicking the texture of meat, it is essentially pure gluten with dubious nutritional value.
Lead With Veggie-Minded Recipes
Following on from our last point, try and look for original ways to cook with vegetables to make up for the lack of meat. Asian cuisines, such as Indian and Vietnamese, for example, tend to have more creative approaches to vegetarian main courses. In part, this is due to the lack of meat available, but in Eastern cultures Buddhism often forfeits the consumption of meat, hence their vegetarian options feel considerably more flavoursome and authentic.
Don’t Let Lapses Dishearten You
Face it, we’re all human. We’ve all seen a mate eating a doner kebab at two in the morning and fancied a bite. If you happen to have a lapse, no worries: you’re in this for the long term. Similarly, if you’re travelling or visiting relatives where turning down meat would be too troublesome or upsetting, allow yourself some flexibility with your dietary choices.
If you’re having doubts about your new dietary direction, think what motivated you to ditch meat in the first place. Animal lover? Concerned that humans aren’t really designed to eat animal flesh three times a day? Enjoy your new energy and stay motivated.
A well-stocked spice rack and condiment collection open up your options regardless of the mealtime and can keep your palette interested. Keep herbs, chillies and so forth circulating to maintain your culinary curiosity.
Legumes Are Your Friend
Legumes refer to the family of foods that include beans, nuts, lentils and so forth. For the most part, they’re all rich in proteins, nutrients and happy fats, with many falling into the ‘superfood’ category. Make the most of them.
Know Your Fats
Try and use heavily unsaturated fats like coconut and olive oil that have outstanding health benefits. Bear in mind though that olive oil has a low burning temperature, after which it takes the molecular form of trans fats. So find alternatives when frying.
Mix It Up
Use this opportunity to try some fruits and vegetables you wouldn’t normally seek out. Have fun and try something different, you might surprise yourself.