TWELVE MONTHS ago I was asked to contribute a blog on what a vegetarian eats for ‘Running On Clean’. I am only now getting around to it, but before I get into what I eat as a veggie I should say why I am a vegetarian.
Growing up I was heavily influenced by my family, in particular my grandad, on what I ate and this usually revolved around the pinnacle of the week, the Sunday roast dinner. My diet was mainly based around red meats such as beef, and pork, with the occasional chicken. Fish was never a favourite of mine (unless it came wrapped in paper from the chip shop) and tuna from a tin was as exotic as I got on the fish menu. Over this time I tried various meats from veal to grubs but a habit of my grandad was to eat around a set type of menu and so did I as a result.
As a life of sport started to take over and fuelling became my key concern, battered meats and fish disappeared off the menu and leaner meats took centre stage accompanied by rice and veg, with tuna providing a ‘go to’ for rolls and pasta dishes for the quick and easy lifestyle I had become accustom to. This pretty much set the baseline for what I would eat for a number of years to compliment my running, rugby and martial arts.
Then one day it all changed.
Some time around 2005/2006 I started to look at things in my life from a new perspective, with a new set of eyes you could say and this eventually lead to me coming across a documentary called Home, which explained the interconnected nature of the issues affecting the globe and the human species. In this documentary it explained that although we have a serious global hunger issue, we use half of the grain we grow to feed livestock. Feeding livestock stuff that is not natural to them just seemed wrong to me and ludicrous that we were feeding animals to fatten them up, so we could eat them, whilst people were hungry that night as I laid in bed. This then lead to further investigations into the food industry but then that’s not necessarily what this page is about and maybe a story for another time!
So I decided to question what it was exactly that I was eating, what I found was quite surprising. Except for the odd tuna roll at work and the once in a blue moon Sunday roast at my Nan’s which by now had dropped almost completely off the radar, I virtually at no meat other than at a restaurant. So I decided to cut it out all together but I did not go vegan. At this point I should explain the term vegetarian as I see it. A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat or fish, but may still eat cheese, eggs and butter. Not a chicktarian (a new one I heard just last week, someone who only eats chicken??) or the kind of vegetarian that only eats fish (I only ate tuna in the first place as the most other fish smells make me feel ill) and not a vegan, someone who has no animal products full stop.
My next question was ‘what does a vegetarian eat?’ For this I thought I would ask my youngest sister for recipes and ideas as she had been a vegetarian for a number of years, only when I asked her, it turned out that she was not such a good vegetarian after all as she had not developed much further than cheese rolls and had Rustler burgers in the fridge for emergency. I was on my own. I hit the internet and looked up recipes and found that there were a great many wonderful ways for you to enjoy food without it being a plain old caesar salad. It turned out that there is nothing ‘fast’ about the vegetarian food life.
There are mushroom risotto’s, spinach lasagna, roasted mediterranean vegetables, sweet potato curry, red lentil curry to name just a few and the plus side was that they are relatively cheap to make and provide enough to last you more than the night you are cooking for. A little prep work goes a long way in the veggie game and I could not have been more grateful for those early learning years at the cooker from my grandad!
I found that by cutting meat out of my diet I lost weight naturally and that I could achieve a weight that fluctuated very little with the training that I was doing and that my energy levels also remained relatively constant. I then started to look at what else a vegetarian would eat and found it was actually easier (and perhaps far more upsetting) to see what they WOULDN’T eat. Did you know that beef and pork gelatine is found in the majority of the sweets, chocolates and cakes that you and your children consume? When you factor this into the vegetarian diet you can see it is easy to lose weight. That is not to say that it is not easy to laden your veggie dishes with calories and fats but by cutting out these ‘fast foods’ there is little for your body to do but to trim.
Which brings me nicely and belatedly to the dinner I prepared on Monday, a vegetable curry, made from scratch with no help from Uncle Ben or Homepride.
The before and after of a vegetable curry, which lasted us a couple of days for a quick bit of lunch and even gave me a pre night shift snack before work the other night. Very short prep time, as with anything, the more you do it, the more proficient you become.
Anyway, I hope you liked the sort/long intro as to why I chose to cut out meat from my diet and that I am still going strong.