Tag Archives: vegetarianism

My Evolution as a Meatless Eater + the Eat Drink Vegan Festival

When I first became a vegetarian, I was 10 years old. I was raised in a family of meat eaters (my sister has since become a vegetarian and my mom is mostly one), but I knew from early on that eating animals wasn’t for me. I can remember so clearly sitting at my parents’ kitchen table for dinner, poking at a pork chop looking at the veiny colors, picturing the pig running around at a farm, and not feeling right about eating him. I was probably 7 at the time.

Once I went meat-free, I never went back. But I do remember feeling almost embarrassed if I was at a friends’ house or a BBQ and had to tell people that I wouldn’t be eating a hamburger. I think I mostly didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that I was different, or be a pain in the ass to have over for dinner for that matter. My brothers relentlessly teased me about my diet, and my grandma asked me how I would ever cook for a boyfriend one day (In her defense, as an old Italian lady who cooked for people every chance she got, I think this may have been a real concern of hers!). It felt like everyone else thought it was normal to eat the hamburger, but I just never did.

As I got older and learned more and more about factory farming and the environmental and health implications associated with mass producing and consuming meat, my convictions strengthened. Learning about the Blue Zones – the areas of the world where the people are living the longest – and that one commonality was that the people in those communities ate little to no meat made a big impression on me. I saw family members like my grandpa get quadruple bypass heart surgery due to clogged arteries – which is largely caused by too much cholesterol in the diet building up and blocking your arteries – and realized more and more the role that diet can play in living a long, healthy life.

And so, I became confident in my vegetarianism. I also became more conscious of where my meals and ingredients were coming from, and in the last few years, I’ve reduced my dairy intake a lot and eat vegan most of the time. I realized that I didn’t have to justify my plant-based lifestyle to anyone, and if people want to be judgmental about it, that’s on them, not me.

I focused my energy into turning my love for meat-free food into a passion, and I began this food blog. I got to meet other vegetarian food bloggers, who I drew inspiration and learned a lot from (still do!). I went to nutrition school and became a certified health coach, where I get to share my healthy living tips and tricks with clients and support them in their health challenges. These days, I also get paid to be a food writer, and sharing recipes is something that lets me be creative and makes me happy. I know in my heart that I’m eating a diet and leading a lifestyle that adheres to my values, and I feel good about that.

So while my belief in a meatless diet has never wavered, I feel like I’ve come a long way.

What else has come a long way is the popularity of plant-based eating and the prevalence of veg-friendly eateries. Not only are there more options for vegans and vegetarians at grocery stores and restaurants, veg-friendly events have become more popular in recent years too. It’s pretty amazing!

Last weekend marked a first for me: my very first vegan food festival! The event was called Eat Drink Vegan, and it took place at Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.

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Healthy Foods I Eat (Almost) Daily

Being the food lover that I am, I get excited to try new recipes that sound delicious to me, experiment in the kitchen or dine out at a new eatery. While this blog perhaps should have been named something to do with being a picky foodie due to my propensity to eat mostly high-quality, healthy foods and never eat anything that once had a mother, I am most definitely a girl who loves to eat good food.

people who love to eat

Just saying! 😉

Although I like to get creative with my meals and try new foods and dishes, I definitely also have some favorite foods and go-to meals that I eat nearly every day. These are foods that I keep in my house all the time and feel like my kitchen is incomplete without. I thought I’d share the list with you guys, so here we go!

An apple a day keeps the doctor away…

apple slices

Both my hubby and I are apple lovers. I even got him in the habit of cutting up an apple and sprinkling it with cinnamon as a nighttime snack! We each tend to eat an apple pretty much daily. I also like my apples with nut butter, or chopped up and topping a yogurt bowl – always with cinnamon, which I eat every day sprinkled on something as well.

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My Bio Individuality: Why I Eat the Way I Do

Since I began school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I’ve thought a lot about bio individuality — the idea that no one diet is ideal for everyone. I just wrote an article for Girls Gone Sporty that talks more about it – check it out here! – and realized that although it’s pretty evident that I’m a vegetarian by reading my blog, I’ve never really discussed why I eat the way that I do. This is a post I’ve hesitated to write, but today I’m talking about it!

bio-individuality

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved animals and felt compassion for them. When I see bacon festivals publicizing their events with pictures of cute, happy looking pigs, I cringe. Pigs are intelligent animals, smarter than dogs research has shown, yet we keep dogs as pets and kill pigs so that we can top everything from omelets and burgers to ice cream and donuts with bacon.

Even as a young kid, I could never separate the meat on my plate from the animals I would see alive and well. The concept of an animal walking around breathing the air on this earth, then me eating a piece of its flesh for dinner the next week just never made sense to me. That’s why in a family full of meat eaters, I became a vegetarian at age 10 and have never gone back.

cows

cows grazing nearby on a recent hike

Truth be told, I love being a vegetarian. As a teenager, I do remember having times where I felt like the odd girl out for not eating a hamburger at BBQs or chicken nuggets from fast food joints, but once I grew up and realized that it doesn’t bother me if I’m different than the norm, it has felt nothing but right to me to live this way. The more research I’ve done, books I’ve read, and films I’ve watched on the meat industry and the environmental implications of eating meat, the more confident and steadfast I feel in my way of life being the healthiest and smartest choice for me.

So, exactly what foods do I eat often?

My Diet

I go heavy on the whole foods (fruits & veggies, beans & legumes for protein), whole grains (rice, wraps, pasta, etc.), and also eat a good amount of dairy, mostly in the form of Greek yogurt, cheese, and whey protein (although I’m still unsure if dairy affects my allergies — I’ve been considering going vegan for a bit to see, so that’s to be determined!). I love sweet foods and eat fruit like it’s nobody’s business, and I tend to have to make more of a concerted effort to fit a lot of veggies into my diet. A pretty high ratio of the food I take in comes from good-for-you carbs. I love my healthy fats, and eat nut butters, avocado, olive oil, and nuts all the time in small portions. Eating this way makes me feel energetic, strong and healthy. Though I love me some dessert or a bowl of pasta sometimes, if I eat a lot of heavy foods and/or too many sweets, I feel lethargic, tired and bloated.

Thinking back, perhaps I should have called myself a picky foodie. I really do love food. The joke is that I’ll try it just as long as it’s not anything that had a face!

I typically don’t at all feel limited by my vegetarianism in terms of variety in foods that I eat — unless I’m a restaurant or sporting event with nothing but carnivorous options, which happens once in a blue moon. I usually plan accordingly and have a protein bar in my purse or have eaten beforehand. There really are a ton of vegetarian foods to eat, it was just a matter of getting familiar with them and broadening my horizons as I became an adult.

IMG_3458

In one of my lectures, the founder of IIN said something that stuck with me. He made the statement that diet isn’t religion, that it’s just food and it doesn’t need to be taken so seriously. On some level, I agree with this — I think that people have the right to eat whatever way they want, and who knows, my diet might change later in life.

But on the other hand, vegetarianism is more than just a way of eating. It’s more of a lifestyle. On a personal level, it’s saying that I don’t need to eat dead animals to be healthy, alive, and strong. It’s taking a stance against the meat industry, where so much abuse, neglect, and plain old nastiness takes place that consumers will mostly never know about, or care to know about because they like their meat and would rather stay in the dark. Like Paul McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”

vegetarian infographic (source)

I won’t get too much in depth into this, but the most frequent negative response I get to being a vegetarian is people saying, “Humans are meant to eat meat.” But my question is, are we “meant” to eat meat just because the start of humankind ate meat because they had no other alternative? Is it right to do things just because they’ve always been done, especially if this way of life is harming our planet and our health?

Yes, human beings at the beginning of time ate meat, but have we forgotten about all of the time they spent and energy and effort they expended to hunt that meat, instead of picking it up at the local Acme or getting a burger from McDonald’s? Let’s just say that I agree that humans are meant to incorporate meat into their diets on some level. Even if that was that case, I don’t believe we were meant to pump our animals full of hormones and antibiotics, feed them diets that aren’t natural to them, then put that flesh into our own bodies all the damn time. Thankfully the organic and local meat production movement has grown in recent times, but it’s still a small percentage of the meat that people consume.

James-Cameron quote

(source)

In all honesty, I’ve felt sort of torn, because I love and respect the idea of bio-individuality and think that it is extremely important to figure out what diet works best for you and your body. But on the other hand, I have qualms with the way the meat industry operates and agree with the above James Cameron quote. Even if the meat industry did run under more acceptable conditions, I still feel strongly that people rely too heavily on meat.

Because I do believe in the power of bio-individuality and know that finding a healthy diet that works for people as unique individual can do wonders in improving lives, I can respect that people can love their chicken, enjoy their steak, and be obsessed with bacon. Personally I just can’t relate, but I can respect that that’s their prerogative, whether I believe it to be healthful or not.

I suppose that in my perfect world, everyone would care more about where their food was coming from and how it got on their plate. Meat eaters would eat their meat in small portions instead of double bacon cheeseburgers. I’m all about the fair treatment of the animals whose lives are being sacrificed for people’s meals, which is why organic, local, ethically raised and slaughtered meat is the humane way to go if you do eat meat.

“I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” – Abraham Lincoln

Question: Thoughts? What does your bio-individuality look like? What foods do you eat often?

My New Favorite Salad Combo

Hello, hello!

I realized that I haven’t posted my day’s eats in awhile, so to answer the question, ”What the hell does this vegetarian eat all day?” here goes my rundown from yesterday’s meals & snacks:

Wednesday is a bit of a different day for me food-wise than any other day. I volunteer at The Humane Society in the evenings, so I eat a quick early dinner and eat 1 snack instead of 2 for the day. Because of this, I usually make my breakfast or lunch heavier than usual.

For breakfast, I ate some oatmeal with sliced banana, a pack of Justin’s honey peanut butter, and sprinkled cinnamon:

For lunch, I ate my new favorite salad. I’ve eaten it 3 times in the past week and am really diggin’ it. It’s a chickpea feta salad with sliced almonds:

To make the salad, I combine:

  • A few cups of chopped red leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 TBSP sliced almonds
  • 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • Sprinkle of sea salt

It takes 2 minutes to throw together and is such a nice, balanced lunch: lettuce & beans provides a few servings of veggies; almonds, feta, and oil for some healthy fats; and chickpeas and feta for a good amount of protein.  Yum! Nutrition facts for the salad: 315 calories, 25 g carbs, 18 g fat, 17 g protein

For dinner, I ate brown rice with sauteed red bell pepper and Gardein 7 Grain Crispy Tenders:

When I got home from volunteering, I needed a good snack. I threw together a frozen berry bowl and added banana to the mix as well:

My eats for the day totaled 1,200 calories and were packed with goodness, adhering to the ”tone it up” goal of mine that I discussed yesterday.

Good night!