Monday, 4 February 2013
A lot of my recent posts have been dishes which include meat. There hasn't been much love to the vegetarians on the blog lately. Believe it or not, I was a vegetarian for three years. This is a food blog, not a health/diet blog. I'm not going to spend a lot of time getting into this, but everybody should know and appreciate what I'm about to type. Eating vegetarian meals are really fantastic for you for a variety of reasons. I'd like to focus on two of those reasons with regards to energy.
The first is about energy on a personal level, your energy. While there are health benefits that come from eating meat, poultry and fish, there are a few setbacks. It takes your body a tremendous amount of energy to break down and digest meat. I say a tremendous amount in comparison to the rate at which your body can process vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, etc. Plant based foods are also much better for your digestive system than animal based foods. This is why it's important to have vegetarian meals on a regular basis. Even if it's only a couple of meals a week. Take time now and then to nourish your digestive system with foods that will make it healthier (and stronger). In turn, it will function more properly all the time.
The second reason is because of the energy it takes and costs to farm and fish animal protein on a global scale. We live in a world where trillions of dollars are poured into the farming and fishing industry every year. We put a lot of stress on the environment with the amount of water and fossil fuel consumed not only for the animals but also for the agriculture required for their own food. That doesn't include the energy required to transport food from farms to your grocery store or market. If we can learn as a society to eat less meat then we will be able to reduce our carbon footprint and help to keep the world habitable. That's something we all benefit from.
Aside from meat being delicious and versatile, we eat it mostly for protein, minerals and in some cases omega 3s. All of which can easily be found in plant based foods. Many beans and nuts are high in protein with the added benefit of fiber. Dark green, leafy vegetables are full of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Omega 3s can be found in many fruits and seeds. So eating vegetarian doesn't mean you need to skip eating balanced meals.
A few great vegetarian meal ideas that are hearty and bold on flavours are bean & vegetable chili, veggie pasta, stir-frys, vegetable stews, frittatas, pizza, curries, casseroles and sandwiches or wraps. There are endless options to explore. Not only is adopting more vegetarian options good for you, but you will likely shed some unwanted weight and save money. You just have to learn how to do it right.
With all that being said, I have decided to eat mostly vegetarian this week. I'm not on any specific diet or regimen, I'm just going to eat mostly cleansing foods. I started by having a few different ingredients on hand. I have blueberries, strawberries (sliced), raspberries and blackberries. I kept the raspberries and blackberries separate because they're bit more fragile and would get crushed if I mixed all the berries together. It's February so of course none of these are in season right now. We used to grow raspberries at the house I spent most of my childhood in. They were much better in flavour than these sad little greenhouse raspberries. Oh well, we work with what we have.
I also have some chopped raw almonds, walnuts, peanuts and some hemp seeds. I have some great runny honey on hand too, so all I needed to get was low fat granola and plain yogurt. Though more commonly thought of as a breakfast item, yogurt and granola can be a great snack or meal for any time of day. I like taking plain yogurt and mixing it with a little honey. Then stirring in some granola, nuts and seeds then topping it with fresh fruit. It's colourful, nutritious and offers a great variety of flavours and textures. You can use any fruit, nuts, granola or type of yogurt you want. You could even try a pinch of cinnamon or ground cardamom if you're feeling dangerous. There's no standard recipe for this. Just plain and simple good eats.
I also bought some celery and carrots which I washed and cut into sticks and added them to a container with sugar snap peas. Personally, I could make a meal out of this snack because I never seem to know when to stop noshing. I bought two little packages of garlicky hummus which gave me about one and a half cups in total. To the hummus I added two tablespoons of fresh, plain yogurt. This adds a slight dimension of tang to the flavour while loosening it up into more of a dip than a thick spread. Then I added a bit of fresh ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne and gave that a mix. Now I have healthy raw veggies and tasty hummus to go with it. Great to have on hand for completely guilt free snacking.
This is more or less what I've eaten today (plus a multigrain bagel on my break at work). Though it would be very healthy, I'm not going to eat all raw foods this week. I have a dozen free range eggs, dry farfalle pasta, leeks, garlic, shallots and baby spinach. I'm sure I'll find a way to put those to use. I do have chicken broth too, which obviously isn't vegetarian, but is easier to digest than a piece of chicken and those leeks are screaming for it.
Well, I hope you learned a thing or two from reading this or at least have been inspired to make some healthy diet choices and prepare some nutritious snacks to have on hand.
Be happy, be healthy and stay fed.