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Thinking of turning vegetarian again?

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Hello, everyone! My name is Lynn, and I'm a new member to Calorie Count.

A number of years ago (when I was young and impressionable), I was a lacto-ovo Vegetarian for about a year and a half. I was much younger then, and empathetic reasons for being vegetarian. After so long, I returned to eating meat, and have been ever since. And while I don't necessarily have those empathetic reasons much anymore,  sometimes I wonder if I should go back to being vegetarian for health reasons. Other encouragement is that I remember when I was vegetarian, I had much less food sickness and more energy than I do now. And frankly, I still think pork and chicken can be utterly disgusting at times. Haha.  

My only hesitation with going back to vegetarianism is finding substitutes.  I had always struggled to find protein sources, so much so that my father used to make me take vitamins. What are some good, non-intrusive substitutes that could make up for lack of meat? I say non-intrusive because I share a fridge and meals with a loyal meat-eater.

Also, if anyone has tips for returning vegetarians... I'd love to hear them. 

Thank you! -Lynn

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i'm a pescetarian with a shellfish allergy, yet i really only eat fish about once every two weeks. i also try to avoid dairy and meat by products as well, so I guess i'm a fish-eating semi vegan? (sadly i don't think there is a term for that so I created my own!)

anyhow, there are tons of meatless protein sources that aren't just blocks of white tofu. there are great meat substitutes like tofu bacon, tofu ground beef, and tofu hot dogs that are pretty delicious! I prefer Yves brand. There's also soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy cheese, and tons of other options.

aside from soy, there's tons of protein (and fibre!) in whole grains. If you don't feel like cooking brown rice one day, try barley, one of my personal favourites. in addition, quinoa is pretty much a super food. 18 grams of protein and 9 grams of fibre per cup! 

there's also beans and lentils. a favourite meal of mine is mixing together canned tomatoes, chickpeas, and spinach with your favourite spices such as garlic, basil, and chili flakes. You can eat it alone or over rice, barley, quinoa, etc. Super healthy and very low calorie!

hummus is another easy food to throw into your diet. It's basically a delicious, garlicky, chickpea dip. very low calorie as well and great as a snack with veggies or whole wheat toast. great for breakfast. i personally love the packaged one at whole foods, but if you buy another prepackaged brand, be sure to read the ingredients to make sure there are no unwanted fatty ingredients. or make your own!

There's also black beans and kidney beans. Mmmm, vegetarian chili.

Add to the list nuts, seeds, and nut butters, and you basically have tons of menu ideas! 

You could also try protein powders/ssupplements. It's not exactly the best way to go, in my opinion, because most protein powders (whey) contain animal by products like rennet, but if you're very concerned about protein, go for it!

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Hi Lynnharp,

I was a vegetarian very briefly as a teenager and had a horrible time with it! Among other health issues, my hair started falling out and my parents and friends were deeply concerned.  At that time, I was eating a "normal" diet for a teenager and just excluding meat.  I now know better and know that I can't just exclude meat but also have to make up for nutrients I am not getting from those sources.

I have now been a vegetarian for about a year and a half and it has been wonderful.  As you mention, I feel better - I also look better (better skin, weight maintenance, etc) and have less problems with the foods I eat.  I don't care very much for tofu on a regular basis but I do eat a lot of beans (love veggie chili), particularly black beans, and lentils as well as hummus as sylveeyahh suggests. 

My doctor was very skeptical when I first went back to her (didn't have to go for that year and a half because I wasn't getting sick!  Finally did for something routine).  She ran a full blood panel and found my results had never been better.  I do suggest you check on that occasionally to know how you are doing.

So, my favorite easy meals (that don't compete for fridge space : ) would be black bean quesadilla's.  Just bring the black beans to a boil and then turn down to simmer for a while - they take on the consistency of refried but with no butter or oil, etc.  I also add BBQ sauce occasionally for extra flavor!  Second favorite would be hummus on bagels with fresh slices of tomato (and onion or avacado, etc).  If you are not going vegan, add a cheddar slice and broil until toasty - absolutely delish! 

Good luck : )

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Hi Lynnharp,

I gave up red meat 2 years ago, was pescatarian for a year, and then 3 months ago switched to an almost all plants-based diet (I very occasionally have dairy, fish, a dish with egg or a bite of family's meat meal).  My husband & teens eat meat, so I'll cook veggies for all of us to share & some nights they enjoy bean based meals & others they have the addition of meat. I'm a fan of international foods, and find it's easier to enjoy ethnic Mexican, Indian or Asian foods, than create "fake American".

Beans (use dried, cook your own & freeze in 1 cup batches), tofu (make sure it's marked organic, non-GMO) & nuts are good protein sources (good ol' PB& J in a pinch).  The "faux foods" made from soy are heavily processed, and I stick with natural, whole foods. 

If you're going back to lacto-ovo: egg salad, fried egg & cheese sandwiches, frittatas & omelets, baked potato with broccoli & cheese sauce, panini sandwiches with pesto, tomato, roasted red pepper/roasted mushroom, & provolone cheese shouldn't freak out your meat-eaters. 

Italian pasta fagul, split pea, lentil & black bean soups are great (my exotic but easy faves are Lebanese Red Lentil & Collard green soup-use 1-2 cups frozen greens & Las Ventanas Resort's recipe for black bean soup with lots of cilantro, served alongside corn soup...I shortcut with creamed corn ). Hummus is great & curries or mediterranean salads made with chickpeas. Soups, hummus & curries can be made in batches & frozen in smaller servings.

Burritos, quesadillas & tacos with all the fixings, with pinto, black or canned refried beans.

Salads with sliced almonds & defrosted frozen peas for protein.

Smoothies made with fresh fruit, honey or stevia and scoop of soy, rice or whey protein powder...quick breakfast or snack. Buy protein powders from a real health food store & look for organic & non-GMO. Stay away from "body building type" protein powders, many of them have a lot of artificial additives & New York Times did survey & found several had toxins.

If you like to cook from scratch, WholeFoods, NewYorkTimes, Epicurious are good websites for recipes. There is a great website called 101Cookbooks. The blogger is a fabulous cook and posts gorgeous pictures of what she makes (her basic tofu burger recipe is family eats with ketchup, I like with mayo).

If you go vegan/all plant-based, must supplement with B-12 (I use a multi-vitamin made by MegaFoods that uses natural food sources, not synthetic vitamins) and best calcium supplement combines calcium, magnesium & D. 

Too many people consider themselves vegetarian, when they give up meat & then eat a lot of pasta. That's just a starch diet & very unhealthy. It's actually very easy to make up protein. Most people are undernourished because they don't eat enough colorful fruits & vegetables...all berries, oranges, apples, tropical fruits, broccoli, spinach, kale/collard/swiss chard, tomatoes, sweet potato with skin, romaine lettuce, carrots, red a rainbow daily, including 3 servings of green foods, and you'll have a lot of energy, feel & look great.


IIRC, beans, corn and squash can form an almost-complete protein, and I'll have to ask my mother (an RD), but I believe that if you add *rice* to that mix you have yourself a complete protein.

I'm not veg completely, but have been suffering digestive upsets for the past few years and have simply, for comfort reasons if nothing else, moved toward being veg.  Due to a tumor of the parathyroid (removed a few years ago) I got into the habit of not eating much dairy at all, in fact it's very, very rare that I will drink a glass of milk.  Taking Accutane also helped with that, as I learned to eliminate cheese (my favorite!) and eggs from my diet as well due to high cholesterol and having to manage that so I could take the course of medication.

I eat a LOT of beans, and will suggest you try new recipes and beans.  In fact, I'm going to suggest you try out some tasty beans from --- a website that sells heirloom and rare beans and peppers, etc., for gourmet cooking.  Because of that site I ended up ordering a bunch of seed stock from an outfit called Seeds of Change, so I can grow out my own rare and heirloom beans, see what all the fuss is about at a minimal cost.

If you need bean recipes, I can help you there (mostly Puerto Rican style of more soupy beans), but also like jenlamsis says, no need to reinvent the wheel.  Look to other, much older vegetarian cuisines.  If you're ANYWHERE near Ukiah, California, then you *must* must MUST go to the restaurant that's run by the monastery at The City of 10,000 Buddhas.

My own favorite is Indian, in fact I just bought a book written by a fellow by the name of Pushpesh Pant (I LOVE that name!) called India: The Cookbook.  To say it is extensive is almost not doing it justice.  Think: lentils (dal), chickpeas, squash, green veggies.  All cooked in an Indian style is SO much more flavorful and enjoyable than the usual boring standby of steaming.

A sister of mine has suggested that making tofu at home will result in a much tastier product, but I have to admit I've developed a palate for it that just never existed before.  I really love having it added to stirfries, even if it does add rather significant fat levels.

Jen's actually given a fantastic overview for everyone there.


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