So, you’ve decided to banish meat from your diet and become vegetarian, counting on this change as the road to a healthy utopia. In your quest, and perhaps your innocence, you overcompensate, packing away too much pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, and processed food trying to fill the vacancy left by the absence of meat. Consequently the numbers on your scale dial up instead of down. What do you do?
Live in denial and keep gaining weight! (Well, maybe that was just me)
When I decided to go meatless nearly 30 years ago, I wasn’t trying to be a vegetarian. I just wanted to eat foods that didn’t feel like they’d set up camp in the pit of my tummy. But because vegetarian-eating wasn’t my goal, (I hadn’t even heard of the word) I didn’t make it a point to educate myself on carbohydrates and fatty/healthy foods.
Boy did I pay dearly for that one!
Peanut Butter sandwiches, lettuce/tomato/cheese sandwiches, pancakes, spaghetti, veggie burger sandwiches … and on and on. I earned my carb queen crown when I transitioned to vegetarian. And the crazy part was, it never dawned on me that I was being UN-healthy. After all, I’d given up what I thought was the most unhealthy part of my daily diet. So, the fact that my clothes were feeling tighter, couldn’t possibly be a clue now could it?
Denial, denial, denial ….
One day the brother of a friend of mine asked about my vegetarian lifestyle and asked what I ate. He listened as I named the participants in my flour-surgar-fat-salt loaded diet and said, “… so you’re just gonna substitute all those fattening carbs for meat?” I kept going the way I was eating though until finally, after I’d stuffed enough carbohydrates into my body to balloon my clothes size up from a size 12 to nearly a 16, a little bell dinged in my head.
For you vegetarian newbies these days, the pressure – albeit delicious pressure – is even greater. Since the concept of vegetarian was fairly new, at least where I was living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1994, there weren’t all of these vegetarian-vegan frozen and processed high salt, high fat goodies to take the place of meat. Yes, they’re meatless, but with all that extra, NO they’re not necessarily the healthiest choice for you.
PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals published an article that made vegans especially, jump for joy. Doritos, Duncan Hines Double Fudge Brownies, Fritos …. Meatless yes. But healthy? And of course if it’s okay for a vegan to eat, its okay for a vegetarian, depending on the level. Don’t know the difference?
- vegetarians: depending on which level you’ve adopted – pescaterians, lacto-ovo, ovo, lacto, – can have either dairy, eggs, or both in their daily diet.
- vegans: are very strict. Their diet never includes dairy, eggs, meat by-products, ingredients derived from an animal (gelatin for example) or any food that was prepared on a surface or in a location with dairy or eggs.
So, if you’ve transitioned to vegetarian eating, be careful that your meat substitutes are not laden with salt, fat, white flour, and sugar. Canned foods are loaded with sodium. Most vegetarian “meat” products are also sodium-saturated.
When I started eating less processed, and more fruit, veggies, home-cooked beans, and home-prepared-from-scratch soups and entrees where I controlled the ingredients, my weight melted off.