At the end of 2018, I decided to completely cut beef, pork, chicken, and turkey out of my diet. ( I don’t eat what I like to call “exotic” meats such as frogs, deer, lamb, etc.) I decided to make my change around mid- September, so to date it’s been about 4 months now. I get A LOT of private, and sometimes public, questions about my diet, so I’ll address a few below. As a disclaimer, I don’t claim to be a vegetarian or vegan, because I still occasionally consume animal products like butter, honey, and still consume seafood. I’m just a girl, doing her best to eat plant-based as much as possible.
- HOW did you completely cut meat? This is a fairly common question because people kind of panic once you take meat off of the plate. Some people want to eat plant-based, but have no clue where to start. I first cut dairy: I switched to almond, coconut, and cashew milks for my cereal and yogurt. (If you tried a plant-based milk but didn’t like it, try it unsweetened!) As mentioned before, I’m not completely a vegetarian because I still consume animal products such as honey, eggs, butter, and cheese (occasionally) ….for now. After cutting (most) dairy, I stopped eating red meat (pork and beef), then chicken, then turkey.
- WHAT do you eat? This question gets weird sometime because it’s usually accompanied by a confused or disgusted look (lol). The easy answer? I eat FOOD. When I was new to my journey, I cooked most of my same pasta dishes (i.e. spagetti, alfredo) and just replaced the meat with veggies or Field Roast sausage. I recommend these faux meats for transitioning plant-based eaters because they contain no meat, but look and taste similar to the sausages and burgers we’re familiar with. Field Roast products are pretty tasty for a while, but I personally prefer unmasked veggies in my dishes now. (If you’re interested, you can find Field Roast products in the produce section of almost any grocery store.) Now that I’m further along in my journey, I really enjoy trying new recipes and dishes, even from other cultures! You can check out my Pinterest recipe board here, full of veggie recipes.
One MAJOR piece of advice: try new foods before proclaiming your distaste for them. There are a few recipes that I’ve avoided because I thought I didn’t like those veggies or felt they shouldn’t be cooked with that combination. TRY IT, FIRST. As an example, I’m a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but I like them sweetened with butter, sugar and cinnamon. So any recipe that I came across that used sweet potatoes as an unsweetened vegetable, I avoided. I was doing myself a major injustice because I was in awe the first time I had stuffed sweet potatoes with black beans and feta cheese:
When I haven’t planned my meal, my go-to meal is roasted veggies because they are so quick and easy. I simply wash the veggies, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle some seasoning on them, and roast them on 375°F until crispy. Most times, I arrange the veggies into a delectable buddha bowl, which you can read more about here. I also add rice and grains to my meals, but I try to eat whole-grain and “veggie grains”, like Zucchini noodles. My diet isn’t perfect: sugar is definitely my vice. I have a serious sweet tooth! I definitely eat less sugar than last year, but I could afford to cut more. #Goals2019
- How do you stick to it? Honestly? internal motivation. I made the decision that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I decided to do something about it. I initially did a 30 day detox where I cut bread, sugar, dairy, processed foods, and meat. At the end of the detox I was down 12 pounds. 12 WHOLE POUNDS were lost, and I wasn’t trying to find them again. At the end of the 30 days, I honestly didn’t crave meat anymore. I took that feeling and ran with it. 100+ days later, I’m still meat free! 🙂 Currently, I workout 3 times a week with BeastMode fitness (@beastmodesav), and I’m definitely addicted to the results! Working out is really empowering for me and makes me want to eat less trash, so it keeps me focused. Now I even enjoy trying vegan and vegetarian options at new restaurants!
- How do you replace meat? (I can’t feel full without it!) The quick answer: beans. The only real benefit of meat is that is provides protein and iron for the body. Beans step up and take over as the protein providers for plant-based eaters. Not only are beans and legumes an excellent source of protein, they have lots of fiber and are low in fat. (Meat doesn’t provide all those luxuries.)
My favorite beans to include in my meals are: chickpeas, lentils, black beans, navy beans, and kidney beans. Even as a plant-based eater, I honestly don’t eat a lot of salad (insert a @JessHilarious_official gasp here). I prefer hot foods and dishes! I also don’t really eat soybeans and tofu, because soy contains hormones. Although the hormone is a natural form of estrogen, I’ve got enough issues without having to deal with extra hormones, lol.
Lastly, season your dang veggies! I once had a friend who “ate veggies” as a detox/ workout program but her dinner consisted of a can of peas she dumped into a container and nuked in the microwave ’til warm. Needless to say, she couldn’t wait to return to her normal diet. Seasoning makes food taste good- use it on veggies too! My favorite seasonings for veggies are cumin, pepper(s), onion and garlic (and powders), ginger, turmeric, curry, Slap Yo Mama Seasoning Cajun seasoning, sea salt, and herbs. (Not all at once, of course.) Experiment with different blends until you get it right.
- How do you feel? I feel great! I won’t lie and say I’m an energizer bunny every single day, but when I’m up, I’m UP. I’m not sluggish, but I do eventually get tired. I’ve HAVE noticed huge differences with my immune system and reproductive system. As a teacher, my immune system gets tested on a regular basis. Since cutting meat (and most dairy), I’ve noticed that I haven’t gotten sick, my nose seldomly runs, and my allergies have subsided drastically. Dairy makes your body produce more mucus and meat causes an inflammatory response, so consuming less of those foods would be a positive change.
The other benefit for me was no menstrual cramps. I had terrible stomach and back pains that would only subside with regular doses of Ibuprofen (at least 800mg). After about a month of no meat, the pain simply vanished. The first time it happened, I was a little confused so I reached out to some friends who eliminated meat before me, and they confirmed. You can read more about why that happens here, but my cycles are lighter, shorter, with no pain. SCORE!
Overall, I’m super pleased with my new healthier lifestyle. I honestly don’t see it as a diet, so there’s nothing for me to “cheat” on or “go back to”. I unfollowed all unhealthy food profiles on social media and replaced them with vegetarian and vegan profiles, which really helped me expand my menu.
How about you? Are you on a health journey? What’s your favorite healthy meal? Tell me below!
Until next time! Peacefully plant-based,