I always want to get on board with initiatives such as Dry July, Feb Fast, National Nutrition Week and the like. However, for some reason I just don’t do them. No, I know the reason. Dry July fell around the time of post-dietetic celebrations, my birthday is in February and during National Nutrition Week I had three brunch dates & a hen’s night with included dinner planned. They just couldn’t be done.
So way back when I saw Meat Free Week advertised in Women’s fitness, I thought, ‘Yes, I’m going to do this one.’ Plus, breakfast menus always have plenty of meat free options (Brunch for the win).
So for those of you that don’t follow me on instagram, I did it.
What you didn’t see, however, was the night I had the flu and had a bowl of Moroccan Pumpkin & Chickpea soup with a slice of buttery sourdough.
You didn’t see my failure on day one where I made a tuna salad. And you didn’t see the night I spruced up a tin of no-added salt baked beans with some chilli & parmesan because I arrived home late from Gippsland.
They weren’t instaworthy. So as a kind reminder, while Instagram feeds can look all fresh, perfectly styled with a VSCOcam f2 filter, just remember no one ever uploads a bad selfie, a kitchen dish gone wrong or their bowl of baked beans.
So Meat Free Week 2015, what did I learn?
There is a lot of pumpkin.
I used a lot of pumpkin. So when I think of my old housemate complaining that all vegetarian options in standard restaurants were along the lines of a pumpkin-spinach-feta situation, I realise she has a point. However, it is such a winning and comforting combination that you really can’t blame restaurants for choosing it. Luckily for vegetarian Melbournians, the inner northern suburbs do come through with a lot of non-pumpkin vegetarian goodness. My particular favourite is the Gado Gado from Vegie Bar, and I hear there is a divine chickpea dish at Moroccan Soup Bar. Actually, that probably has pumpkin in it. Maybe.
But wait. There was more pumpkin overload. Wednesday saw me come down with the flu & all I felt like was a microwave-soup-buttery-toast dinner situation. Even when it comes to buying bloody vegetarian soup, it’s spot the soup that isn’t pumpkin. There is pumpkin, butternut pumpkin, creamy pumpkin, roasted pumpkin, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin and spinach, Moroccan pumpkin, pumpkin & chickpea, Moroccan pumpkin & chickpea, pumpkin minestrone, sweet potato & pumpkin. Honestly, it’s a good thing I like pumpkin.
I’ve written pumpkin so many times now that I’m questioning the spelling. It’s an odd word. Anyway.
The beauty of pantry staples
Aside from tofu, if you have a well-stocked pantry with essentials such as grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, plus eggs in the fridge and bread in the freezer, you can easily consume a balanced vegetarian diet. With saying that, I have seen shelf-stable tofu in the supermarket. Anyone care to share his or her experience with this?
Speaking off strange foods. Fake meats.
I delved into the Quorn meat-free, soy-free mince for Sunday Bolognese. Quorn products are made with mycoprotein – a nutritious, high quality vegetarian protein from the fungi/mould family similar to that found in blue cheese. So in comparison to lean beef mince, not only does it contain 30% less fat, it is cholesterol free and contains 7.8g dietary fibre per 100g.
The texture though is not like mince. However, once combined in my Bolognese with grated zucchini, carrot & chopped cherry toms, and a sprinkle of parmesan, it was disguised quite nicely.
But in all serious,
It has reinforced my vegetarian nutrition knowledge
In the case of the vegetarian diet in which I consumed – actually classed as a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet – a diet that includes milk, milk products and eggs, but excludes meat, poultry, fish and seafood. The concern was am I getting enough protein, iron, zinc, B12 and omega-3 fatty acids?
As a two-tub per day chobaniac, I know I get approximately 60% of my protein requirements from this deliciousness, plus I was still eating eggs and already included tofu in my diet so protein was not a huge factor for me.
But Iron. Suddenly I had to consider the regular inclusion of foods such as iron-fortified cereals, kidney beans, dark leafy greens such as spinach, wholegrains, lentils and peas. I learnt that dried apricots, prunes and raisins are good for iron too.
White beans, kidney beans and chickpeas would provide some zinc, as would almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds.
Our requirement for B12 is low, but as it is only present in animal-derived foods, vegetarians and vegans may not get enough B12 in their diets. This week I learnt that the soy beverages are fortified with B12. Otherwise considering a supplement would be wise.
With fish gone from my diet (for six of the seven days, forgive me – honest mistake), omega-3 needed to be obtained from flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans and the products derived from these.
Overall, it was hugely beneficial for me. I actually had my first ever vegan client last week, and I feel now that I can be more assistance when it comes to meal ideas and achieving a nutritionally balanced vegan diet. Vegan = vegetarian with no eggs, dairy or dairy products.
And it has got me thinking about where my food comes from.
How have these animals lived? Where do they come from? How was the fish caught?
I do like knowing that the eggs I eat from home are from chickens that are often roaming the yard and stealing the homegrown strawberries. And, whilst I may have failed on Day one with my tuna salad, I take comfort in the fact that my tuna of choice – Sirena – is 100% pole & line caught and no nasty nets are used.
But could I go vegetarian full time?
Part time, yes. But I’m really craving a steak. And a Sunday Roast brings back childhood memories with Grandma Marie & Granny Gull. I also think chicken satay skewers are a really great addition to life.
As for the Cinderella reference? Well if you hadn’t picked up on it already, I too, was at risk of turning into a pumpkin.
Have a wonderful Easter long weekend everyone.
Warm baked ricotta & roast pumpkin salad – Healthy Food Guide September 2014
Tofu & vegetable soba noodle salad – Healthy Food Guide October 2014
Broccoli & macadamia pesto – just substitute the basil & pine nuts in any pesto recipe for steamed broccoli & macadamias.
Smokey salad of freekeh, sugar snap peas and almonds – Taste Magazine October 2014