Contemplating the Vegetarian lifestyle

Contemplating the Vegetarian lifestyle
Fresh seasonal vegetables and Tempeh, served over brown rice with tahini-ginger sauce. Photo Courtesy John Grimshaw

I recently had a birthday and it seems as though every year at this time, I take stock of my lifestyle, diet, and career direction.

 

And while I would probably have to give up my Lick the Plate gig to make a permanent switch to vegetarianism…which I am not prepared to do, I am much more open to incorporating it into my diet than ever before. And while my plate licking has taken me to the occasional veggie and vegan restaurant, I wanted to have a conversation with someone around my age who had made the switch and embraced it. As it turns out, one of my good friends, John Grimshaw made the switch when he turned 40 and as a former Encinitas resident and someone who still frequents the area, he was also able to be a great resource for local vegetarian restaurants.

What prompted the move to becoming a vegetarian?

Choosing a plant-based diet is a personal lifestyle choice, and people make this choice for a variety of reasons; health, religious, ethical/moral, etc. For me, it was an experiment. I didn’t start out with the thought of being vegetarian. When I turned 40, I had a checkup and my doctor told me my cholesterol and triglyceride levels were too high. I was about 25 pounds overweight and my diet was very unbalanced; lots of meat and potatoes, very few fresh vegetables and fruits.

I decided to make a change in my life to get healthier.  At the suggestion of a botanical medical specialist, (who wasn’t a vegetarian); I started cutting down my animal fat intake to see how my body would respond.  I also had a thorough evaluation from a certified nutritionist to see what type of diet was most effective for me based on my age, lifestyle and activity and to see if I had any food allergies or sensitivity to things like Gluten (which I do not).  I also became educated about food, studying the nutritional composition of everything I was eating.   It was the beginning of a journey about food that continues to this day. I just got into it.

One of the obvious questions for me is how do I incorporate protein into my diet?

I discovered, for example, that there are complete and incomplete proteins in certain foods.  A complete protein is one that provides all of the essential Amino Acids your body needs.  Sources include Animal-based food; meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Cheese.  Incomplete Proteins are low in one of more of the essential Amino Acids and found in a variety of grains, beans and vegetables.

Complimentary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together, provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. For example, rice contains low amounts of certain essential amino acids (lysine); however, these same essential amino acids are found in greater amounts of dry beans. Similar, dry beans contain lower amounts of other essential amino acids (methionine) that can be found in larger amounts of rice. Source: CDC

So this particular combination (red beans & rice on Mondays is my favorite) gives me nearly a complete chain of essential amino acids. In addition, foods such as Kale, Spinach, Hemp Seeds and Quinoa contain substantial amounts of protein for my body.  But, they may lack essential amino acids that the body can’t manufacture and therefor, need to be supplemented by a food that has that missing amino acid. This was all very daunting at first, but I had fun learning about how different combinations of foods gave me what I needed.

What are your top 5 places for veggie cuisine in North County?

We’re lucky to have vegetarian-friendly cuisine in North County.  I can go just about anywhere and get a very healthy vegetarian option, even though there’s meat on the menu. This makes going out with friends who are meat-eaters easier and more inclusive. That said, my top five for good veggie fare in North County are Lotus Cafe & Juice Bar, Kim’s Vietnamese & Chinese, Ki’s , Roxy, and Swami’s Café.

So finally, any advice for someone like me trying to incorporate vegetarian into their diet?

The first thing is to ask yourself why you are doing it.  Is it for health reasons, ethical, religious?    If it’s an experiment just to try it out, I would say to start slowly by cutting meat out in phases. If you eat meat five times per week, try a couple of weeks with replacing one or two of those meals. See how you feel and then progress from there.

I don’t crave meat any more, but I did go through that phase during my first year.  In particular I craved bacon and In-n-Out.  That passed and now my cravings run from Kale salad to roasted Brussels Sprouts.

That’s great information John and a perfect way to work towards a healthier diet.

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