So, who had to look up what the term flexitarian meant? It’s ok, you can be honest, I won’t hold it against you. At first I wasn’t sure what it was either so I took the time to learn more about it and what it entailed. Simply put, you get to be a flexible vegetarian, meaning you can add in fish, or eggs, or meat as you want because you are “flexible” with your eating. Make sense?
Why have I decided to take this less traveled, less preferred route of eating? Or as my mom would say, “crazy, not normal” path of nourishment (love ya, Mom!). There are a few key reasons as to why I have finally decided to try my hand at eating more along the lines of an herbivore versus that of a carnivore. First of all, why not? I am a big believer in trying new things and this was something I had tried in the past but had failed at doing correctly (meaning I didn’t eat enough and simply just got skinny for lack of sufficient caloric intake). Secondly, I was constantly feeling bloated and uncomfortable after eating meals comprised mainly of meat/chicken/etc. And lastly, after learning more about how our meat is processed and how it is negatively affecting our environment (this is for another conversation all together, but there are plenty of documentaries out there you can watch…What the Health on Netflix is one), I knew it was time to try something new.
I am not one to stand on a soapbox and demand that others listen to what I see as “right” or “correct,” so please don’t take this post as an assault on your current eating regimen. I am simply sharing my journey and why I am enjoying the benefits of an animal-free (for the most part) diet. The most frequent question I get is: aren’t you constantly hungry/not getting enough protein? In the beginning I was often hungry because I wasn’t eating enough. With veggies and grains being the main staple of my diet, I had to eat more of them to get enough vitamins, nutrients, and calories to quench my hunger as well as to provide me with enough fuel to survive my daily workouts. By cutting out animal protein (though I still do eat fish and eggs) I had to find plant-based/grain-based options to replace it, and believe me, there were plenty of sources available (quinoa, kale, zucchini, seeds, legumes, etc). The nice thing about eating clean as I call it, is the lack of bloating, feeling heavy, and constantly being tired. By cutting out red meat and chicken I not only feel lighter and cleaner but I am sleeping better and I have tons of energy. Now, I am not a doctor so I cannot scientifically say that my diet is causing all these positive changes in my life, but I can say that personally these simple changes to my diet has led to many positive improvements in my life. Don’t just take my word for it, try it out for yourself and let me know what your thoughts are and whether or not you feel the same way.
How exactly do I eat and what do I do to keep my energy level up? It’s simple, just eat MORE, not less. For breakfast I will have one egg/three egg whites scrambled with spinach along with a side of oatmeal mixed with peanut butter and chia seeds. A snack may follow with things such as a protein smoothie, a banana with peanut butter, or some Larabar balls (they’re delicious and made of only a few key ingredients). Lunch will be either a large salad with everything imaginable tossed into it, some veggie patties with avocado and hummus, and an entire side of broccoli (frozen veggies are a lifesaver – just make sure the only thing listed in the ingredients is the vegetable itself, with no added sodium…this is a cheap and easy alternative to buying fresh produce). For dinner I may have fish or grilled falafel or spinach cakes (many recipes are available online…two websites I really like that have a lot of vegetarian options are 100 Days of Real Food and Jamie Oliver’s site). The options are limitless to say the least. The belief that you have to eat meat in order to get enough protein is nearly as crazy as the need to drink milk to get enough calcium. There are other ways to get them both yet we tend to take the “easy” way out and go with our societal image of what our food plates should look like. As with everything in life, find what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. I believe you may just find yourself liking the way you feel and the way your body functions. Try it for yourself and let me know how it goes!