Many of us make promises to ourselves that we will take better care of bodies, make healthier choices, be more diligent with exercise or perhaps just make some kind of positive change that will benefit us in life.
Achieving balance is something I am constantly striving for with the daily choices I make. Whether it is the choice to work late, not exercise, collapse like a lump on the couch for the evening or the choice to clean the house, get some errands done and make a nutritious meal. However, sometimes we are provided with the gift of balance that comes in a way that we don’t always expect.
I grew up eating fabulous homemade meals (Indian and Western) thanks to my talented mother. I grew up with the understanding that yes you could eat a meal without meat and feel satisfied and healthy. As a kid, I loved a simple meal of dhal and rice and appreciated my mom’s flavorful curries with potatoes and vegetables. But yes, I enjoyed meat. In fact, my mother’s chicken pulao with yogurt and chutney on the side is my all time favorite! Those delicate yet savory spices make my mouth water….it’s my comfort.
The first time I made a non-meat dinner for my husband he looked at his plate and said, ‘There’s no meat in here?’. I answered in the affirmative. He responded, “Well I don’t think this will fill me up.’ He loves chicken and I quote, ‘Chicken is the best food in the world.’ Oh, and don’t forget the cheese. We both loved cheese. This particular evening, he ate his chickpea curry as he happily eats anything I put in front of him (thank goodness) and luckily he was full. But I knew the next night, the man required some meat in his meal. Two nights of no meat?! Scandalous.
This guy enjoys chicken and fried clams. Fierce.
Fast forward to January 2014. A routine check up revealed he had abnormal high cholesterol. The doctor said that he had the cholesterol of ‘an obese person of your age’. We both have a history of heart disease in our families; and my mother suffered a heart attack in her 50s. This news was a life-changing moment. How do we take control?
So…. we both made the change to a more plant based vegetarian diet (minimal dairy).
The decision can be simple when you are hit with the news that you are not healthy even though you feel like you are doing pretty good with exercise and food choices. But why did I make the change even though I didn’t have high cholesterol? I did it because (not necessarily in order of importance): #1. I do the majority of the cooking and #2. I saw this as a journey towards better health for the both of us. #3 We had nothing to lose, except of course, meat 🙂
Then it was a matter of figuring out this new world of vegetarianism. The first thing we did was start educating ourselves through online resources and documentaries. Forks over Knives provides research and information supporting the concept of a whole-food plant based diet to aid in the reversal of health issues and the health benefits of Superfoods . Next, we visited our local organic grocer. We are lucky that we have one nearby, Organic Grocer in Newton. We filled up our cart with lots of nutritious foods and it was exciting to imagine the possibilities. That evening we enjoyed a homemade, hearty and delicious vegetable stew.
Vegetable Stew adapted from the Curvy Carrot
I’m not going to lie, the first two weeks were not easy. In the midst of this I also decided if I was giving up meat, I may as well give up coffee (gasp) during the week. I felt hungry yes, but I tried to prepare myself as much as possible. I had snacks in my desk of nuts and seeds and got some herbal teas to enjoy from Teavana at Central City mall. Was I craving meat? No, not necessarily, I realized my body was probably in shock with the sudden change. It was saying, ‘what are all these new things you are filling up with and how do I digest this?’ By the third week, I was feeling much more settled.
Since then, I’ve been experimenting with finding recipes and ways of preparing food that are practical and nutritious. I really don’t want to be in the kitchen for 2 hours preparing a meal after long hours of work on a weeknight. Cooking and preparing meals in a vegetarian way has been a new and fun discovery. We are experiencing and learning how to think differently about the food we consume and it’s impact on our health.
Eating out is different than it used to be. Instead of chicken, ribs, hot wings and more chicken, we are having fun discovering vegetarian and vegan restaurants. It’s been a road of new experiences. It’s also great to know that some of our favorite chain restaurants have vegetarian and vegan options – something I never really contemplated before.
My husband’s goal is to get tested again in a few months to see the effects of this change. My goal is to have a healthier diet and focus on feeling good about the food choices we make everyday. Nobody is perfect. But if I can do the best that I can today, it helps the people I love, the environment and the planet.
Daman was raised on a farm so he’s right at home. Last year at the local Aldor Acres Farm
So, this is my first post on this journey. I know there are many of you out there who perhaps have contemplated a vegetarian or vegan diet or just want to incorporate more meatless meals into your routine. Whatever your motivation, I hope you will stay tuned and share your thoughts. We’ll swap recipes, share successes and challenges, discover restaurants and all the ups and downs that keep food life interesting. No judgment here- meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans unite! Life is all about curiosity and discovery. My husband is the last person I would have ever thought would decide to become a vegetarian. Anything is possible. Here’s to the gift of health!