Chickpea Curry and Your Road to Health

While there is a growing representation of vegetarian options in Surrey (local restaurants like GNJ Vegetarian Bistro or Spice King Bistro), not many of us knows what it truly means to be healthy. But maybe, we can find health in vegetarianism?

The quest for health is a long and winding road. I mean, come on, it’s already so hard to stick to our New Year’s resolutions. Things like promising to take better care of our bodies, making healthier choices, being more diligent with exercise or perhaps just making some kind of positive change that will benefit us in life takes a lot more GRIT than doing something that provides immediate satisfaction.

Having goals mean giving up a comfortable routine for another, and the most challenging part to any goal is making the choice to change. Questions like…”Do I enter couch potato mode once I get home after a long day of work or go to the gym?” or  “Do I succumb to my cravings of a KFC meal or cook a nutritious meal?” pop into my head on a daily basis.

While humans tend to choose the most immediately rewarding and effortless choice, one of these days, you may encounter one of the hardest choices that you’ll ever have to make in pursuit of health: switching to a meatless diet. And my first thought? There’s got to be an easier way than religiously committing to eating salads three meals a day.

Let’s take a glimpse into the road to health, told in the voice of Surrey604’s Fatima Beatty, to learn how vegetarianism helped her husband fight a turn in his health. With that comes the lesson that the gift of compromise and open-mindedness is the key to change and that comes in ways that we don’t expect.

For Fatima, her gift of compromise came in Chickpea Curry—an example of a type of food that falls in the vegetarian category but can still taste absolutely delicious. It’s like making it a goal to exercise. Going to the gym can be like a job on its own, but what if you found a type of physical activity that you love—like yoga?

Many people don’t think that they could eat a delicious meal without meat and and still feel satisfied. For example, love a simple meal of dhal and rice or flavorful curries with potatoes and vegetables.

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.

Note this moment of realization.

Fast forward to January 2014.  A routine check up revealed he had abnormally 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.

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.

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!

Luckily, Fatima was able to discover that the real challenge is finding compromise in the daily choices that she makes and she was able to overcome this initially seemingly challenging goal by turning it into something enjoyable. If you’re open-minded, any health challenge/goal can be fun! 

I know there are many of you who contemplated a vegetarian or vegan diet or want to incorporate more meatless meals into your routine. Life is all about open-mindedness, curiosity and discovery…and when you approach any challenge with that mindset, you will stop seeing certain challenges as a chore. 

Find your Chickpea Curry…

Next time, when you’re thinking of vegetarianism, look at how taking on the better and tougher choice head on can impact your health and the people you love. Then find a compromise. Chances are, you will find something that can be both enjoyable and satisfy your goals at the same time.

Now, go on your adventure.