Wednesday, April 18, 2012
A Cheeky Cheeky Vegetarian Guide
It’s 2012. This year definitely has its perks- Ellen is in a CoverGirl commercial, Jonah Hill gets to play a cop in a movie, and Katy Perry has her own 3D movie coming out. I die. 2012, you’re kind of great. But, unfortunately for me, 2012 isn’t the year everyone I know has decided to follow my lead and go vegetarian. I always hold out hope that, for some reason, the people closest to me will see the wisdom of my ways. I think the opposite has actually happened- everyone I know started eating more meat. It’s like a Paula Deen tribute meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day. Bacon wrapped bacon makes a great breakfast- but you better deep-fry it first! Truth be told, being a vegetarian in a non-vegetarian world can be a bit tough, especially if you’re new. I’ve been telling fools to get their greasy burgers away from my face for 10 years now. I’m an old pro at doing the beef sauce turn down ever so gracefully. Years of practice, my friends. I've had quite a few people ask me recently how I made the transition into vegetarianism, and how I've kept it up for so long. I went vegan for a bit, but ended up deciding vegetarianism is a smarter choice for me. I decided to get my super duper official guidebook out there- it's not that hard, once you get the basics down.
There is A LOT more to being vegetarian than not putting meat in your mouth. It’s a lifestyle choice. Here my basic guidelines for vegetarian success:
1. When In Doubt- ASK! - You’re at a dinner party and someone passes you a casserole dish. It looks meat free but you know how much Jenny likes to put bacon in EVERYTHING. Your friends dragged you out to dinner at a steakhouse. (They refuse to let your vegetarianism define their dinner plans.) The only thing you see on the menu for you is a side salad. Simple solution to both scenarios- ASK! Never be afraid to ask someone if there is meat in a dish, or ask a waiter if they can whip something special up for you. Most restaurants will be able to throw something together- steamed veggies & a mashed potato side dish. There are enough vegetarians in the world now that we shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed to make special requests.
2. Learn How To Cook (Somewhat)- With all the previously stated issues that can arise when eating out, it’s definitely a bonus if you can cook for yourself as a vegetarian. I mean, trust me- I still LOVE going to a diner and ordering a grilled cheese and fries (favorite meal ever.) But cooking healthy meals at home is a really nice alternative for when I don’t feel like loading my body with greasy foods. I’m not what I would categorize as a “great cook” by any means. But I do have my go-to vegetarian dishes. Omelets, taco soup, pasta loaded with veggies, veggie burgers, and even oatmeal from a pouch. Yes, I’m fancy like that. You don’t have to go out and take cooking classes or anything. (Who has the time or the money?) Just Google some recipes and become your own personal (poor man’s) Iron Chef.
3. Feed Your Body- When you eat meat, it’s really easy to just float along, eating what you like, and not paying attention to what your body needs. Protein is easy to get when you’re eating cows. Right? Well, not so easy when your diet doesn’t consist of any of God’s creatures. Paying attention to how much protein, iron, and B12 you’re getting is extremely important. If you are (like me) an Ovo-Lacto vegetarian, you eat both eggs and dairy. Through those two food items, you’re already getting a lot of calcium, B12 and protein. Add in legumes and you’ve got tons of protein. Also, a multivitamin couldn’t hurt. Sure, every meal isn’t going to be perfectly balanced, and that’s totally okay. Nobody’s perfect (except for Ryan Gosling.) Just keep the grilled cheeses in check and pay attention to what you’re throwing down your gullet. Some of it should be green.
4. When You’re Travelling- Come Prepared- I cannot stress this enough- always have a backup plan. Whether it’s an energy bar, trail mix or a Mrs. Field’s cookie, you’ll be happy you have it. I once went to Austin for SXSW and went two and a half days without a solid meal because I simply hadn’t planned on what I would eat. Of course, all of my friends were stuffed with “the best BBQ EVERRRR!” and couldn’t care less about my hungry little Veggie tummy. (The fact that I was drinking about 12 beers each day might have had a little something to do with my accidental hunger strike. When in Rome…) When you’re travelling out of your comfort zone, always be prepared for few vegetarian options. If worse comes to worst, set out on your own to find food. Or live off of beer for a couple of days like yours truly... whatever floats your boat.
5. You Have Your Beliefs; They Have Theirs- The biggest lesson I learned in my first year of being a vegetarian was to stop defending myself as if I had done something wrong. Being a vegetarian is not a choice that affects other people. It is a personal choice that you do not have to defend to anyone. Certain really awesome, totally stellar people like to bully vegetarians and try to make them feel stupid. They say lots of stuff like “You know cows were put on this planet for us to eat, right? It’s called the food chain for a reason. DUH!” It’s a waste of your time and brain cells to even bother with reasoning with these people. You’re better off giving them $5 to leave you alone. On the other hand, if a rational human being approaches you and truly wants to know your reasoning behind going Veg, have at it! I, personally, love telling my “Veggie Tale.” (That’s what I’ve nicknamed the story behind why I chose to become a vegetarian. See what I did there?)
6. When Someone Offers You Meat- Don’t Be An Asshole- Seriously, though. There’s nothing worse than a vegetarian who has a mental breakdown every time someone offers them a chicken salad sandwich. It’s not like they’re forcing it down your throat, and they probably didn’t mean to offend you. My Mom still offers me meat sometimes, even after my 10-year meat strike. When this happens, I give her my best Amy Poehler/Seth Meyers Weekend Update “REALLY!?!” and that usually scores a laugh, and she passes the meat dish right by me. For people who offer me meat that don’t know I’m a vegetarian, I usually just say, “No, thank you.” And they drop it. For those few devil spawns that keep pushing it, insisting I try the brisket, I pull out the big guns and admit that I don’t eat meat. This almost always spurs a big heated discussion, which I like to avoid. Then, refer back to #4.
Bottom line for veggies- take care of your body, feed it properly, and don’t be rude to people who are trying to feed you.