My sweetie and I are trying an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet this month. (We usually eat meat or fish frequently -- at one or more meals a day.) Now that the month is halfway done, here's an update!
First, I haven't killed ANYONE. This is important.
Here are some things that most vegetarians probably know (but may have had to discover when they adopted their eating habits).
I have noticed that my mood changes drastically when I'm running low on protein -- I am anxious and irritable and generally unpleasant to be around... until I have a bowl of rice and beans or a hardboiled egg or some apple slices with peanut butter. It's like what happens when my blood sugar is low, only this can happen even soon after I've eaten (if I didn't eat protein). I am more aware of it (and unfortunately so is my sweetie) than I usually am.
I can't go as long between meals. (This may also be because I eat less at many meals, now that I'm not eating meat.) I need to have an afternoon snack sometime between lunch and when I leave the office, or at the other end of my hour-long commute, I am very grouchy. Sure, I can wait an hour for dinner -- but only if I put something into my face RIGHT NOW.
So that requires more planning. We've bought a whole bunch of eggs in the past 3 weeks (a nearby grocery store has a weekly sale -- every Wednesday, you can get one dozen eggs for 69 cents), and keep some hardboiled in the fridge for a power snack. Because beans are a good source of protein, but can take some time to prepare, when we make bean dishes, we make extra servings and freeze them -- less waiting later.
My sweetie has gone to the farmers' market a lot more regularly (and some friends gifted us with homegrown produce... yay!). I'm eating more fruits and veggies, yes (which is one of my anticipated outcomes of this experiment), but it's pretty easy to just eat junk food (mac & cheese, cookies, ice cream, pasta). Even though it's meatless, it's not necessarily nutritionally sound or balanced. So it's important for me to look out for that.
This week, for example, we've eaten leftover aloo gobi from the slow cooker, fried eggs and toast, and spinach-and-ricotta-stuffed shells. Today I had an EXCELLENT salad from Mixt Greens, which I customized with hardboiled egg, avocado, and goat cheese. Stuffed myself at lunchtime and still have half of it left. Maybe tonight is FINALLY the night for Crash Hot Potatoes! And that leftover salad.
What else have I learned? Well, we've spent less on groceries this month. I've tried some new recipes (she cooks, I eat). I have a new appreciation for my vegetarian friends and their situation when it comes to dining out. Or eating catered food -- we had a barbecue joint deliver to the office, which sounds like a disaster, but they had plenty of veggie options. They just weren't things I wanted to eat! I tried a small piece of BBQ portabella mushroom and another small piece of cornmeal-crusted tofu, plus a bunch of vinegary vegetable salads and some macaroni. I was fed, but I'd rather have the brisket and pulled pork! Also in the month's restaurant menu: avocado maki & veggie tempura and paneer tikka masala & aloo mattar.
I have enjoyed the experiment so far, but we won't continue it full-time. (We'll keep doing Meatless Mondays, as we have since the end of 2011.) We've actually made "meat dates" with people -- one for steaks, one for Brazilian barbecue -- to be accomplished in June. While we picked an Italian restaurant and stayed meatless for Mothers' Day (my parents enjoyed lamb and shrimp), for Fathers' Day we'll enjoy my dad's grilled beef ribs! *drooool*