Friday, 8 June 2012

What turned you?

Today's blog is inspired by a day-time repeat of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg TV series (the accompanying book is also rather good). It reminded me of how much eliminating meat has changed my lifestyle, something I often forget given how normal it is for me now! I have eaten a meat-free diet for almost 18 months now (or ovo-lacto-vegetarian, dabbling in pescetarianism when choices are very limited), and I'm still often asked 'what turned me'.

However, there was no pivotal event that 'turned me', it was more a collection of good reasons that finally culminated in a resolve to eradicate meat from my diet:
  • I wanted to be healthier - that isn't to say that I believe meat to be unhealthy, I simply found that the identity of being a non-meat-eater drove me to make healthier choices. A simple example is how easily I can turn down sweets that contain gelatin (and haribo used to be my addiction). Telling myself "not for me, I'm a veggie" has meant that I have never had to use will-power to resist.
  • I wanted to save money - I was a student and a meat-free diet seemed a great way to save money. Even though I am now happy to spend more than most do on veggies, it seems a fair price to pay for the healthfulness I have discovered through eating more of the green (and orange, and red...) stuff. 
  • I wanted to get better at cooking - cutting meat out offered an amazing opportunity to expand my repertoire beyond bolognese. The more I explored recipe books and website for recipes and inspiration, the more excited I was to try!
  • To be greener - being an ethical consumer had been at the back of my mind for a long time as I used to work for a cosmetics company that prided itself on defending animal rights and sustainable use of resources. Vegeterianism, if done appropriately, is the more sustainable and ethical option given the considerable impact of the meat industry.
There are also considerable health benefits, such as lowering susceptibility to a whole load of illness, which weren't on my agenda 18 months ago, but given my mum's recent illness, I feel I have all the more reason to continue with this more healthy lifestyle.

The next question is inevitabley 'the protein question' or 'the so-what-do-you-eat? question'. I get sufficient protein, thank you very much, and I have only become stronger and fitter since I 'turned'. And I eat all kinds of soups, curries, stews, salads, open sandwiches/pittas etc. It just takes a little imagination, that's all, and when you think about it, all dishes are meat-free until the meat is added. I stick to staple smoothies, lunches and snacks, but in the evening I get creative! Here is tonight's meat-free experiment:

Kale and Aubergine Dal (for one)

1 tsp coconut oil (or whatever oil you normally use!)
Half a medium onion, sliced
Half a large aubergine, cubed
Half a tbsp medium curry powder (or use your favourite spices)
Tomato and red pepper sauce (half the quantity in yesterday's recipe) - or half a tin of tomatoes
50g dried red lentils, rinsed well
75g (2 good handfuls) kale, chopped

  1. Soften the onions in the oil on a medium heat and then add the aubergine. Cook both together for 5 or 10 minutes until well softened.
  2. Add the spices, cook for about a minute, then add the sauce/tomatoes
  3. Stir in the lentils then add water (enough to cover the mixture well)
  4. Allow the lentils to cook through, about 20-25 minutes, and stir regularly and add more water if needed.
  5. Before serving, tip in the kale and allow it to steam through, mixing it into the dal.
  6. Season (if you're into that kind of thing) and serve.
**This is a meal in itself for one, with no need for bread or rice, though you could share this between two and add rice etc. if you like **

I found this meal to be really comforting and satisfying, without leaving me with a stuffed or bloated feeling. Oh, and it was a tidy 326 calories, with 18g of fabulous plant-based protein. Let me know what you think if you try it!

Hannah x

P.S. Some resources on 'turning' if you're interested...
Vegetarian Society
49 Good Reason For Being a Vegetarian

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