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12 Tips To Become A Weekday Vegetarian

24/08/2012

A few months ago, we became weekday vegetarians.

Like many yogis, I had been vegetarian on and off for some time, and I always felt a bit torn when it came to eating or not eating meat. Meatless weekdays brought a perfect resolution to this personal dilemma.

I’m not the only one: a lot of people are rethinking the way they eat and what place meat should have in their diet. TreeHugger Graham Hill explains in a TED talk how he decided to be a weekday vegetarian. He argues that because it is structured, it’s simple to remember. Also, it has reduced his footprint, he’s healthier and  has even lost a bit of weight.

Two kinds of weekday vegetarians are emerging: ‘ex-vegetarians’ who occasionally eat meat and meat-eaters who want a more plant-based diet. Meatless weekdays brings peace of mind for those who feel they are failing their vegetarian ambitions, and it gives a structure to the carnivores who want to reduce their meat intake.

At home, we have been really relaxed, playful and curious about the whole experiment, and probably because of this laid-back attitude, we have adopted this new lifestyle with surprising ease.

Here are a few tips that made it for us:

1. Pimp up your pantry. Invite new friends on your shelves: pulses are going to dominate your weekdays. Although lentils and chickpeas are wonderfully versatile, there are many more beans and peas you can include to your rolling shopping list: cannellini beans, butter beans, split peas, and turtle beans to name a few.  Also, get wild with your carbs, start stacking bags of all sorts: bulgur wheat, quinoa, giant couscous, pearl barley and various kinds of rice–arborio for risottos, brown rice for pilaffs, and wild rice for special occasions.

2. Dine out in vegetarian restaurants or have your lunch at your local veggie cafe. Not only it will get you into the habit of eating out vegetarian but it will give you great ideas to do at home. You need a bit of imagination to cook veggies 5 days a week, so get the inspiration wherever you can.

3. Get the right cooking gear. There is a lot of chopping involved in vegetarian cooking, so you need reliable knives and ideally a food processor. The other great companion to veggie cuisine is the pressure cooker. I’ve become very boring to my friends on this subject, but they will have to be patient: I’m on a mission, and I’m convinced that if each household had a pressure cooker the world would be a better place. Pressure cookers are wonderful to cook pulse stews. In many cases, you can skip the soaking phase, and most of the time your dish will be cooked in 15-30 minutes instead of 1 hour or more.

4. Become a food geek. Keep your Pinterest food boards exciting, and start hoarding recipes you find online. Invest in nice recipe books. Cookery books can be pricey, so they are a great gift idea to put on your wish-list for birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries. A good cookbook becomes a companion for a lifetime. My two personal bibles are a French classic by Ginette Mattiot, and the other one is the Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook.

5. Less chicken, more eggs. If you don’t have any cholesterol or weight concerns, eggs are THE superfood, and I’m quoting my doctor here. They are a very affordable source of protein. It’s time to explore those quiche, frittata, and Spanish tortilla recipes.

6. Wise up about nutrition. A shift in diet is a good opportunity to educate yourself about nutrition. Peel off those tired-looking magnets from your fridge door and use them to post shiny print-outs of  nutrition charts about pulses, vegetables, fruits, carbs, nuts and seeds.

7. Veggie junk food night. These are great to keep it fun and cheerful. At home, it’s usually Friday night, and it can consist of pizza or some kind of homemade tex-mex delight.

8. Get the creative juices flowing. Once you’re finding your feet with your veggie cooking, you can improvise: be daring and inventive. Try to cook something new once a week so your culinary culture broadens. This goes for all things: the more knowledgeable, the more confident, the more efficient, the more creative.

9. Two is better than one. Cook for at least two meals at once–that’s where once again the pressure cooker is handy (just saying). Then you can either freeze or take your veggie leftover in your lunchbox. The beauty of cooking in advance is that stews and tomato sauces taste better the following day.

10. Choose the right meat. Now that your budget is shrinking because you spend no money on meat during the week, you can indulge in quality meat when Saturday comes. If you are worried that you are not finding enough iron during the week, offal might be the food for you. Ask your organic butcher for some fresh chicken liver and make a nice salad for your Sunday lunch.

11. One fishy day. Now it’s a bit controversial, but we do sneak in a fish meal during the week: it serves as reminder to eat fish! Otherwise we are quite partial to smoked salmon and egg benedict for weekend brunches.

12. It’s okay to stray. Rules are, after all, meant to be broken. Dedication is a laudable quality but it doesn’t have to come with rigidity. Once in a while, on a Friday evening, our chilli will be with carne, and our burger will be beef instead of beans. Special occasions also call for more permissiveness, when travelling abroad or staying with friends of family, it’s sometimes easier to just take a short break from veggie weekdays. When we come back home, however, we do crave our good old veggie dishes. In the process of the last few months, they have become the taste of home food.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. 24/08/2012 23:48

    i started a no-meat diet just to shed 10 pounds, but i’m already noticing how much more energy and less belly bloat i have from not eating meat. but you’re right, i do stray sometimes!

    • 25/08/2012 15:38

      Isn’t it great to remove meat from the equation? The more you do it, the less you crave meat.

  2. 25/08/2012 02:48

    We did weekday vegetarian for a year and are now 6 months into being weekday vegans. I can’t say enough about how much better I feel (we’ve both lost weight), and how much I enjoy knowing that on the weekend, I can eat that… whatever it is…. that I’ve been craving. The really funny thing is that the longer I eat this way, the less I tend to “stray.” I just don’t crave those things anymore.

    • 25/08/2012 15:40

      Sounds great. I can’t live without cheese. But since we save on meat, we buy organic dairy and free range eggs. We do include more and more vegan dishes in our week, so there’s an effort there too.

      • 25/08/2012 16:56

        I thought I couldn’t do without cheese too. I really did. It’s interesting how things change. I think any change we make that makes us more conscious about what goes in is a good one.

  3. 25/08/2012 03:24

    Fantastic. I would add another tip – as a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat. My rule for meat eating is it must be free-range, exceptionally high quality and I must have had a conversation with the producer. This means that when I do eat meat it is usually export-quality lamb, and the cost is justified by the fact that I hardly ever do it. I have usually spent time and care deciding what and how. So, my meat eating experiences are wonderful. I really appreciate how special meat is. Sometime, I cook for a special occasion, or eat out at an exceptional restaurant. If you treat meat like its something special then you actually start to appreciate it.

    The only exception to this, for me, is when it would be rude not to. For example, if I am invited to dinner and my hosts don’t know I’m a vegetarian.

    Good luck with the weekday vegetarian journey. Have you heard of Simon Rimmer? He has a great book called Accidental Vegetarian. It is one of my favourite cookbooks, and I use it for feeding people unsure about eating vegetarian. They usually don’t even notice that the meal was vegetarian!

    • 25/08/2012 15:43

      I love the way you approach it. It is completely our spirit. Meat as feast and choose quality and make a special meal out of it. The only way to afford organic meat is to eat less of it, and to not eat the battery chicken, unhappy pigs and ‘Bakersfield’ cow.
      Thanks so much for your comment it’s good to read like-minded people!

      • 26/08/2012 02:17

        Yes. Chicken is not supposed to be a cheap meat. Fortunately, in New Zealand much of our meat (except for some chicken and a handful of pig farms) is not battery farmed – yet, although it isn’t necessarily organic. The dairy industry (the main industry when I live) for example washes a lot of excess nitrogen into the water ways. Even though the cows are not kept in barns or anything hideous like that. But I have found that many small-scale local producers work on minimising the amount of artificial feed or fertilizer they use. I have made a conscious choice to seek out small scale local producers because the more of us who do that the more these people can stay in business and this I believe has a beneficial knock-on effect.

      • 27/08/2012 20:14

        I think everything has a knock-on effects and it’s great to know that our choices matter on a bigger scale. I read an article on mindful consuming and the conclusion was exactly that, our decisions have a great influence on the bigger picture. It’s great to make deliberate, measured choices. Also, selfishly it makes fell better and win on so many levels. Our conscience is clear(er) as we live in agreement with our ethics, our body is healthier.
        Have you ever listened to the FOOD PROGRAM on BBC radio 4? Not sure you get it on BBC worldwide but it’s worth trying, it’s a great program, and it discuss a lot of important issues with food at the moment.

  4. A Table in the Sun permalink
    25/08/2012 16:11

    It’s all about balance. You seem to have discovered a good balance for yourself. My own balancing involves eating the tiniest piece of meat. I really don’t need or want much. Organic veggies from my garden are my mainstay. I love reading how others work through the process of finding a healthy diet.

    • 27/08/2012 20:02

      You are absolutely right it’s a question of balance, between ethical beliefs, culture, nutritional needs and choices.
      There is a movement towards eating less meat and this is definitely progress. There’s a visible shift in attitude when it comes to the food industry in general.

  5. 25/08/2012 22:41

    One of the most useful cooking utensils for a vegetarian is a large pot containing a multi-holed platform (I don’t know the official name, but they are in every hardware store) that allows you to steam vegetables: green onions, flat leaf parsely, bok choy, etc. For maximum flavor, steam them only until they turn bright green. Steam up a large batch, store it in the refrigerator, and use it for snacks for an entire week. The flavor is intense enough that the lightly steamed vegetables taste good enough to be used for regular snacking, day after day, and don’t need anything on them.

    • 27/08/2012 20:03

      It’s a steamer I believe. Those are great! I have one and we use it all the time. It does keep the flavour well as you say.

  6. 26/08/2012 15:43

    Excellent post! I did “vegan June” and felt great the whole month. Seemed like I had a bit more energy and definitely could see a difference with how my clothes fit. Today, I still am practicing a mostly vegan diet – although I do have the occasional lean meat occasionally. It’s a struggle, I’d like to go 100% but I’m working on it. I really have not missed the dairy, however that does create a bit of a challenge. Thanks for the inspiration to keep on going!

    • 27/08/2012 20:07

      Thanks!
      It’s good to have a label for little food challenges. I like that Vegan June.
      I do cook vegan several times a week and it feels good too. I know I will never be able to give up cheese, I’m French and Breton and my DNA is programmed for dairy products. I’ve cut down on butter massively, but cheese will stay…

  7. 28/08/2012 02:47

    There actually is a term now for someone who is mostly vegetarian, but sometimes eats fish. Such a person is a “pescatarian”.

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