For the longest time, I had been more than a little skeptical about the merits of being a vegetarian or vegan. Just seemed really extreme and a bit unhealthy to take certain foods off my menu for anything other than health reasons dealing with allergies (I've been a bit allergic to chocolate in the past) or weight (keeping my cholesterol down without taking a statin drug). That is, until I married my wife who had been a vegan and had "lapsed" to vegetarianism by the time we got hitched nearly 20 years ago.
For the next six years, I lived the life of a very part-time vegetarian, usually eating meaty snacks and meals by day, but much less of it, and sometimes not a bit, at night. We didn't have any rules about me eating meat, except that Sandy wouldn't cook it, which led me down the path of least resistance, meaning I became a part-time vegetarian by default.
I never really appreciated just how realistic and doable vegetarianism could be until we hosted a post-Thanksgiving gathering for friends of ours, sans the meat. But, neither could our friends who were more than happy to take home leftovers…
Sandy left the life of a vegetarian six years later, tiring of getting all of her protein from dairy products and beans and citing a still abiding love for chicken (especially her Mom's homemade fried chicken). Yet, there have been more than a few days lately on this WeightWatchers plan I've been following -- one that emphasizes lifestyle changes over dieting -- that red meat just hasn't been on the menu. Not avoiding meat, mind you. I just craved a salad with small dollops of my favorite dressing than a thick, juicy and very problematic hamburger.
If it's hard for you to get the right mix of fruits and veggies for your health -- believe me I still struggle mightily with that problem every day -- New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman suggests a creative and effective solution he discovered by doing it: Following a vegan diet daily until 6 p.m., then eating whatever you want in portions of your choice. Although this was an obviously successful solution for Bittman, some experts gently remind us that getting the right nutrients remains just as important as eating too many calories.
What creative touches have you incorporated into your diet lately to support a healthier lifestyle?
Washington Post April 15, 2010