One thing that I get asked fairly often is whether or not I’m a vegetarian and honestly, I don’t really know how to answer it. In short, I’m a vegetarian sometimes and not a vegetarian at other times. Confusing, I know. I don’t eat any meat at school (but I do eat eggs, fish and dairy), so I guess I would call myself a vegetarian on weekdays. I occasionally eat meat when I am at home, but usually opt out of eating beef if there are other options available, so I guess I’m not a vegetarian at home (but sometimes I am?). I don’t (usually) eat meat when eating out at restaurants, but I will (usually) eat meat in other people’s homes to avoid being a nuisance. Ugh, so confusing!
I have been down both roads- always eating meat, not at every meal, but as a consistent part of my diet. I have also been down the vegetarian road (and the vegan road for a short time, but that’s another post).
At this point in my journey, my general belief is that the healthiest diet is a plant-based, “whole” diet, meaning mostly unprocessed, fresh foods and foods that are in their simplest form. I believe that meat can be a part of a healthy diet, but should be eaten in moderation and only a few times per week. Also, I think that leaner meats, like chicken breast or lean turkey should make more appearances than red meat.
Well, living in a dorm and eating in the dining halls for 1-2 meals per day makes it a little bit difficult to always find good sources of plant-based protein. The beans on the salad bar and brown rice and/or barley and I have become good friends over the years. Tofu has also been making more of an appearance at the vegetarian station in our dining hall, which is great. However, sometimes I worry that I don’t get enough protein in my diet. My breakfast has some protein from the quinoa and oatmeal, but is pretty carb-heavy, as well. Lunch is almost always on-the-go (depressing, I know), so it’s usually carb heavy, also. I try to incorporate a lot of fresh vegetables and protein into my dinners, since dinner generally ends up being the only meal in the dining hall.
There is a chick-pea burger hiding under there!
Vegetarian Bean Chili
Salad with Lentils on top
Grilled fish and a side salad
When I went home this past weekend, the very first thing I did was stick my head in the fridge to try to dig up some leftovers that I could bring back to school and easily take with me for lunch. Much to my dismay, the pickings were slim, but I did find one thing that caught my eye! I found Trader Joe’s Chicken-Less Pulled Chicken.
I have had textured wheat and vegetable proteins in the past and to be honest, they have always freaked me out. They feel like chicken, and kind of taste like chicken (ha), but I have a feeling that without the massive amounts of sauces that they put on, this stuff would taste pretty nasty. I decided to give this a try for a couple of reasons. The first being that it has 17 g of protein per serving, so I could break away from my carb-laden lunches, and the other reason is that I have an undying love for Trader Joe’s, so why not, right? It does have a lot of sodium, but again, it’s a processed food, so it’s expected.
This package was enough for lunch for two days. I had it yesterday served over a blend of quinoa, wheatberry and barley.
Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed this yesterday and wasn’t even a little bit freaked out by the texture.
Then I had it for lunch today and was so freaked out, which only confirmed my original beliefs about fake meat. If you want meat, have meat! I don’t think vegetables should pretend to be meat, just like meat should never pretend to be vegetables. Pulled chicken in barbecue sauce WON’T KILL YOU, but moderation is key. Being a vegetarian means living off of a plant-based diet, but eating these types of products on a regular basis kind of makes me think of those commercials where they say you can lose a ton of weight while eating whatever you want a never exercising- it’s too good to be true.
With that being said, I do believe that if these types of fake meat products are the only way that you are able to eat a more plant-based diet, then by all means, go for it! Just remember, there are a ton of other ways to get plant-based protein, like from beans and grains and tofu.
Obviously, I’m not a strict vegetarian, (which I guess makes me not a vegetarian at all), but I do believe in a plant based diet and the benefits that that type of diet can have.
Diets are a personal choice, and for me, that means including a little bit of everything, but with a focus of plant-based foods. Moderation is key, but variety is the spice of life!
Question: How do you feel about fake meats?