Food Patterns: Vegetarian

Nicky: Going into this week of being vegetarian, I had mixed feelings. I’m a very big meat eater, so giving up that part of my diet was scary. I doubted whether I would be reliable enough to be vegetarian for a week without slipping up. I have a very large appetite and very active life, so I needed to be able to eat something that would give me the energy I needed and keep me full throughout the day. But on the other hand, this week was about challenging myself to exit my comfort zone and break my usual routine to try out something new. And I had always wanted to try being vegetarian, just to see what the experience would be like.

Lola: Firstly, I need to say that I’m from « le charolais » in France, the region where the best meat comes from. I can tell the difference between good and bad meat, which is why I don’t buy a lot of meat when I’m not home. Besides, meat is expensive for a student. For the past few years I’ve become really interested in taking better care of the environment, trying to find more responsible and sustainable ways of consuming. After finding alternatives for my beauty products and clothes, I wanted to look for alternatives to replace what I have in my plate. But I think that subconsciously, I’ve been procrastinating because I was afraid of changing my habits, thinking that it will be too complicated. You’ll see how this week proved me wrong.

DAY 1

Nicky: Nothing beats a good plate of pasta. But it was weird to check the label of a jar of red pesto sauce to make sure there was no meat in it. Some would say that it would be obvious that pesto is vegetarian, but I wanted to be super careful. For dinner, I ordered Turkish food, substituting the chicken for broccoli, and it actually wasn’t that bad.

Lola: For my first day as a vegetarian, I decided to eat at university to see what they have to offer. I was surprised to find such a limited choice, but I finally went for a tofu salad. I’ve heard that tofu is a substitute often used by vegetarians as it contains good quality proteins which can replace meat.

DAY 2

Nicky: One of my father’s signature dishes is his mushroom omelette, so it definitely wasn’t a new dish for lunch today. That night, I had a karaoke and pizza party. My usual pizza-of-choice is Barbeque Chicken but instead, I decided to go for a Capricciosa, after seeing the peas and mushrooms on it (as well as some small pink cubes). What I then realised was that those pink things were slices of ham… My first, and only fail during the diet, or so I hoped.

Lola: I didn’t really like the taste of the tofu, so for the second day I decided to cook myself. For this, I used Vegg’up, an app which provides vegetarian recipes. It’s a really good app to find vegetarian alternatives which proved to me that there are a lot of possibilities. I followed their recipe for a bean salad. You not only have the recipe but also the number of calories and proteins for each meal.

DAY 3

Nicky: I felt like Pizza again. Sue me. And this pesto and walnut pizza sounded interesting, so I wanted to try it. It was good. But there were a measly 2 walnuts covering the whole pizza. Considering that it’s vegetarian, I was hoping they would flood the pizza with lots of walnuts. Nope. Quite pathetic.

I’ve always wanted to try tofu, so I was quite excited to have Pad Thai for dinner later. I came to two conclusions. 1) Tofu is not very tasty when consumed on its own. 2) When you have it with noodles and vegetables, it’s actually pretty good.

Lola: This day I went shopping, and for the first time, I paid particular attention to food labels.

DAY 4

Nicky: Sunday lunch is usually a home-cooked meal collaboration between my parents. There’s something special about sitting around a table and having Sunday family lunch. I had pasta with mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic instead, but the simple dish couldn’t make up for a typical Sunday roast. I ate the leftovers for dinner. It is what it is…

Lola: I wanted to finish this challenge by trying out a vegetarian restaurant. I was really disappointed as I couldn’t find an app which could give me the location of vegetarian places in Malta, when I could search for vegetarian places all over the world. So I searched on Google and this is how I found ‘eeet-well’, a restaurant in Gzira. There isn’t a wide variety to choose from, but everything is healthy and really good. I had a hummus wrap and a smoothie for lunch which was enough to fill me for the whole day.

Conclusion

Nicky: The past week wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was expecting myself to miss meat more than I actually did. It was just a matter of tricking my brain into not thinking about the fact that there was no meat in the dishes I ate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to suddenly become vegetarian. In fact, despite how well this week went, I wouldn’t use my experience to exemplify the true essence of a vegetarian lifestyle. My diet for the past week consisted mostly of carbohydrates – pasta, rice, pizza, noodles – so it definitely wasn’t the healthiest vegetarian diet. That being said, I’m proud of the fact that I was able to go a week without having any meat (apart from the pizza mishap), and I’d definitely recommend that our readers try going vegetarian at least once in their life.

Lola: Although the beginning of the challenge was chaotic, it was a very positive experience. I even think that I will probably adopt a lifestyle that is closer to it. I won’t become vegetarian because I find it too restrictive, personally. I hate labels, and I refuse to define myself as a vegetarian. I find it stupid to decide to be vegetarian or nothing. Nothing is radical : black or white, vegetarian or not, vegan or not…We can all try to make efforts to consume in a responsible way without being radically vegetarian/vegan/or whatever. I felt it was difficult for me to sacrifice meat only because of the taste. I also realized that meat was everywhere. At certain moments I felt like I really needed it, as if my body needed it. I think the hardest part of the process of being vegetarian was the influence of others. Living in a flatshare, it was difficult for me to eat separately from my flatmate who doesn’t follow this diet. Every time I was eating with somebody else,I had to justify myself for not eating meat, as though I had to prove it.

During this week, I also read, watched movies, looked up information about the conditions in which animals are kept and treated as well as the use of energy, which pushed me to question many things about my own consumption habits and the consequences of my lifestyle (such as water wastage). After watching Cowspiracy and some TEDx talks, I came to understand more about the current situation and potential solutions. Moving forward, I will be more careful when choosing a product in a supermarket or ordering at a restaurant.

– Nicky & Lola

Diagonal

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