When my husband decided to take our son skiing for 3 days over Spring Break, my first thought was “I can eat whatever I want!”
I immediately decided to go vegetarian for the time and planned out my meals. But why? Because all the other health-oriented middle-aged women are going veg? I didn’t want it to be just because it is trendy. On reflection, here are the reasons why eating less meat is right for me:
- I feel better, physically, especially with no red meat. When I eat steak (which I love), my stomach gurgles and I can’t sleep. I feel lighter and more alert when I eat less meat.
- I feel better, mentally, as a global citizen. A vegetarian diet uses fewer resources than a meat-eating diet. It just seems the responsible way to eat.
- I feel better, emotionally, as a living being. When I look in an animal’s eyes, I see another soul. I don’t like to think I am killing other beings.
- I feel better, spiritually, as a yogini. Ahimsa – do no harm – is the first moral restraint of yoga philosophy.
As an obedient rule-follower and laden with eating baggage, do I really need more food rules to live by? Probably not. Which is one of the reasons why I have not gone down the vegetarian path more vigorously. Besides, it would mean rocking the boat on the family dinner front. Rocking the boat is not something I do. As I’ve quietly but forcefully acknowledged and embraced who I am, I’ve begun to assert who I am with more confidence. Part of that assertion occurs around food and consciously choosing what I want to eat. Not being embarrassed by the way I eat. Perhaps I am not the one with the eating disorder after all? Perhaps nothing is wrong with me and I have something to teach others?
My husband and I fell in love over food. Cooking for each other, cooking with each other, sampling restaurants. It was fun! In those early months, merging as one – as couples do in the initial phase of a relationship, we ate the same foods. As we built our marriage and our family life, a central component has been and continues to be cooking and eating together. We plan meals, choose recipes, share the cooking and share the eating. Family dinners are a significant and valued part of our family life together. About 10 years ago (around 40), I gradually shifted to a more insistently healthy diet. I had gained the “normal” weight that a 40+ woman puts on after marriage, two children, a sedentary full time job and a lot of pasta and red wine. I changed my choices for breakfast and lunch but pretty much kept dinner with the family. Then I eliminated dessert and cut back on wine and switched to whole wheat pasta, whole grain everything. And lost more than the 15 pounds I had gained over the years. And felt better. And slept better. What does it mean to eat differently than my husband? He cooks for delicious nourishment. I cook for healthy nourishment. Can our diets co-exist? I tend to compromise more than he does. After all, doesn’t Ahimsa also apply to appreciating and enjoying his delicious food offerings without my food and eating hang-ups mucking it all up? The question hovers.
Alone for three days, I sighed with relief and eager anticipation. Here is what I enjoyed eating.
Breakfast: Shredded Wheat and Bran (64 mini-squares, yes – still counting!) topped with 1 Banana and Vanilla Soy Milk; Grapefruit Juice; Black coffee
Snack: Siggi’s Yogurt (thick, tart, not sweet, high in protein) and lots of water throughout the day
Lunch: Peanut Butter & Apricot Jelly on whole wheat bread; Mango; Iced Venti Half Caf Non-Fat Latte from the ubiquitous Starbucks
I sautéed shitake mushrooms in olive oil and mixed them with farro (a barley-like grain, chewy and flavorful)
Salad of cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado with some olive oil and white wine vinegar
Chardonnay (only 3 ounces…more disrupts my sleep and gives me a headache)
Sweet Riot 85% dark chocolate, 6 squares
Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt (1 cup) with ½ cup Müesli (Familia, no-added-sugar) and blueberries; Grapefruit Juice; Black Coffee
Lunch: Hummus and Feta on whole wheat bread; Sliced apple; English Breakfast tea
Snack: 1 banana; lots of Water
My favorite Escarole and Beans
Chardonnay (3 ounces again)
Dark Chocolate (another 6 squares of Sweet Riot 85%)
All Bran cereal (2/3 cup) mixed with Early Bird Granola (1/3 cup) topped with blueberries; Grapefruit Juice; Black Coffee
Snack: Emmi Swiss Yogurt (creamy and sweet, as delicious as a dessert); lots of water
Lunch: Whole Wheat cinnamon raisin toast topped with almond butter; Sliced Pineapple; English Breakfast Tea
Aha! My first test. I had a date with my sister-in-law. She’s always trying to lose weight (even though she is not heavy) and we were happily fantasizing about grilled brussels sprouts. I had told her I was eating vegetarian while her brother/my husband was away. My husband texted me that he would be home in time for dinner. We switched restaurants to one that was larger and could accommodate all four of us. What to eat? I opted for the fish special (roasted Sea Bass in a sherry wine sauce – which was too sweet) and I substituted broccoli rabe for the risotto side. It was good, but not great. The problem with restaurant meals is that they cook with too much fat and too much salt. I missed my healthy dinners. And was so thirsty from the salt!
Okay, it’s Day 4 and how to continue? Breakfast and lunch are easy. I will have a whole wheat bagel with goat cheese for breakfast and a salad of quinoa and black beans for lunch. For dinner, my daughter returns from Spain today and we are going to make one of her favorite family dinners: Grilled steak tacos. These tacos are delicious! We grill steak, sauté corn and red pepper and red onion, top with guacamole and salsa, and roll it all up in one’s tortilla of choice (corn, plain, whole wheat). I have been gradually eating mine with less and less steak and will continue to do so tonight. A little bit of steak, probably 1-2 ounces. And tomorrow, I will cook for my daughter. She has been interested in eating more like me, so I will make our favorite Sunday morning oatmeal and our favorite Sunday lunchtime lentil soup. For dinner, I am fantasizing about my husband’s grilled salmon – the very first thing he cooked for me 20 years ago when I fell in love with him. I think we will be able to work out our eating differences – with love, respect and some compromise.
- 4 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
- 1 cup of celery and carrots, chopped fine
- 1 cup of Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
- 2/3 cup of lentils (French Green)
- 2 Tablespoons barley
- Thyme, salt and pepper
- 4 cups of liquid (Water or Vegetable Broth or Chicken Broth) (I prefer Chicken Broth. I am not a good vegetarian. Water is too bland. Vegetable Broth tastes weird. Too sweet. Sigh.)
Saute garlic, celery and carrots, potatoes in olive oil – for 10 minutes until lightly browned.
Add liquid, lentils, barley, seasoning. Simmer for about an hour.
Serves 4 – 6.