New Years has arrived and I can almost hear the diet and detox discussions which will take over the world within the next few days. The vegetarian/ vegan diet has been the centre of many health discussions over the past year due to the rise of more and more juices bars and vegan/ veggie friendly cafes and restaurants. I think it’s safe to say that it’s finally “cool” to not eat meat. I have been a complete vegetarian for over 14 years now and I thought it was about time I mentioned in here on my blog. Becoming a vegetarian is a big decision so hopefully this might help a little…
My Vegetarian Background
I won’t bore you with the details as to why I became a vegetarian but I’ll just say that at even at such a young age, I knew it was something I wanted to do.. not just as a phase but for life. I was never a huge meat-eater as a kid and I’ve always been an animal enthusiast..so it all just sorta made sense.
People have the misguided assumption that being on a vegetarian diet is uber healthy and of course it can be.. but it’s also very tough to avoid going down a very very unhealthy route. For example, I found being a vegetarian in college meant A LOT of carbs…pasta, noodles, pizza.. OH MY! To combat this, You need to make sure that you are getting enough fruit and veg…which really is the essence of being a vegetarian and try to limit the amount of heavy carbohydrates at every meal.
The Issue of Iron…(duh duh duh)
It’s not a secret that vegetarianism has been closely associated with anaemia or iron-deficiency. I’m no stranger to the very common comment “You need meat to be strong and healthy”. This statement is false. You can be strong and healthy as a vegetarian… but you need to be a little smarter with your food choices.
My family doctor has never been fully supportive of my vegetarian ways, which is probably due to my anaemic past. Anaemia is essentially a lack of red blood cells which means your body cannot receive the adequate amount of oxygen to function at its best. The symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, pale complexion and so on.
You can avoid iron deficiency very easily by ensuring you take a supplement every day and eating iron rich foods such as:
- Green leafy veg (spinach, kale and cabbage)
- Pulses (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans)
- Certain cereal products
- Nuts and dried fruits.
My Vegetarian Super-foods!
No, us veggies don’t just eat veg and fruit and Yes, a vegetarian diet can be JUST as interesting and diverse as a meat-eaters… you just need a little creativity. There’s a few foods that I make sure to always have in my fridge to add to my meals. Not only are they nutritious but they are also tasty meat -alternatives.
- Halloumi is an excellent option for vegetarians. I often use it in stir-fries, pittas and wraps as a meat-like substitute. It has a chicken-esque texture and fries in minutes! I am not a fan of Quourn in the slightest so this is where halloumi comes in with dishes where veg just does not cut it!
- As sad as it may sound, chickpeas are a huge part of my life! Whether its mashed up as humous, oven-baked as a crunchy snack or simply tossed in a salad, they are a delicious ingredient that can jazz up any vegetarian’s meal. They are highly nutritious, containing fibre, protein AND iron.
- Eggs: There’s lots of controversy surrounding vegetarians eating eggs. I’m just going to put it out there, that I do. It doesn’t harm the animal and I only eat free-range. They are vital in making sure I get enough protein in my diet, you can have them at any meal time and they are awesome at filling you up. Fried, boiled, scrambled, omelettes, quiche… the options are endless and delicious.
If you are still a little unsure of the whole veggie thang or you need more inspiration, there are a few places I like to visit to give me some fresh new ideas.
- Vegetarian Times: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/ : The title says it all really. This is a great all-rounder for vegetarians. Tips, recipes.. its a mini community for vegetarians worldwide.
- Naturally Ella: http://naturallyella.com/ Whenever I’m feeling fancy and want to make something a bit…different. Naturally Ella is my number one go to spot! Her recipes look swish, taste delicious and are surprisingly reasonably easy to make. She has a lovely down to earth chatty way of speaking in her blog..and I hope at some stage we can be vegetarian friends.
- Oh She Glows: http://ohsheglows.com/ I’ve already decided Angela from Oh She Glows is my January 2015 inspiration. Her blog is technically Vegan but there’s still some really tasty ideas to take on board. All of her recipes are organic, healthy and guaranteed to have you feeling delish this new year.
- Pinterest: Ok, so this may look like a cop-out but honestly, it’s where I get the majority of my veggie meal ideas. I could spend literally HOURS scrooling through pin boards of veggie-friendly breakfasts, smoothie recipes and famous celeb vegetarians.
So technically this little section is really only applicable to my Irish readers but hopefully some of you will find it interesting nevertheless. Here are a few of my favourite spots to dine in around Dublin:
- Staple Foods; The sorta place that will not only make your belly happy but also your instagram account. Trendy new cafe-esque spot that does everything from poached eggs to falafel plates. http://staplefoods.ie/menu/
- Farm; The definition of clean eating. This place is organic, fresh and delicious. Literally everything tastes AMAZING! Trust me on this. http://www.thefarmfood.ie/
- Cornucopia: A Wholefood/ Vegetarian restaurant serves food alongside a picturesque view and ambient music. Lovely place to take friends or relax on a Sunday afternoon. http://www.cornucopia.ie/food/
- Govindas: The best for when you are reeeally hungry. Fill your plates to the brim at the buffet with Indian style vegetarian dishes. Lots of choice on offer and great value for your money. Perfect for students or those on a budget!
Vegetarianism shouldn’t just be a diet fad, it should be a lifestyle. So whether you become a vegetarian because of morals or health reasons, make sure it’s because it’s something you really want to do. The rise in vegetarianism has risen hugely over the past decade, with more and more veggie options readily available than ever before. I know I for one, am very glad to no longer being the fussy social outcast but instead the uber-trendy new age vegetarian!