Joining the DietsInReview.com Diet Blog today is Monica Shaw, a freelance writer who specializes in science, health, fitness and food. She is the primary author of the website and blog, SmarterFitter.com.
When people find out I’m a vegetarian, they often ask “what do you eat?” I sometimes ask myself the same question, but after 15 years of being meat-free, the answers are almost second nature to me. Still, many people see my lifestyle as “hard” or downright impossible, especially when they find out that I’m a cyclist and a swimmer.
Where do I get my protein?
Am I getting enough iron?
What about omega-3 fats?
Surely you must miss bacon?
True, some ask because they are skeptical about my diet, but many others ask because they want to cut down on their own meat consumption for various health or environmental reasons. I don’t mind which camp you fall into; I’m always happy to talk about food. Here’s how this vegetarian typically gets her daily fill of protein, carbs and fat.
Breakfast is almost always Bircher muesli, a delicious cereal of uncooked rolled oats, apricots, almonds and flaxseeds that have been soaked in water overnight, then mixed with grated apple and lemon juice. I eat this with yogurt and honey or a bit of sliced banana and it’s perfect for warm, summer days.
Next to its natural sweetness, the best thing about Bircher muesli is its packability. If I hit the pool in the morning before work, I can take my muesli with me and enjoy a satisfying, post-workout breakfast that’s way more tasty and nutritious than a Power Bar.
During the week, lunch is usually a variation on the theme of leftover beans: minestrone soup, mixed-bean chili, or lentil dal, just to name a few. I make big batches of this stuff which I freeze in individual portions making lunch as easy as a trip to the microwave. When I have extra time (and I almost always have time for good food), I make up a fresh salad to go with it.
On weekends, lunchtime favors the stove and toaster over the microwaves:
- Black bean tacos with avocado, tomato and fresh cilantro
- Tofu “scrambled” with onion, green pepper and tomato, seasoned with turmeric, soy sauce, and chili flakes then served with toast
- Vegetarian mixed bean chili served over a baked potato or with corn bread
- Whole-wheat bread with hummus and mixed veggies (pictured)
- Poached eggs on toast with steamed spinach
- Veggie omelet with toast
I’ve already eluded to some of my dinners which often make their way to the freezer or my lunchbox. Indian food is very popular, as it’s easy to make, high in protein, and absolutely delicious. My meals vary throughout the year, depending on the season, but lentils, beans and tofu are a mainstay. My favorite go-to easy meals are :
- Indian lentil dal with steamed greens and basmati rice
- Pasta and chickpeas with tomato sauce served with steamed broccoli or mixed salad
- Quinoa with puy lentils cooked in vegetable stock, served with greens pan-fried in onion and garlic
- Curried chickpeas with tomato and spinach, served with basmati rice
- Tofu and vegetables stir fried with garlic, ginger and soy sauce, served with brown rice
- Roasted eggplant, tomato, red pepper and thyme served with crusty white bread and a glass of red wine
- Tempeh sloppy joes (pictured above)
The foods I’ve described are my staples, but one of the things I love about being a vegetarian is that it forces me to constantly experiment with new recipes and techniques. Sometimes it’s fun to spend hours in the kitchen, but my favorite success is when I find something new to add to my list of reliable easy meals.