Monday, 15 June 2009

Question for Vegetarians, Current & Lapsed

Less prominent among the great events of 2008 was the transition into full-on vegetarianism for me and FG. I haven't eaten any meat or fish since a smoked salmon sandwich one mid-spring day about a year ago.

In some ways this was a natural evolution. We were already eating very little meat and had been for quite some time. On another level, for me, it was not an obvious choice. Whereas FG used to reject meat and opt for tofu even as a little, and always complained that things like hamburgers made her stomach hurt, that was never me. I like protein, a lot, while I think she could subsist on bread, potatoes, pomegranates, and cherries.

Back in the day, I'd start to get a serious protein craving, and I'd take myself out for a burger, or I'd ask FG to make pork chops or roast a chicken, or I'd invite her out for a sushi date. Nowadays, things seem not quite so easy. Too much soy makes me feel unwell, so a constant stream of soy-based replacements is not the answer. And I don't seem to get quite the same sense of satisfaction from things like chick peas as I do from animal proteins--which means a lot of omelette requests, in my case.

So I eat a lot of eggs and a mix of soy and non-soy meat substitutes and dairy stuff and some legume-stuff too (I love peanut butter). But I still feel this relatively constant, low-level craving for MORE PROTEIN. And on occasion, when I eat an almost-all-protein meal (like fried eggs & fake sausages) I get a rush of well-being and strength, so I think I'm not just crazy or deluding myself.

If you've made it this far... fellow vegetarians, past & present, do you know what I'm talking about? Do you have any advice? I have to admit, I'm getting close to falling off the wagon & getting myself some fish or something like that...


Jess said...

I don't have protein cravings (maybe because I eat a lot of cheese?). Personally, I don't like to rely too much on meat replacements - they are processed foods, after all.

For a bit of variety I'd definitely recommend getting hold of some Halloumi cheese - cut it into fairly thick slices and fry it in olive oil up like bacon and have it in a salad/sandwich. It definitely hits that same spot as bacon does...

Things with nuts are probably good too: I'm a major fan of nut roast - only home-made, though, the ones you can buy in a packet are poor imitations and it's cheap and easy to make.

Getting hold of a decent veggie cookbook from the 70s could be good - they tend to have heavier, more satisfying meals. I live off the original Cranks book myself.

dolphyngyrl said...

I've been vegetarian for almost six years now (although I still occassionally eat seafood, and I'm all over eggs & cheese). I totally get what you're saying about the protein cravings... I know I'm not getting enough protein when I have a hard time driving by greasy fast food without drooling. Because, yes, it would be just like me to blow six years of vegetarianism on a greasy fast food taco.

You want protein with EVERY meal. Eggs and cheese are great, so are nuts and nut butters (have you tried almond butter? expensive but nummy). Beans and rice are supposed to be the "perfect protein". Try beans, rice, salsa and some cheese in a whole wheat tortilla. If you can get your hands on avocado, throw some slices in there, too.

If you haven't already, try seitan. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and is an excellent protein source. You can flavor it up any way you see fit, and you can even make seitan at home, instead of buying it from the store. One of my favorite forms of seitan is Primal Strips. Nothing like beef jerky, so don't get your hopes up, but it's got a fantastic, chewy, stick-in-your-teeth texture, and the flavors are so good. Personally, I'm fondest of mesquite lime, which has a burny-tartness that I really like.

Another thing that's good is TVP (texturized vegetable protein). I love using that like I would ground beef in spaghetti sauce, or add that to your beans & rice burrito (I'll admit to adding corn to the burritos, too... the kids LOVE them).

Seriously, though, every meal, even snacks. Personally, I've been taking hard boiled eggs and those baby bell cheeses to work, along with crunchy peanut butter (and fruits). It can be hard to keep up with without resorting to meat, but it can be done.

One place you might investigate for protein resources is Vegan Athlete. Looks like they've got lots of good links, I'd think they'd have great ideas for getting enough protein in a vegetarian diet.

Good luck!

Janet said...

I have the same issue and anemia runs in the family -- so I do break down and eat meat from time to time.

Less all the time but I still have some.

ladybrettashley said...

i'm not vegetarian anymore - having opted for occasional, local, grass-fed, hippie meat instead - but i was for a few years. for me it was more of a natural progression, but being of some sort of food-related ill-health (hypoglycemic, probably) i've had to pay a bit more attention to proteiney pick-me-ups.

my favorite snack for that is kidney beans. one of the few things that tastes decent straight out of the can (if it comes to that). to me, beans always seem much more substantial than chickpeas or tofu (which i do like, but it doesn't last. and i'm a bit nervy about over-consumption of soy products being an unhealthy reaction to health-consciousness.)

i'm also quite fond of bean and cheese tacos for a substantial (and simple) breakfast or snack.

that said, nothing vegetarian is on par with the amount of protein in meats, so i think dolphygyrl is probably right on with the *every meal* suggestion.

sorry about going of on tangents, and good luck =)

Bad Decision Maker said...

I'm not a vegetarian but I don't eat a lot of meat. My suggestions:

1) Have you tried seitan? It's not soy (wheat gluten), and is really hearty and satisfying and chicken-like. It also is really high protein, higher than tofu. I usually just stir fry it with some vegetables, garlic, oil, and soy sauce or broth.

2) I think breakfast is so important - especially a breakfast with lots of protein. I would go ahead and have your "eggs and fake sausage" or some other high-protein thing for breakfast. I like leftover cold pizza, and lots of other lunch/dinner foods. Having a good hearty breakfast keeps you satisfied and reduces cravings during the day.

3) Maybe you need an iron supplement? If your body is craving meat or something...

4) Also tempeh... it's part soy but part other grains. You can make veggie sloppy joes with it that are tasty. If you ask I can post the recipe

LL Cool Joe said...

I need to take you out for a big fat juicy burger mate! ;) :D

LesbianBride said...

22 years vegetarian here (became vego age 11) and I loved meat pre-vego. Occassionally I miss it, and I do get those meat cravings sometimes (more for a substantial meal that for some reason vego protein doesn't appear to replace).

WHen I do, I eat kidney beans - tons of them - in burritos or pasta or anything. Lentils too. Eggs, which you mentioned.

But I'm seriously considering starting to eat chicken for many reasons.

Good luck!

twoladiesinwaiting said...

I fell off the wagon -- although I remain primarily non-meat.

Eggs did get me through for a while.

Leo MacCool said...

thank you for all of this advice. we had seitan stirfry and it was fucking brilliant. i did end up have seafood over the weekend, too. eh, well, it was pretty damn good, too. will defintely try the halloumi & other suggestions, though nut roasts seem to be the exclusive preserve of uk vegetarians.