I went vegetarian for a week to see if I could still do it. When I lived in New York as a young actress, I became a vegetarian for several years. I had a friend who was a vegan who helped me learn about a vegetarian lifestyle.
When I told my doctor that I became a vegetarian he said, “Great, have you lost any weight?” and I told him no, that I actually gained weight. And he said, “Ah, that’s because everyone’s default is to eat pasta and cheese to substitute for meat. If you want to be a vegetarian, you have to eat vegetables.”
I also used to eat things like un-turkey sandwiches or “meats” made from wheat gluten. But these are highly processed foods. Even tofu is highly processed. They may have some nutritional value and be low calorie, but they are not the same as eating fresh vegetables.
So this time when I experimented with vegetarianism I made a point to eat mostly vegetables, a large variety of vegetables.
I started the week by making a batch of hummus and homemade pesto with basil from the garden. It’s so much fun to make something from an ingredient you grew yourself over the summer.
Most days I only ate two meals, not for any dietary reasons. It just worked out that way. I slept in all week and my first meal of the day was a breakfast/lunch combo. Then I had dinner each day between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.
I tried not to default to pasta for dinner, although I didn’t avoid it either. I love pasta and I usually eat it 2-3 times a week whether it’s for lunch or dinner or a side dish.
Here are some of the meals I ate throughout the week.
- Homemade hummus with toast, peach, banana
- Gnocchi with homemade basil pesto and fava beans (here’s a video of me making pesto)
- Eggplant and lemon sandwich on crusty semolina bread (I had this twice during the week because it was so good)
- Linguine with zucchini (Here’s the video with a recipe by Meghan Markle)
- Potato, Onion, Tomato bake (side dish)
- Eggs over easy with toast and avocado
- Mushroom, Tomato, Provolone Sandwich on Grilled Italian flatbread with green salad
- Fettuccine with onions, shallot, garlic, grape tomatoes, lemon (video below, filmed live)
- Sandwich Two Ways:
one half with tomato sauce, provolone, oregano
other half with pesto, mushrooms, tomato, provolone
- Veggie soft tacos with black beans, onions, yellow pepper, tomato, broccoli slaw, portobello mushrooms, served with rice pilaf
- Italian toast with purple cabbage slaw and tomatoes, homemade peach vinaigrette
- Stromboli with tomato sauce, cheese, leafy greens (I usually make this with pepperoni so I made a simple adjustment)
How I feel
After eating vegetarian for a week I feel lighter, clear-headed, energetic, and positive. I feel like I only ate foods that were good for me, and nothing that will do me any harm. I haven’t gone hungry or feel like I’ve been sacrificing. I don’t think about snacking at night. I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway, so it wasn’t a difficult week. I remember the first time I went vegetarian it was a major lifestyle adjustment for me. Not so this time.
What eating vegetarian for a week taught me
You have to be creative. We’re so used to basing our meals around meat that our vegetables and grains are always a side dish.
Eating mostly vegetables kept me full. I didn’t even think about snacking at night. I was satisfied with dinner. I also didn’t wake up hungry despite only eating two meals a day. I won’t continue to only eat two meals a day. It just happened that I was taking somewhat of a vacation week, so I allowed myself to sleep in.
You need to eat a variety of foods for two reasons: for balanced nutrition and so you don’t get bored.
It’s so easy to default to pasta, eggs, cheese, and all of the comforting filler foods. I should have added more interesting grains like barley, quinoa, farro, etc.
You have to be willing to cook. It’s the only way to really know what is in your food. I try to avoid processed foods. There are a lot of highly processed vegetarian options in the supermarket, things like frozen burritos, macaroni and cheese, canned soups, and more. I made a point to make everything fresh.
I slept well. I don’t usually have trouble sleeping anyway, but I did notice that I slept very soundly. I didn’t wake up at all in the middle of the night.
Without trying I lost 3 pounds. I didn’t go hungry and I didn’t snack. Over the course of the week, some bloat and weight naturally dropped off.
I miss poultry. I love turkey and I cook chicken at least once a week. But other than that I really don’t miss meat. I limit the amount of beef I eat anyway, and I don’t eat pork except in little bits like pancetta. It wasn’t a hardship at all to leave meat out completely.
I miss fish. I eat tuna sandwiches a couple of times a week. I love branzino, salmon, mackerel, and all kinds of fish. I try to limit shellfish but I do love it, especially mussels and shrimp. I don’t want to give it up.
I’m going to limit the amount of meat and poultry I eat even more so than I did before this week. I eat too much chicken mainly because it’s easy to come up with chicken dinner ideas. There are so many ways to be creative with vegetables that I know I can come up with interesting and satisfying dinners.
Fish is a big part of the Mediterranean diet. I’m going to add more of this to my diet because I love it.
It’s easy to snack on fruit in the summer. I’ll have to be a little more creative when the winter months come.
Have you ever tried to eat a vegetarian diet, even if it was just for a week? Did you like it? How did it make you feel? Let me know in the comments section.
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