Eskimo Nebula

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vegetarian Awareness Month/ My story about Vegetarianism

I need to preface this entry by saying that this still needs to be edited a bit more, but I've been so delayed in posting (it's been almost 2 weeks; since I started writing it!) it that it's kind of driving me a bit nuts and with my schedule right now; I at least want to share something with you. It is a longer post than usual and will be a bit ranty in some parts, but I hope that you do find some points of interest. It's a portion of my story of vegetarianism and why I chose to be a Vegetarian. 

Hello Everybody,

I'm really tired right now, but still excited and awake enough to post about Vegetarian Awareness Month.

If you check out the website below and you take their pledge to go Vegetarian for a day; they could actually win some pretty cool stuff; aside from the satisfaction that they are helping our world in the process as well. =)

Reeling this back into Vegetarian Awareness month, when I was in Orlando I did do some Disney; it's kind of unavoidable especially; if you're staying at one of the Disney Resorts as well. At one of the shops where I was buying souvenirs for my nieces the cashier asked me 'Are you a vegetarian?' and even though I had an idea she asked me that question because I had on one of my very famous Veggie Heaven shirt, I still decided to ask her' Are you a vegetarian too?' The cashier said 'no', and I said of course' Oh you put the two and two together by reading my shirt.' She then asked me 'So, what do you eat?' Which I was ready to answer, but there were a billion people in line so I just trailed off with 'It's funny how many times I've heard that...there is actually a great variety of things for vegetarians to eat....'

You can tell this is going to turn into the Vegetarian statement blog entry; can't you?

So, let's begin with my own story about Vegetarianism and why I chose to be a Vegetarian. I was around 10 or 11 years old when I decided to stop eating red meat. My general philosophy at that point was ' I don't need to eat red meat to survive; so why should I continue to do as such?' I also have always loved all the world's creatures and I consider every living thing as a friend and as such do not want to eat my friends. A year after I stopped eating red meat, I also stopped eating poultry. Six months after ceasing to eat poultry I stopped eating all seafood. There really wasn't a point to consume red meat, poultry or seafood to me because I knew that a human could survive on plant based diet alone. I also did not want to partake in the killing of animals solely for food purposes. It was a bigger challenge being a Vegetarian at that young of an age because there really was not as much awareness back then and dealing with culture and family issues didn't help it either.

I can remember being sent away to a summer camp (against my protests, nonetheless) and the people there having been told that I was a Vegetarian; did somewhat make an effort when we were in the dining hall, but most of the time they wouldn't tell me on which table that the Vegetarian food was located.I think it was vegetable lasagna one night and because they never told me, I just sat at the table and I think maybe ate a bread roll if anything. I walked up to go to use the restroom and on my way there, what did I see? A table with the vegetarian lasagna on it ( I think it was was one of those frozen stouffer's trays) nearly empty and devoured by some burlier camp counselors.... pfffftt! Then there was the last to final day of the camp (which I was grateful for because I was not enjoying myself) and it was trip to Cedar Point (a famous amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio) which I was really happy about, but on the day I was yet again let down. Not only did the group of girls I had to walk around with not ride a lot of the roller coasters, but they insisted on riding the carousel at least 6 times in a row ( you can ride a carousel anywhere! This is Cedar Point, ride the roller coasters, darn it!), but when it came to lunch time in the picnic area; they had packed cheeseburgers for everybody and with a false spark of hope they said ' Oh and we have a Vegetarian one for you.' They handed this foil wrapped sandwich to me and I opened it and what did I see? A sad looking hamburger bun with wilted lettuce and a slice of nasty processed american cheese. Ick. I had to eat it otherwise I wouldn't have gotten anything for the rest of the day. I think that's part of the reason I got sick during the week because I wasn't getting enough adequate nutrition.

Yes, people sometimes do not understand concepts and they overcompensate due to their ignorance. I remember a long while ago going through a Taco Bell Drive-thru with my family and they placed their orders and I had asked for a bean burrito and also a hard-shell taco with no meat in it. You should always check your food order before driving away because when we were driving away down the road the food was distributed and I was handed my bean burrito and also my hard-shell no meat taco. Hmmm... well the bean burrito was obviously there, but when I unwrapped the hard-shell taco what did I find? There was only a taco shell in the paper wrapper and it was broken as well! Ughhhhhh.....

There have been better experiences though for instance when I was having a pre-dance dinner with bunch of classmates at a local Italian restaurant and I ordered a Vegetarian pasta dish. I think I picked it out because it had pine nuts in it and I was all about pine nuts during that time =) When the dish came to the table I saw that there were strips of ham in it and I quickly pointed it out to the waitress and she apologized and took it back. She then brought out a new dish sans meat and my meal was comped as well. =)

A lot of restaurants have vegetarian options on their menus, but even now it's still pretty limited and you order  dishes minus the meat, but I would still love to see a great variety from which to choose. It's happening and will continue to progress, but you know =)

Today, you may be able to find a good sizable amount of the population in the Philippines actually identifying themselves as Vegetarian/Vegan, but in previous decades....oh my. I didn't grow up in the Philippines, but I grew up in a Filipino American household. Culturally, Filipinos consume a great deal of meat in form of pork, beef, chicken fish etc. Not to say that there aren't a lot of great vegetables in the Philippines, but the cuisine is definitely meat-centric. Up until I stopped eating red meat, I ate steak, longanisa, bacon, chicken adobo, sesame shrimp,dilis, calamari, dried ika and so forth. I cannot argue that all of that food didn't taste delicious or appetizing at the time, but I couldn't do it anymore. I knew what the cost of each bite was and I was not happy with those hard facts. A lot times when other Filipinos learn that I am a Vegetarian they still sometimes will say' How can you be a Vegetarian when you're Filipino?'  The simple answer to that is because ' I am and I choose to be a Vegetarian. It doesn't matter my age,gender or cultural identity, I choose the way that I want to live as an individual being.'

Bodhi Vegetarian Restaurants- The last time I was in the Philippines; at a foodcourt in one of the many SMmegamalls, I found a true gem called 'Bodhi' which means 'Lotus' It is a chain that can be found in southeast asia and some parts of Australia and New Zealand. They produce all vegetarian/vegan cuisine, but for this area they made regional/national delights, but all vegetarian. They had vegetarian Karekare, complete with vegetarian bagoong etc. I was blown away. I was almost amazed at the price. At the time it was just 50 Pesos for a serving of rice and 2 entrees and a drink. That was less than one u.s. dollar.

In the United States it is really easy to find good products and information about Vegetarian/Vegan lifestyles and this increasingly is the way it is becoming across most of the world. It doesn't mean that I still do not have to 'explain myself' from time to time to non-vegetarians though. It sometimes gets boring to answer, but I'm really not that bothered by answering their questions. How will they learn about something if they've never heard about it or if nobody has ever told them about it either?

I've met people who have previously 'been vegetarian' before, but most of the time it turns out that they didn't do their research and figure out how to get full balanced/proper nutrition on a plant based diet. They knew that they weren't supposed to eat meat, but they knew nothing beyond that. Just because you're a vegetarian, doesn't mean that all you can eat is bread and cheese, cookies and who knows what other type of 'filler foods' (ha, you might even call them 'killer foods' =0) . Since you no longer have animal based protein in your diet you need to get your protein by combining foods. There are a few grains or legumes that are complete proteins like Quinoa and Soybeans, but for the most part you will have to combine a grain and a legume to make a full protein. For example if you're eating garbanzos, yes those are full of protein and other goodness, but if you eat them with some whole grain brown rice or pasta you've then created a complete and balanced meal in regards to protein. In order to be a successful vegetarian you and I know this is going to sound redundant, but eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables. I know that it seems like that is already implied, but it still needs to be said nonetheless.

1. Quinoa and other whole grains

Whole grains are a great source of protein, but the queen of whole grains when it comes to protein content is quinoa. Unlike many sources of vegetarian protein, quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a "complete protein". Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as nine grams of fiber. Other whole grains, including whole grain bread, brown rice, barleyare all healthy protein-rich foods for vegetarians and vegans as well.
Protein content: One cup of cooked quinoa provides about 18 grams of protein.
Why you should eat it: Whole grains are a bargain! Shop in bulk and you can stock up on whole grains for about $1.50 a pound.

2. Beans, Lentils and Legumes

All beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent vegetarian and vegan source of protein, so eat whichever one you like! Black beans, kidney beans, Indian dhalvegetarian chili, split pea soup and chickpea hummus - pick one and watch the protein grams add up. Soy is a bean as well, but because soy and its derivatives are such a popular source of protein for vegetarians, it merits it's own entry below.
Protein content: One cup of canned kidney beans contains about 13.4 grams of protein.
Why you should eat it: Beans are one of the most common protein-rich foods for vegetarians. You can find beans in the grocery store or on the menu just about everywhere you may be.

3. Tofu and other soy products

Soy is such a flavor chameleon that you'll never get bored! You may have tried tofu and soy milk before, but what about edamame, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy nuts or soy cheese? TVP and tempeh are also protein-rich soy foods. As an added bonus, many brands of tofu and soymilk are fortified with other nutrients that vegetarians and vegans need, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12. And yes, I didjust give you permission to eat soy ice cream to get your protein.
Protein content: A half-cup of tofu contains 10 grams, and soy milk contains 7 grams of protein per cup.
Why you should eat it: You can add a bit of tofu to just about anything you cook, including stir-fries, pasta sauces, soups and salads.

4. Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters

Nuts, including peanuts, cashews, almonds and walnuts all contain protein, as do seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Because most nuts and seeds are high in fat, you don't want to make them your primary source of protein. But they're great as a post-workout or occasional snack. Nut butters are delicious as well, and kids of course love peanut butter. Try soy nut butter or cashew nut butter for a little variety if you're bored of peanut butter.
Protein content: Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein.
Why you should eat it: Convenience! Stop into any 7-11 and pick up a snack of nuts to get a protein boost. And of course, kids love peanut butter too.

5. Seitan, Veggie Burgers and Meat Substitutes

Read the label of your store-bought meat substitute products andveggie burgers and you'll find they are quite high in protein! Most commercial meat substitutes are made from either soy protein, wheat protein (wheat gluten) or a combination of the two. So toss a few veggie burgers on the grill or in the microwave, and watch those daily protein grams add right up. Homemade seitan is quite high in protein as well.
Protein content: One veggie patty contains about 10 grams of protein, and 100 grams of seitan provides 21 grams of protein.
Why you should eat it: Seitan and mock meats are great for barbecues or anytime you just want something hearty and filling.
Pictured: Seitan meat substitute

6. Protein Supplements

So what if you are an Olympic body builder or are trying to gain some serious muscle? In this case, your protein needs will be higher than us average vegetarians and you may be considering supplementing with protein powders or protein shakes. My personal trainer says to read the label and watch out for cheap fillers in whey and soy protein powders. She says it's best to shell out and invest in a good quality. I personally recommend hemp protein powder and green proteins as well.
Protein content: Varies by brand, so read the label.
Why you should eat it: Well, you shouldn't really unless you have special protein needs, as real food is always best.
Pictured: Strawberry protein shake

7. High Protein Recipe Ideas

So, now you know what to eat to make sure you get plenty of protein. If you'd like some recipe ideas using these high-protein vegetarian foods, scroll through this collection of vegetarian and vegan recipes. Each of these recipes has at least 12 grams of protein per serving.
Pictured: Vegetarian Quiche with 20 grams of protein

I borrowed the above information from an article and you can view the full article here:

Some other questions I've gotten over the years are:

Q:Aren't you ever tempted to eat meat?

A: No, I am not tempted by meat because it is nothing that I want and I do not agree with the suffering that is involved in the process of bringing it to store or dinner tables.

Q: Not even by bacon?

A: No, not even by bacon. I really do not like the smell of bacon at all; it actually makes me feel a bit sick.

Non-vegetarians also sometimes like to toy with me with taunts about 'Then why does meat taste so good?'
My retort may sometimes be 'Vegetables taste very good too and you should try eating more of them.' Understand that I do not have a seething rage against people who choose to eat meat; I only have a problem with meat eaters when they obviously do not appreciate where and how it came to be in their mouths/tables. Ideally, I would like people to just appreciate where everything comes from and be grateful; instead of taking things for granted.  That's pretty much a key philosophy that I adhere to within my life.

There are a number of good reasons to go Vegetarian/Vegan and a lot of resources can be found both online at at your local library. You can even just go to the local health food store (which really should just be called a 'food store' =) and talk to one of the attendant. You will probably run into one or two there as well and strike up a conversation from there.

I've now have been a Vegetarian for about 2/3 of my life and I'm happy to see that more and more people are understanding the reasoning behind this way of life. There are a lot more highly visible in the media who are Vegetarian/Vegan and have no problem speaking about it and sharing their lives and lending their names to great causes.

While searching through youtube one day I watched the following video from Peepchick101

As this is not my video posting; I cannot comment on the research for it, but feel free to do some web searching for yourself =)

So far in my life I've dealt with being the minority in a number of areas, but in regards to being Vegetarian and specifically being the only vegetarian in my household growing up and also at my place of work. As of right now I am the only vegetarian in the office. The highest number of vegetarians that have ever been in my office was a total of 3 including myself. Needless to say whenever you have another person on your team; it feels good. Right now, I'm flying solo, but it really doesn't change much other than I have less conversations about great vegetarian food/recipes etc. Earlier today we had a potluck and of course I'm going to bring something that I would be able to eat, but I never bring anything that would totally evade the non vegetarian crowd. This time around I brought in homemade hummus and also homemade chocolate chip cookies (which were vegan, but I didn't say anything about that. Perception is a funny thing. Preconceptions can be funny, but they can also stop you from experiencing a lot of great things in your life as well!

Well, I hope that wasn't too much for you to read, I'm sure I'll be back to edit it again one of these days.

Happy Vegetarian/Vegan Awareness Month!

I hope you do consider trying it for a day or a week.

Let me know how it goes!