meat free for me

April 21, 2011

Tonight’s guest post comes from Alexa @ Simple Eats. Alexa gave up meat for the Lenton season and has some tips for those of you who are thinking about going meat free!

Hey there, Clean-Eating Chelsey readers! When brainstorming guest post ideas, I thought it would be interesting to share my current experience of not eating meat. Seeing as this is new to me, veggie-friendly blogs like Chelsey’s have been super helpful in giving me ideas while I go meat free. I’ve picked up a few tips along the way, and I’ve created some great meals as well!

I grew up eating meat. I often had it for lunch in my sandwiches, and for dinner, in the form of chicken or red meat. I ate it and grew to like it, but when I went to college, I rarely ate anything other than chicken. A steak was a luxury and I would almost never think to buy one for myself.

Nowadays, I still enjoy white meat like chicken and turkey, but decided to give it up for the Lenten season. (I gave up chocolate, too…crazy, I know!) I knew the chocolate would be hard, but I pretty much brushed off the meat challenge since I only eat meat about twice a week, if that. It’s been tough, but I now see through the eyes of someone who either can’t or chooses not to eat meat. What I’ve learned along the way:

1. Ask questions at restaurants!

When a group of friends and I went to a chain restaurant, I had no clue what I was going to do. Get a chicken wrap? Nope. Grilled chicken salad? Scratch that. Instead, I asked the waiter if I could get a quesadilla with just veggies. I was pleasantly surprised, it was delicious! You really will never know how restaurants can accommodate you until you ask!

2. Protein, protein, protein!

As soon as I started out on my meat-free diet, I was always hungry. I eat very healthy and know that protein is important, but without the occasional turkey sandwich or chicken breast, I was lost. I was consuming more carbs and cheese than usual and couldn’t figure out why I was hungry all the time. I realized I needed more protein! This is probably no news to many of you, but I didn’t realize how helpful it is to include things like lentils, beans and other legumes. The more protein I ate, the more energy I had and more satiated I felt! Along the way, I’ve created a few recipes that are higher in protein and delicious!

       Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole 

casserole

       Lentil, Barley and Bean Chili 

chili

       Garlic Bean Pasta sauce

pasta

Question: What is your tip for someone who is thinking about going vegetarian?

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

simplynutritiouskate April 21, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I love alexa’s blog and definitely need to try those enchiladas! I usually drink a protein shake after I workout with plenty of greens to get me through my day!

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runyogarepeat April 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Congrats Alexa on giving up meat for Lent & getting creative! My tips are to just try new things because you never know what you may like.

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Shanna, like Banana April 21, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Explore many different brands of protein sources and brands: try Morningstar Black Bean burgers or Boca Grillers, or Amy’s teriyaki bowls, or SmartDog hotdogs, or Trader Joe’s tempeh. So many options!

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Jess April 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm

That is quite an undertaking–no meat AND chocolate. Major props! Awesome guest post too :D

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cleaneatingchelsey April 22, 2011 at 6:47 am

I agree!!!

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applesnoats April 21, 2011 at 8:09 pm

protein is such a key factor!i can always tell when i’m not getting enough because I have cravings out the gazoo and am always hungry!

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cleaneatingchelsey April 22, 2011 at 6:47 am

I know when I’m making a sandwich for the Husband and look at the lunchmeat and say “oh that looks good” that I need to bust out a green monster or something! haha!

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Parita April 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Eggs, beans, nut butters, tofu, greek yogurt…they all help me stay full! Being a vegetarian is hard sometimes, but I’m really starting to see more and more options out there that are healthy and filling.

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cleaneatingchelsey April 22, 2011 at 6:48 am

I agree! Vegetarian/vegan proteins are so easy to fill up on if you know how to prepare it!

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Krista @ Journey to a Healthy Berg April 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I’m going to your page right now to look at that garlic bean pasta sauce!

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Christine @ Merf In Progress April 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Those enchiladas look FIERCE!

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char April 21, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I would just say protein as well…finding ways to incorporate it! I’m trying to cut out meats too and just trying to figure out other ways I’ll get my protein!!

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E April 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm

Mmm.. those look good! Protein is so important, especially if working out is a regular part of your life! When I’m on the go, I literally just eat a spoonful of PB or a protein bar. When I have more time, it’s beans or lentils.
My advice for anyone going vegetarian (or especially going vegan) is to have good reasons for doing it. If you don’t, you won’t stick with it!

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cleaneatingchelsey April 22, 2011 at 6:49 am

I agree – there have been so many times where I think “oh I could really go for X right now” until I actually remember WHY I gave it up in the first place.

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Lauren April 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Such an interesting personal challenge. I think it’s great that you were able to come up with some creative meat-free meals :) I would tell someone who is thinking of going veg to think long and hard about *why* they’re doing it. It’s much easier to obstain when you are passionate about the decision.

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gabriellaroselli April 21, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I love Alexa’s blog and the fact that she gave up meat for lent. Like her, I eat chicken a couple times a week as well as fish, but steaks are basically only when I’m home. I could probably give up red meat if I didn’t love the taste of an amazingly juicy burger, but I’ve come to consider that to be a treat rather than a 3 time a week staple. One of my biggest tips is just to find the foods that you love, learn how to cook them and spice them up to your tastings. If you like the flavor combos, leaving out meat isn’t as difficult as it seems.

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It All Changes April 21, 2011 at 10:34 pm

The biggest thing for me was knowing other things I could use in place of meat. I love a variety of beans and lentils. Nuts are a great addition.

Don’t think of it as giving up meat. Think of all the fun new things you can try.

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Cara April 21, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Beans and nuts are your best friend! Lots of protein and satisfying fiber!

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veggiegrettie April 22, 2011 at 12:40 am

Start out with Meatless Mondays and challenge yourself to try one new meatless recipe per week…your body will thank you!

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cleaneatingchelsey April 22, 2011 at 6:50 am

Thats a great idea!

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Jen@jensdaily April 22, 2011 at 5:21 am

I’m not an “official” vegetarian, but I rarely have meat and prefer vegg options. Beans, lentils and lots of greek yogurt are my best protein friends ;)

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cleaneatingchelsey April 22, 2011 at 6:50 am

It’s awesome to see others who aren’t vegetarian relying on vegetarian proteins!

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Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin April 22, 2011 at 7:26 am

I’m not a vegetarian, but I’d say I eat meat free about 75% of the time lately! Beans and tofu are my go-to proteins. I’ve never thought to use beans in a pasta sauce though – I’ve got to check out that recipe! :D

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rdexposed April 22, 2011 at 7:39 am

Have your purposes. If you have no strong reason to go vegetarian, you mostly likely won’t stick to it or won’t be happy.

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Elizabeth@The Sweet Life April 22, 2011 at 8:42 am

Great post–nut butters and chilis/soups have been real saviors for me in terms of getting protein and fats!

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Claire @ Live & Love to Eat April 22, 2011 at 9:02 am

I agree with RDexposed. It’s important to know why you’re doing it – and to have the answer ready for when people say, “What do you MEAN you don’t eat meat? WHY?” It gets old fast.

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Alexis @ There She Goes April 22, 2011 at 9:05 am

beans!

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Can You Stay for Dinner April 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I love Alexa :)

I love beans, tofu, and tempeh. Oh dear, and nut butter. So so much nut butter :) The thing I found when I started cutting back on meat consumption was that I got more creative. I found a whole slew of new veggies, grains, and fresh ingredients. I guess it forced me to explore more

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Leila (spinach and skittles) April 23, 2011 at 1:19 am

I gave up meat for Lent too! The first week was fine, but the second week I was famished. I made my husband try to give it up too, but he only lasted 2.5 weeks ;) By the 4th week I was very used to it, but it definitely took my body that full 4 weeks to get used to it. I almost gave up, (because I was so tired), but I am glad I pushed through. I think my biggest tip would be: plan ahead. I meal plan every Sunday, assessing what I’ve got in the pantry, fridge and freezer and building from there. I explored other protein sources (lentils & beans mostly), and found I was much more satisfied with lots of spices added in so my dishes didn’t seem like side dishes, but more like meals.
I am going back to meat after Easter, but I did talk the hubs into eating more vegetarian dinners :)

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