Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Adventures in Vegetarianism

Oh boy...where do I start?  Well, it's a longer story than I want to bore you with so I'll cut to a quick chronology and go back to more details in a different blog post.  When I had realized that much of my overeating was coming simply from large portions at most meals I had to look a little closer at a couple of things.  Why was I serving myself more food than I knew I should, and why the heck did my consumption of meat and dairy increase at least 100% over the last three years?  Um...because it's tasty? Yep. Sure.  It's tasty, but I really really don't need that much protein.  I think I got caught up in some kind of idea that I could eat all the meat I wanted to, as if, because it's "protein", it's healthy.  Well, I do think animal protein is healthy, but like all nutrients moderation is key.

In true "Tracy fashion" I see things in black and white, all or nothing.  So for some crazy reason I thought cutting out meat and dairy for a week or two could be interesting.....I also thought about cutting out wine....but that lasted for a couple of days before it became clear I was out of my mind.

Buying, preparing, cooking and eating vegetables is easy for me.  I often joke that I eat more vegetables that most vegetarians, and this is because I eat more food than most vegetarians!  And since I was totally loving my pumpkin chili, eating that, and a daily salad, is not hard for me to arrange.  But I found that unless I was 100% prepared with preplanned meals in place, cutting out meat increased the wanting of "snacky" foods like nuts, chips/crackers, breads and bagels.....and desserts! Desserts don't have meat.  When I wrote my book, The Swing, one of the parts in the diet section that was edited out was some of what I wrote about the difference between being a "vegetarian" and being a "non meat eater".  Those two things are not the same.

I don't have any moral judgements of eating animal meat right now, at this time of my life, but I can understand what it must be like for people that do.  I try and imagine eating human meat, which completely disgusts me (of course), although I also understand how, maybe, a black bear or a shark would find us tasty....somebody is right...hmnn, is it us, or is it them?  Okay...I'm getting off topic now....  No doubt if I had to kill my own food I would be a different person.  Not one that wouldn't eat meat, but one that might appreciate it more.

I did have a couple of other motivating factors come into play.  Yes I am getting older, but does that automatically mean I'm getting tired more easily?  Or does my diet have something to do with it?  Yes, I do eat mostly homemade foods, prepared from scratch, and I eat a ton of fiber....but why am I not "regular", or at least as regular as I used to be? (sorry TMI).  I also weigh 6-8lbs more than I say I want to, but yet I may find myself rationalizing how much I eat because it's "healthy".  I am finding some other interesting things happening with my body that wasn't necessarily happening before, so I'm wondering if it's related to nutrition.

At the end of the day I over think food and I over think eating....leading me to find myself
experiencing constantly feeling "over".

I will wrap it up, for now, by saying that I started this experiment early last week...oh yes, after I made my pumpkin pot roast (which I had to freeze by the way!).  So starting last Tuesday I managed to stay "meat-less" (and for the most part dairy free except for my cream in my no way I'm giving that up right now) until this Monday (6 days).  This was mainly because I wasn't 100% prepared, and I refused to "snack" nutritional calories away just to keep myself from eating meat.  I did start to explore different options.  Vegetable stir fry's, hearty vegetable dishes that included mushrooms, brussel sprouts, potato (sweet), squashes, etc. I also relaxed greatly about bread, although I didn't eat much, and grains in general.

My findings?  I might have felt a bit better in general.  Mostly I believe because I was out of balance to start with.  I have to admit that continuing on with a meat less and dairy less diet intrigues me BUT I have some "un common" common sense thoughts about it.  (which I will share as this process goes on)  I do, however, feel as if I was right about consuming too much animal protein (for me) and this morning's soup was a nice compromise.

I found these Fava Chickpeas at Whole Foods, from Bartolini.  Bartolini is an expensive brand, but I had never seen these before so I sacrificed and bought a 1.1 lb package.  (maybe $8-$10?  they had been sitting in my pantry for about 2 months now)  I could have made a vegetarian soup/stew for sure, but I had a couple of lamb sausage links in my freezer and I decided that maybe simply cutting back on the meat protein should be my first thought.  Using two sausage links is much different that using an entire leg of lamb!  Which may have been my old habit!  One of the things I missed greatly about trying to cut out the animal protein completely was the depth and richness animal bone stocks and broths brought to my soups and stews.

So for now I've decided to go meat and diary less for 3/4 of my nutritional diet.  This might mean 2-4 days straight for vegetable/grain based meals and then introducing meat and dairy, alternating back and forth.  And believe it or not it has more to do with expanding my nutritional experience than it has to do with "cutting out" animal protein.


Lamb Stew with Chickpeas

Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are my favorite legume to pair with lamb, but whether you use lamb
stew meat or lamb sausage the one recipe I keep going back to always includes two ingredients.  Red bell pepper and red wine vinegar...mostly the red wine vinegar.  Soups and stews can all start to taste the same because 99% of the time the ingredients are all basic!  Whenever I use lamb, after I brown the meat, sautee the veg, I deglaze the pan with 2-4 tbls of red wine vinegar before adding the stock/water.  The vinegar gives it a completely different flavor, one that I like.  The lamb is rich, the peppers are sweet and the vinegar is sour.

Lamb stew meat or lamb sausage;  Since cutting back on meat I suggest only 1/2 lb at the most.

Brown either choice.  Move to the side of the pan and sautee onion, celery, carrot, red bell pepper cut into a small dice, until soft and translucent (this morning I had no celery and it still turned out fab!)  I using stew meat add 1 tbl chopped rosemary (or dried).

Deglaze the pot with 2-4 tbl red wine vinegar for 1-2 minutes, add 4 c. water or stock.

add 1- 1 1/2 c pre soaked fava chickpeas or Garbanzo beans, 1 whole garlic bulb (bottom third cut off, which you will remove completely after all is cooked.  it should stay intact, only releasing it's flavor during the cooking process).

At this point you should have a pot or a pressure cooker with;

browned lamb meat
sauteed vegetables
chick peas/beans

If cooking on stovetop in a traditional soup pot; cover and bring to a boil (covered), turn heat down to med/low, slightly covered, cook until beans are soft (45-50 minutes)

If using a pressure cooker; "load and lock", bring pressure to high (about 10 min), lower heat and cook for 8-10 min.  Let pressure come down naturally, or let sit for 10 minutes and then release pressure manually or cold water method.

Taste and adjust seasonings (salt).

Yikes, I totally forgot....I used an entire head of cabbage, cut into 1 inch slices and then cut into 1 inch squares.  I wanted to add as much veg as I could (wanting to stay vegetable based), and I added it after the onion/carrot/red bell sautee, but before the red vinegar deglaze.  Oops.


Jen said...

Yum Tracy. I tried the vegetarianism experiment one time and found that for me I feel physically better eating animal protein and I was hungrier only eating vegetable calories...but that's me! I even tried a short stint of eating all vegan. Ultimately lots of veggies with a good does of animal protein is my personal choice. I can live without dairy calories, except for the morning cream in the coffee. Not sure if I have ever gone without the coffee cream in many, many years! Good luck with that one. :) Enjoy your experiments. It's always interesting to see what you come up with!!

Tracy Reifkind said...


Are we crazy or what? lol You know, all of this stuff can be fun, if that's the approach. I'm just chillin'

We are so spoiled in these modern times that we even have the choice!

Veganism is a short hop and jump from vegetarianism that I hardly noticed it. I'm not a fan of eggs in general, and butter, cheese and other dairy BESIDES my beloved cream for my coffee, is not a huge sacrifice.

vicky said...

Hi Tracey very interesting post as usual thank you for sharing. I was eating LOADS of chicken last week because I convinced myself due to going up an extra weight on the bells I needed more protein! Stupid greedy woman I am. Going to experiment now with more veg and cut the meat ( I'm over that now phew)

Thanks for sharing your fabulous!
Vic UK

Susan said...


Good on you for approaching the diet vs. weight issue rationally and with an open mind!

Re: whether animal protein is healthy. Actually, not so much.

It is well-established that animal protein increases the body's levels of IGF-1, a growth hormone that in adulthood promotes cancer.

You might enjoy this short video by Dr. Greger, a physician who translates scientific research into plain (and usually entertaining) lanaguage for the rest of us:

On another topic, I'll be visiting my brother in Palo Alto the first week in April. How do I set up a coaching session with you?

Diana said...

I think over the years what has been added to the feed for animals has greatly changed. It's rare to see cows grazing on grass. Now they're stuck in the barn eating whatever is thrown into the trough. Hmmmm, sounds a little like us humans when you think about it....we just eat whatever the food industry puts in a nice, pretty decorated box that is hot and ready in just minutes!
Even when we try to eat's hard unless you have a nice spread of land to plant your own "goods".
If I had my way....I would totally live "Little House On The Prairie" style and forget the fancy landscaping to keep up with the "Jones" and have animals eating grass and a wonderful garden to pluck from!
I only buy meat from local butchers, at least I know it's a little better than buying a "tube" of ground "what-the-hell-is-that" at the grocery store!

Tracy Reifkind said...


Exactly! Overeating is overeating period.

I was inspired a little during my trip to Israel. But more about that another time. Bottom line is that if I weigh more than I say I want to weigh I have to look the reasons square in the face and take responsibility, or shut up about it!

Tracy Reifkind said...


I respect your beliefs but I have my own beliefs based on my own experience of things I've read, heard about and see.

"Dis-ease" comes in many forms. There are people that live full long lives and eat meat. A full long life doesn't mean a fearful life. I'm not going to live in fear of what someone else wants to tell me is going to kill me sooner. And that's the key, "sooner".

You can email me to set up a training session, or if coming to one of my group classes works out for you that would be great too!

Tuesday 6:00am-7:00am
Saturday 8:30am-9:30 am

Those are my group class times. Otherwise I work T/TH/Fri/Sat (sometimes Sun) mornings.

Maribel said...

Being a butcher's daughter, I have raised and slaughtered our meat. Needless to say, I love meat! There is something to raising what you eat. You control the animal's also control how humanely they will be killed to feed you.

In my 20's I did a short vegetarian stint for about a year. It was ok, but I actually ate worse than when I was eating meat. Of course, at the time I had no idea how to replace meat and I ate pasta, bread, rice, etc. You get the picture.

I need to try that veggie chilli, it looks delish!