Vegetarian Meal Planning: Compassion and Convenience

hugged veggie

Hello, and Happy Monday! It’s Brooke here. I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time now (more than 15 years), and I love that there’s a way I can still be healthy while respecting the creatures in our world. Now, I am certainly not an expert by any means, and when it comes to balancing my life with proper (sufficient) nutrition in a timely manner, I am NOT always successful. But every day I try to make my fuel a priority, and some days are better than others. But I keep aspiring to live up to my best intentions, in and out of the kitchen.

I came to this lifestyle in a meandering fashion. For years, I was the “picky” eater in the house. You may be familiar with the line from A Christmas Story, “Every family has a kid who won’t eat.” I was that kid! My sister and I had to eat three bites of everything on our plate before we could be excused from dinner. Many meals ended with my family bustling around the kitchen, putting their dishes away while I sat by myself at the table, looking at my half-finished plate, usually with meat or a few veggies remaining forlornly around the edges. Now, I didn’t single out meat purposely back then, but I just wasn’t its biggest fan. I managed to stay plenty nourished, however, and made my way to college. About this time, I started learning about the vegetarian life and what it felt like to make decisions that went against my social conditioning and what I’d always taken for granted. I grew up in Texas, after all—barbeque was always the first thing that was catered in for any kind of occasion. Definitely a challenge!

why love one

I love animals desperately, as you probably know by now. Also, one of the strongest drivers of human behavior is to live in a way that is consistent with what you believe. This is why what you tell yourself is so freakin’ important! You become what you believe or say you will be. So, your self-talk better be purposeful, supportive, and meaningful if you want that kind of life. Well, my turning point came when I realized that how I felt about animals didn’t square with my eating them. Here was another significant moment measured by a quotation, this time from Chrissie Hynde: “Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends.” This changed my whole life!

cow hug

I was a freshman and living in a dorm with no kitchen when I declared to my family I would no longer eat meat, much to my mother’s consternation. This time was a blur, but I do remember eating a lot of pasta and pizza and waffles (!)—no coincidence that I put on some weight. I called my extra layer my winter padding, like a seal has—what was I thinking? The ways you justify things to yourself! Well, I managed to screw up my digestive system in the process—I felt bloated and yucky constantly, lost my appetite, was malnourished, and didn’t even realize it. So, I went back to how I ate the last time I felt good, in high school in the cafeteria—a meat, two vegetables, a roll, a small dessert, and a carton of milk. I began feeling better, all while learning more about how to eat more healthfully. Eventually, I incorporated more grains and vegetables and got rid of the meat again. I wish I could say it was all pretty, but I was a college student on a budget, and there were a LOT of peanut butter and honey sandwiches involved. One particular shining moment was the day I fixed couscous from a box with canned carrots and canned green beans. Happiness!!

As time has passed, I’ve gained a few more kitchen skills, I’ve learned a lot more about nutrition, and although I have spent years pulling out recipes and squirreling them away to use someday, my vision of kitchen nirvana involving both the immaculate white kitchen and the va-va-voom of Giada De Laurentiis have not materialized. But I do have a basic plan that I follow that gives me a little bit of structure as I navigate my day.

Breakfast

lean protein, complex carb, simple carb, healthy fat

First: multivitamin + calcium/magnesium/zinc supplement + vegetarian omega-3s THEN breakfast

(Examples: protein breakfast smoothie [banana, strawberries, whey protein, almond milk, olive oil or flaxseeds, and nuts] OR scrambled eggs/egg whites and oatmeal with coconut oil, berries, walnuts, cinnamon, and Truvia)

Morning Snack

lean protein, complex or simple carbs

(Example: protein shake with a banana or ½ cup berries OR a green smoothie with power greens blend [arugula, chard, or kale], spinach, water, celery, pear, apple, and a banana)

Lunch

lean protein, complex carbs, simple carb , healthy fat

(Example: spicy black bean patty, couscous or rice, ½ avocado with lemon juice and sea salt AND a big, dark-green salad full of veggies, a bit of fruit and light shredded cheese [maybe], and nuts)

Pre-Workout Snack

lean protein, complex carbs, simple carb , healthy fat

(Example: leftover or extra scrambled eggs and oatmeal from the morning OR whole wheat English muffin, almond butter, ½ banana, few blueberries, flaxseeds, and drizzle of honey) + BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids)

Post-Workout Snack

lean protein, simple carb

BCAAs + glutamine + creatine (optional) THEN whey protein with almond milk and 1 cup grape juice or fruit

Dinner

lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fat (sometimes)

(Example: beans or bean or lentil soup, couscous or rice, green vegetables or large salad, ½ avocado with lemon juice and sea salt)

Bedtime Snack (if needed, usually yes!)

lean protein, healthy fat

(Example: protein shake (casein and whey) with almond milk OR Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, berries, and nuts)

Now, you’ll notice that I try to eat a good amount of complex, starchy carbs. Currently, my training goals include adding curves and weight by building lean muscle and lifting heavy, and I need fuel (probably still more than I’m getting) to do this. But if you’re trying to tighten up, you can dial back on the complex carbs and a little of the healthy fats at lunch and later in the day. This is just a plan that works for me. Vegetarian options abound these days, and I’ll share some more recipes as I find time to try them. Wish me luck! I can’t wait to hear about what works for you. So, let me know if you have some great ideas for strong, sexy, cruelty-free curves—I’m always listening.

Have a super week!

Brooke

compassion is the new sexy

 

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