One More Week of No Meat… and Then?

One More Week of No Meat… and Then?

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As my month of living without meat comes to a close, I would like to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned as well as take a glance forward at my living without challenge for next month.

Lesson #1: Living without meat is not that hard… if you have choices. When I’m at home or at a restaurant, going without meat was much easier than expected. I simply chose to cook things and order things that were meatless. However, if you are at, say, a charity fundraiser where everyone gets the same meal, it can be difficult.

Twice this month Josh and I have gone to fundraiser events. I ordered a vegetarian meal in advance both times. Both times, I was sorely disappointed. At the first event, I was served, I kid you not, what appeared to be a plate full of cauliflower covered in spaghetti sauce. At the second event, the caterers simply brought me a plate of potatoes and carrots (the side dishes to the meat main course everyone else was eating). It looked as though they had simply taken the meat off the plate and given me what was left over. They didn’t even give me an extra scoop of the side dishes! I guess they equated “vegetarian” with “anorexic” and assumed because I didn’t want to eat meat that I really didn’t want to eat at all. No worries, though. I’m not one of those soapbox folks who feel that because I’m choosing a different lifestyle that everyone should conform to me. I was just hoping for a veggie lasagna or something… but I had more room for dessert!

Lesson #2: My Kids Will Eat More Veggies Than I Think. Before starting this experiment, I would have never served a dinner of pasta primavera featuring broccoli, green beans, carrots, and tomatoes. My idea of serving vegetables was putting a small, hopefully non-threatening pile of green stuff at the corner of my kids’ plate and then threatening them with “no special treat!” to get them to eat it. I rarely, if ever, put veggies at the center of the meal, simply because I assumed they would not eat it.

But here’s the catch – people gotta eat. My kids have to eat, and if what’s available to eat is veggies, they will eat veggies. My kids ate that pasta primavera without batting an eyelash (well, maybe they did bat a few eyelashes at first… and maybe I did sprinkle generous amounts of cheese on top to add to the appeal… and maybe I did pretend the veggies were flies and they were the frogs catching the flies… but still… they were eating green beans, folks!). In any case, I’ve learned that I need to be more adventurous when giving veggies to my kids. They will truly eat them. One of my planned meals for this week is a tofu and veggie stir fry with brown rice. Would I ever have attempted to serve this to my kids before this month? Heck, no!

Lesson #3: My Husband Is a Great Guy. Sure, I knew this before, but this month has solidified the excellent choice I made ten years ago when I married him.

Josh gives me a break from cooking on the weekends. He’s actually the much better cook of the two of us, and lucky for him, due to his excellent cholesterol and natural tendency toward slimness, he has never really worried about fat or cholesterol his entire life. He also hunts. Thus, our freezer is chock full of venison. I didn’t know how my “no meat” experiment would go over with him. I expected some eye-rolling or more likely, cheeky jokes about his wannabe hippie wife. Instead, I found him poring over seafood dishes on foodnetwork.com. I found him soliciting the kids to help “make a fish for mama.” I heard him remark on the tastiness of some of my veggie dishes. I was pleasantly surprised. I had worried that he would take this month-long experiment as an indirect chastisement of his deer-hunting, bacon-loving lifestyle, but instead, he supported me. Good news, folks… the marriage forecast looks bright and sunny for the next ten years, at least. 🙂

Looking Ahead to Next Month:
So where do I go from here? I’m looking ahead at my month without sugar and getting slightly less scared as I envision it. When I first thought of doing a year of living without, I could not imagine giving up sugar. In case you haven’t realized, sugar is in everything! English muffins, jelly, cereal, granola bars, yogurt. You name it, the manufacturers have added sugar to it. Which may explain why I am addicted to the white stuff. I’ve been ingesting it regularly, unknowingly, at nearly all my meals nearly all my life.

I recently spoke with my good friend Amanda, who gave up sugar for two weeks as part of a boot camp challenge last year. She recommended the holy trinity of natural sweeteners: agave nectar, honey, and real maple syrup. These three natural sweeteners can replace their refined white friend in most recipes. (Oh yeah, in case I didn’t mention it before, I am not simply replacing sugar with “sugar-free” products. I figure whatever the heck’s in those artificial sweeteners has to be way worse for you than real sugar anyway.)

Other things I’m doing to prepare:
– Looking up recipes for some of my to-go foods (like granola bars) that do not contain sugar. I’ve found some great, surprisingly easy ones!

– Planning a trip to a health food store to find sugarless versions of some of my favorite daily foods.

– Experimenting with drinking coffee without sugar. It’s actually not that bad. 

– Experimenting with having fruit for dessert. Again, not that bad, except when I really want chocolate! I am not sure how I will handle chocolate cravings as there is really no other substitute for that flavor. I may, if necessary, break down and get myself a sugar-free chocolate pudding if I must. My fellow chocoholics, I think you understand.

– Trying not to picture myself like a heroin addict in detox, sweating and writhing in pain.

Clearly, this next challenge is more of a true challenge for me, and I would love to hear any comments or suggestions from any of you who have tried to live without sugar! 

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