At the start of the month, we had four expectations: weightloss, health benefits, cheaper meals and the development of a new meat-free mindset, whereby we'd become accustomed to not just turning to a chicken breast or two when we were feeling uninspired.
Did we see these benefits? Here's a little round up of the good and the bad of eating veggie from our experiences so far...
- Health and weightloss. While the weightloss has been minimal (a few lbs each), it's actually the health benefits we've both noticed most. It's not that we didn't used to eat a lot of vegetables, but we've certainly been eating a lot more of them since we've been living vegetarian, and pulses and beans - which we never used to eat, in all honesty - have become a major, and healthy, source of protein and iron for us.
- Energy. Our energy levels have been up: we don't feel so sluggish generally, nor so dehydrated. While we can't say for sure whether this is the vegetarian diet or just the fact that we've been eating more healthily in general (not so much saturated fats and processed foods), it's certainly a happy outcome of our vegetarian diet so far
- Gone is our reliance on meat. Whatever our decision after the end of the month, we've discovered that we don't need to rely on meat, or automatically throw it into every evening meal we're making: we find it just unnecessary and costly.
- Cleaner consciences. We both feel better, morally, for not eating so much meat: it's better for us, it's better for the environment and it's better for animals. All of this gives us a bit of a cleaner conscience on a day-to-day basis.
- Cheaper food shopping. Suddenly £5 for a packet of chicken breasts seems pretty expensive when you've realised that your usual, vegetable-laden dinner works out to under £1 a head.
- New recipes and meals. Before this month, we never would have imagined that a bean burger would actually be as satisfying a dinner as something which contained meat, or that tofu would actually be enjoyable to eat - but here's the thing: it is. We've learnt that vegetarian doesn't have to mean boring, and doesn't have to mean a plain salad with an occasional potato. We've also enjoyed making vegetarian versions of meals we'd usually automatically throw meat into: we've had vegetarian fajitas, burritos, pasta dishes, stir frys, parmigianas, soups, risottos, curries, dhals and so on. All delicious!
- Bathroom changes. Excuse us while we lower the tone of this post, but what goes in must come out, and let's be honest: while there's a lot more need to go to the toilet regularly on a vegetarian diet, it's a lot less odorous. Meat protein is rich in sulfides, which apparently produce a more pungent (read: awful) smell.
- C doesn't feel so bad about eating cheese... Perhaps her greatest weakness, C doesn't feel quite so guilty when she tucks into a little bit of cheese now: hey, she needs some protein...
- The frustration of eating out. Eating in on a vegetarian diet? Fine, easy, great. Eating out? Generally nigh on impossible. We're not ones to want to drag our friends to vegetarian-only restaurants, as we respect that they want to eat meat, but it's tough when the choices on a menu mean you can only choose between two equally uninspiring options while the meat-eaters have fifteen glorious-sounding dishes on offer. Same applies at work, where the choices seem to be salads, jacket potatoes or pasta with pesto. With so many vegetarians, vegans and part-timers, we honestly would have expected more choices on the average menu. Another issue is eating out for friends' birthdays and so on: for example, what were we meant to do when flatmate N arranged his birthday dinner at a churrascaria? Go along, of course, but it's really flippin' hard to resist meat in an all-you-can-eat meat restaurant, that's for sure.
- Meat cravings. It's not been so bad - and actually not as bad as either of us had thought it would be - but there have been a couple of times where we've really fancied some meat. Generally this has been when flatmates have been cooking burgers or something delicious, and for C the difficulty has been sausages. She might have to try veggie sausages instead...
- C doesn't feel so bad about eating cheese... Both a pro and a con of the vegetarian diet, C has eaten two whole Camemberts this month. Not exactly healthy, but not a direct consequence of a vegetarian diet: she just felt like she could get away with it.
So, all in all? As is pretty evident from our points above, it's generally a big healthy, energised, green thumbs-up to vegetarianism. The benefits are manifold and pretty convincing, and it's only really eating out and the odd meat craving that's been an issue.
What's going to be our approach going forward? It's hard to say, as neither of us are completely sure. C is off to South America pretty soon, where it's going to be nigh on impossible to avoid meat, and there are occasions even in London (served up meat at a dinner party, for example) where it becomes very awkward to say no.
On the whole, we think our approach will be a mainly vegetarian diet: something which is becoming increasingly common in the UK, according to a recent BBC article. We'll most likely eat meat occasionally - on the odd occasion when dining out, for example - but apart from that, it'll be vegetables all the way.