Let’s change things up today. Instead of my usual recipes, I’m going to share a candid look at a typical week’s worth of vegetarian eating. I don’t have a big “vegetarian” label at the top of the blog, but it’s true—all of my recipes are meatless. My motto is, “Celebrating whole foods!” because I just want to show how wonderful vegetables and whole grains can be.
Michelle requested this post a few weeks ago. She told me that she’s moving more toward a vegetarian diet but doesn’t have enough go-to meals in her repertoire to give up meat completely. She said, “I’d love to see what a week-in-the-life so to speak looks like for a practicing vegetarian.” My knee-jerk reaction to Michelle’s email was, “No! My leftovers aren’t pretty and I’m not the world’s healthiest eater. What are they going to think?”
After giving Michelle’s request more thought, however, I decided to go for it. I know Michelle isn’t the only one wondering how to become a vegetarian or just how to eat less meat. I swallowed my pride about the imperfect phone photos because hey, real life is messy. Real life is busy. Making the unconventional decision to eat more plants and less animals on a daily basis seems hard at first, but it’s actually pretty easy once you get started. I hope this post provides insight on how to eat less meat, if that’s your goal, or just a behind-the-scenes look at this vegetarian’s lifestyle, in case you’re curious.
You might notice that I always eat breakfast. Always! I also eat a lot of leftovers, naturally, since I don’t have a family to help me polish off the family-sized meals I make for the blog. It takes me a few days to go through a tub of spinach or strawberries (you’ll see a lot of each in the photos below).
Protein seems to be a big concern for those starting out, but I get plenty of protein from eggs, beans, occasionally tofu, nuts and all the other whole foods that fill me up. Protein is generally present in whole foods, like greens, vegetables and whole grains. I would be hungry all the time if I still subsisted on my middle school diet of Cheez-Its and Dr. Pepper, but I’m definitely not going hungry now!
I should clarify that I’m not a super strict vegetarian. I’d guess that my diet is about 97 percent vegetarian, which is good enough for me. I never want my friends to go out of their way for me, so I don’t turn away their homemade vegetable soups made with chicken broth. I eat quality fish when the opportunity arises because it tastes good and it’s good for me. I might even eat a slice of bacon or pepperoni pizza when it looks particularly tempting, just because I like it. I don’t check my cheese to make sure it doesn’t contain animal rennet, either.
So yeah, I could perhaps more accurately call myself a pescetarian or flexitarian instead of a vegetarian, but those terms just seem to complicate the point of a vastly meat-free diet. We make eating decisions at least three times a day, so any diet designed for the long-term should allow for some flexibility. I’ve been healthy and satisfied with my version of vegetarianism for the past five years.
Last but not least, I don’t mean to imply that vegetarianism is the only way to go. I don’t believe that there is one ideal diet for all human beings. A meatless diet suits me well, and I find peace in knowing that I’m doing my body and the environment a favor by eating less meat. I understand that a meatless diet isn’t for everyone. Take my brother Reed, for example. He has big muscles, loves to hunt, relishes a great steak, and doesn’t feel satisfied unless there’s meat on his plate. I get it. I don’t criticize his choices or even hope that he’ll change. I’m just happy to share my vegetarian favorites with him because, as it turns out, he enjoys kale salad with his steak.
Here we go! OKC to KC/Back to the grind
I spent an extended weekend in Oklahoma (above left) with my family before snapping these photos. I ate a lot of pizza while I was there, so I was craving lighter fare when I got home. Last week (Monday through Sunday), I was back in Kansas City and working hard to get caught up with work, so you’ll see a lot of super quick meals made at home.
Left: Standard breakfast of granola and yogurt. I try to eat yogurt every day because I’m a big believer in the benefits of probiotics. (I’m trying to make up for all the antibiotics I took for ear infections as a kid.) Trader Joe’s organic European-style plain whole milk yogurt is my current favorite. I added banana nut granola (blog reject, a riff on my honey almond granola) and rhubarb chia jam (a riff on my strawberry chia jam).
Right: I was hungry and in a hurry, so I threw together some huevos rancheros (tortilla, fried egg, seasoned black beans, store-bought salsa verde, pickled red onions, handful cilantro, crumbled feta). Here’s my favorite recipe for huevos rancheros.
Left: My friend Ali brought her pup, Henry, over for dinner.
Right, dinner: After a couple glasses of wine, I threw together a salad for us to eat for dinner. The salad wasn’t great, so I was a little embarrassed to serve it to a fellow food blogger. Ali provided cheesy homemade beer bread (similar to this recipe). I forgot how much I love beer bread.
Salad photo credit: Ali’s Instagram.
Left, breakfast: Running low on groceries. I used up all of my yogurt at breakfast yesterday, so I toasted the last little slices of whole grain bread I had left. Topped my toast with peanut butter and rhubarb chia jam. The rhubarb jam is growing on me. Anyone want the recipe? (Update: here it is!)
Right, lunch: Final recipe test for my snap pea soba noodles.
Not shown, dinner: More soba noodles.
Left, breakfast: Still out of yogurt, now out of bread. Spread peanut butter and rhubarb jam on a warm whole wheat tortilla, topped it with sliced strawberries and rolled it up. Wished I had almond butter.
Right, lunch: Bon Appetit’s carrot salad. I am now obsessed with the combination of coriander, lemon and carrots. Recipes to come.
Left: My dog is a cat.
Right, snack: Procrastination via fro yo.
Not shown, dinner: Egg quesadillas recipe test. Quesadillas turned out so well that I couldn’t stop eating them. That’s when I knew I’d found a winner.
Left, breakfast: I woke up late and almost missed my appointment to get my hair trimmed. Grabbed a little bag of Trader Joe’s trail mix on my way out the door.
Right, lunch: More leftover soba noodles. Realized that leftovers don’t taste so hot after a couple of days. Updated recipe to reflect that detail.
Left, snack: Got hungry at the grocery store. Snacked on an apple and sourdough bread. Thought I was buying whole wheat sourdough but it wasn’t. Ate it anyway.
Right, dinner: The remains of my egg quesadilla photo shoot.
Left, after-dinner walk: Took Cookie on a walk since I was feeling overstuffed after eating too much quesadillas.
Right, breakfast: Leftover quesadilla with Cholula hot sauce and guacamole. Ate the remaining slice of quesadilla for a late-morning snack.
Left: I wanna do what she’s doing.
Right, quick lunch: Toasted bread with smashed avocado, topped with burst cherry tomatoes. It was good, but I’m an avocado toast purist and I’ve pretty much decided that toast + avocado + sea salt is the best way to go.
Left, late dinner: Threw together some spinach, sliced strawberries and radishes, toasted pistachios and goat cheese, tossed in my standard lemon dressing. Liked it so much that I made more after I polished off the bowl shown.
Right, light breakfast: I’m going to brunch later, but I can’t skip breakfast or my blood sugar level will get out of whack (I’m hypoglycemic). More toast with peanut butter and rhubarb jam since I forgot to buy yogurt at the grocery store on Wednesday.
Left, brunch/lunch: Met up with Sara, a local blog-reader-turned-friend (love it when that happens), after working up my appetite at a morning yoga class. Polished off that artichoke/spinach/goat cheese frittata and potatoes. Made a mental note to return to Room 39 and order Sara’s meal sometime (toast with artichoke spread/arugula/poached egg).
Left, light breakfast: Still out of yogurt (good grief) but found some abandoned strawberry keffir in my fridge. The keffir is still too sweet for my liking so I didn’t finish it all. Keffir went back to abandoned status in the fridge.
Right, dinner: Weekly dinner with friends. Appetizer of morel mushrooms, foraged (how I hate that word!) by Dane. Gluten-free eaters got dibs on the corn tortillas. Everybody else ate beef tacos. Mine (bottom left) were black bean tacos. I bring a can of black beans over for such occasions—I just mix some spices into the beans and warm them up.
There you have it! One week of meat-free eating. If you’d like to learn more about nutrition and food, I highly recommend reading Michael Pollan’s books, like In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. For more meal snaps and Cookie pics, feel free to follow cookieandkate on Instagram!