Hello everybody! Welcome back to my blog for another week! Today, I would like to tell you how I decided to reduce the intake of meat and how I finally became vegetarian and why.
I was born and raised in Spain, a Mediterranean country. I will talk about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in future posts, but just to summarise, the Mediterranean diet is full of vegetables and fruits of all colours, the good carbohydrates, healthy fats such as olive oil or oily fish and healthy protein coming from this fish, eggs and other meats. In general, the Mediterranean diet consists of less consumption of cheese and red meat, but that is not quite true in Spain. It is true that we eat our protein with a whole bunch of vegetables and there’s no house without a beautiful bowl full of fruit, but the consumption of cheese and red meat is quite high. Have you ever heard about Manchego cheese or Jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham)? These typical Spanish “tapas” are very popular and, may I say, delicious!
I have always been passionate about nutrition, and I am always looking for information, watching videos or documentaries, reading books about it, and I started reading more and more about the benefits of a plant-based diet. At the age of 23 and before I came to Australia, I decided to stop eating so much meat. When you make such a decision, you can find some impediments that hold you back, and these were the impediments I personally found:
1. Social acceptance. All my friends ate meat, nobody knew about the benefits of a plant-based diet and they laughed at me every time I ordered a vegetarian burger.
2. Family. My mum and siblings were making it IMPOSSIBLE to stop eating meat. I told my mum I wanted to reduce the intake of meat, but she kept cooking the same things, so I started cooking for myself, which created some issues at home. They thought it was a silly idea.
3. Economic. Nowadays, it is quite easy to find a section in the supermarket full of plant bases items, but 4 years ago it was quite difficult or expensive. I found it hard to find products to supply my protein and I spent much more money than before.
4. Lack of information. Another impediment was that I didn’t know as much as I thought about vegetarian diet. I tended to eat more pasta (and thus, more carbs) and not enough protein. I wish I knew a bit more about good protein resources such as quinoa, oats, nuts or beans!
So, I gave up. But then I came to Australia, and it was my opportunity, finally living alone without any temptations and, to my surprise, meat is way more expensive in Australia than plant-based products! For a couple of months, I didn’t eat any animal product.
Then I started dating my Harry, who wasn’t vegetarian, and trust me, trying to be vegetarian and having a meat lover as a partner makes things IMPOSSIBLE.
But one beautiful day, Harry and I were watching a documentary about veganism while eating a beef burger and fried chicken. I still remember the pain in the stomach. And for my surprise, Harry felt the same way. The day after was the first day we didn’t eat meat.
Now, this sounds good, but there are always ups and downs. Not too long later than that, we found a Spanish restaurant around the corner from our house. The place is called Lola Cocina. They have two restaurants; one is in Parramatta (Level 1/79-81 Phillip Street) and the other one is in Crows Nest (19 Falcon Street). The first couple of times we went, we didn’t eat meat, but one day, I was missing my country, my family and my gastronomy so much that we decided to order Jamón Ibérico. It was just amazing, we realised that meat tastes even better when you know it is a treat (same with the sweets!).
It wasn’t too much so it was fine the day after, but we have had other not so good moments the day after eating meat. This is because our gut bacteria get used to whatever you feed them, that’s one of the possible reasons why you don’t feel so well when you decide that it is time to start eating more vegetables and fruit.
At this point, we realised that we should be able to enjoy any type of food, so we established some simple rules. We normally have a plant-based diet, we eat fish twice a week and every couple of months, we treat ourselves with some meat.
This makes us flexitarians, meaning that, even though our diet is plant-based with fish twice a week, we do enjoy red meat or other animal products every now and again.
The reasons why we have made this decision is mainly for the benefit of our health. I will go deeper in this subject in future posts, but we know that by reducing the consumption of meat, we reduce the LDL cholesterol and the inflammation. Also, increasing the number of vegetables and fruit, we increase the intake of minerals, vitamins and other properties that these products have.
There are some other reasons to stop eating meat, such as environmental or animal care. Any good reason to stop eating so much meat is valid.
I am going to leave you with a typical Spanish dish: pisto.
There are many ways to make this dish, but all of them have in common that the base of the dish is vegetables. The one that I am going to share with you is the one that my mum taught me, and I love it. I hope you enjoy it!
1 green capsicum
1 red capsicum
1 yellow capsicum
1-2 zucchinis (depending on the size)
1 can of tomato sauce
Olive oil extra virgin
My recommendation is to chop the veggies in little pieces. It cooks faster and it gives the dish a refined touch. Put the oil in a big frying pan and heat it up. Then start frying the onion.
The next ingredient to add is the eggplant and zucchinis. To be very honest, I do not calculate how long it takes for the ingredients to cook, I follow the colour they get and the aroma that fills the kitchen.
Then we add the capsicum, and we leave cooking until the capsicum goes soft. Now it’s time to add the tomatoes.
When everything looks cooked, add the tomato sauce, mix everything well and leave it for a few minutes to simmer.
And ya está, a comer! My husband likes to add it to his pasta, I prefer to toast some whole grain bread, put some olive oil extra virgin to the toast and enjoy!
That is it for today! I will see you next Sunday 🙂