Vegetarian – By the Book
There are many different types of Vegetarians. To be a Total Vegetarian or Vegan, you are committed to a diet of only foods from plants such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts. Other vegetarian diets include Lacto-Vegetarian where one commits to a diet of food with plants plus cheese and dairy products. Lacto-Ovovegetarians diets also include the consumption of eggs and a Semi-Vegetarian diet don’t consume red meat but includes chicken and fish.
Lacto-Vegetarian for a Week
I decided to commit to a week of being a Lacto-Vegetarian. A typical daily menu for a Lacto-Vegetarian includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, nuts and milk products including cheese and cream. Each meal should include several servings of vegetable, a serving of fruits and a serving of milk. Milk is important to the diet for it’s protein but can be replaced with a combination of a serving of legume and a serving of grain/nut/seed. Some meal examples include:
- Vegetarian Broccoli-Cheese Pie
- A cup of Milk
- A cup of fruits of choice
- Lentil soup or vegetarian sandwich
- A cup of milk
- A cup of fruits
- Tofu Stir Fry Dish with Rice/Spaghetti with Mushroom Bolognese
- Mixed greens with dressing
- Fruit dessert
- 10g vegetable oil
- 150g fresh brown and/or white mushrooms, remove stems and slice caps
- 50g bamboo shoots, julienne strips
- 150g fresh Chinese water chestnuts, peel and quarter
- 300g carrot, peel and cut into julienne strips
- 300g Napa cabbage, torn into small strips
- 300g vegetable broth
- 150g firm tofu, cut to ½” cubes
- 150g snow peas or snap peas, remove strings and cut to thin slivers
- 15g soy sauce
- 10g cornstarch mixed well with 10g cold water
- 5g sesame oil
- Cilantro for garnish
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Heat pan over high heat until begins to smoke then add vegetable oil.
- Reduce heat to medium-high and stir-fry mushrooms, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots and cabbage. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add tofu, snow peas and soy sauce then cover and simmer for 2 more minutes.
- Stir in cornstarch mixture to make a light gravy consistency.
- Stir in sesame oil and adjust seasoning
- Serve with fresh chopped Cilantro
Day 1 was very simple, breakfast included cup of 2% milk then a cup of coffee from Tim Horton (1 milk, 2 sugar), lunch was a vegetarian burrito from Bolet’s Burrito, and dinner included steamed broccoli and pan fried tofu dipped in soy sauce. Day 1 was not very interesting. I usually start my day with a cup of milk and a cup of coffee. The burrito was excellent, instead of a protein they used sweet potato which added a different softer texture and a sweetness that isn’t normally found in the meat based burritos.
Day 2 started similarly to day 1 with a cup of milk and a cup of coffee. For lunch, I had a Art of Almost sandwich from Sky Blue Sky Sandwich (without the bacon). The sandwich was sweet and spicy but also had a tangy taste from the banana peppers and tomatoes. For dinner, I made a garden salad (Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, cucumber, carrots, and almonds) with thousand island dressing, and croutons. The meals I had today were very tasty. However, they filled me for a short period of time. I was hungry again within a few hours of eating.
Day 3 I started with a cup of coffee. For Lunch I had vegetarian Pho at Pho Vietnam. I did not particularly enjoy this dish. The broth tasted very artificial and did not have much vegetable flavour. The vegetables all still had a nice crunch to them but I did not enjoy the texture of the vegetables with this dish. For dinner, I had farmers market chicken salad (substitute soy chicken). The salad was delicious with a great mixture of sweet and tangy, as well as crunchy and soft. It stood out from my previous meals.
I started day 4 with a cup of coffee and a chocolate dip doughnut. For lunch, I had 2 slices of cheese pizza from Pizza Pizza and for dinner I had a slice of vegetarian lasagna that I bought from Loblaws. The food started to tasted very similar and I started to miss meat proteins.
I started the day again with a cup of coffee. For lunch, I had a fruit salad which I bought from Loblaws (Strawberries, Pineapple, Honeydew, and cantaloupe) with ranch dipping sauce. For dinner, I had Vegetable Pakora and Manch Vegetable Fried Rice from Lucky Chinese Restaurant. Figuring out what to eat was getting a lot harder. Everything seemed to taste similar to one another and I was jealous of other who were eating meat proteins.
For breakfast I had a cup of milk and pan fried vegetarian dumplings. I skipped lunch due to work and for dinner I had Stir-fried tofu with tomatoes and Stir-fried Chayote Squash.
For breakfast I had a cup of coffee and 10 assorted timbits. For lunch I had stir fried eggplant and Mapo tofu with rice. For dinner, I had creamy mash potatoes with steamed asparagus. I was finally glad that the week was over. I was worried that I could not make it to the end but it was a great learning experience.
Committing to a Lacto-Vegetarian diet was much harder than I expected. As mentioned, as the days went by, my craving for meat products increased more and more. I also reached a point on the fourth day where I started to get bored of the food I was eating. Although the techniques used to make the dishes were very different, the ingredients and flavours started to feel very similar, which I found boring. I think this is mainly because I was new to the diet and my motivation to do it was not personal. I think that people who have been a vegetarian for a long time have a better idea of the types of dishes and how to keep themselves from being bored of the flavours. Also my motivation to be a vegetarian was related to school rather than a personal decision, so restricting myself mentality to a set of rules was very hard. I think that for someone who wants to start being a vegetarian or starting a new diet plan, they should design a meal plan before they start. I found that deciding what to eat was the hardest part of committing to the diet and it became frustrating when you have to decide in a short time. Having a plan prior to starting would make following the diet much easier.
Vegetarian and Being a Chef
I don’t believe there is any major impact to a being a ‘ordinary’ chef who is Vegetarian. The techniques use in vegetarian dishes are very similar and focus on quality ingredients are still very important. If the decision to be a Vegetarian is based on a personal belief, then I believe the only way to continue to be an ‘ordinary’ chef and be a vegetarian would be to be flexible. Flexible in the sense that you do not push that belief onto others and you have to be flexible enough to taste the food. To taste and consume can be separated. A chef should be able to taste the flavours of any dish even if they don’t consume it.
To Be Continue?
I would personally not continue this diet. I can understand and appreciate the decision for someone to commit to type of diet. However, the restriction in dishes, flavours, techniques are for me is not worthwhile to continue.