Going Vegetarian: A Thoughtful Guide on Making the Switch

Patrick "Debaser" Breeden September 12, 2012 0

For some, the idea of going vegetarian is frightening. The very thought of taking such an action feels like an attack on one’s lifestyle. The act of removing meat from one’s diet, however, is surprisingly easy, leaving the consumer with healthier choices and new horizons. Take the advice of another man who used to love chicken sandwiches: vegetarianism is for everyone.

I went vegetarian for two reasons: failing health and love for animals. Despite various arguments that I should simply blame factory farms and there is no shame in killing animals for food, I decided that the entire process was shameful. I dedicated myself to causing minimal harm to my animal friends – because, by existing, I will cause some harm – and I would consume my nutrients straight from the source as my animal friends do.

My theory of consumption at the source is not entirely personal. A very basic understanding of the nitrogen cycle, the nutrient cycle, and the food chain show where I discovered the foundation of my beliefs. Basic food sources such as plants and other grown crops are full of nutrients ready for consumption. An animal consumes the crop therefore consuming the nutrients, and something later consumes that animal. But what pro-meat advocates are either unaware of or do not understand is that the food chain doesn’t allow a full transfer of nutrients. Some nutrients are lost during every step of the food chain.(1) Some of our animal friends are strictly carnivores and must eat other animals because they cannot correctly process certain enzymes. Humans, however, are able to process enzymes that true carnivores cannot. So why are we so willing to sell ourselves short?

Health was not a major priority for me in 2009. I moved to Virginia, Dawn, my fiancée’s, home state, in hopes of new opportunities and better work. What I found was a state devastated by the fall of Circuit City –Circuit City’s headquarters was in Richmond, VA – and the downtrodden, failing endeavors of other local businesses. We both found ourselves jobless, futureless, and we lost Dawn’s mother to cancer. Those times were about nothing more than survival. We squeezed by on my unemployment checks, we were approved by the state of Virginia for food assistance, and we ate very cheap meals that consisted of far too much fattening hamburger, cheese, and other animal products. I ballooned from my already hefty 270lbs to 300lbs.

We returned to my home state of West Virginia by the beginning of 2010. Around that time I began to notice that I would constantly wake up in the middle of the night as my body jolted my lungs to quickly take in air. This went on for a few weeks before I realized that I was developing sleep apnea. Dawn had been urging us for months to try vegetarianism because some friends she had meet over the Internet were living very healthy, upbeat lifestyles, and I finally agreed that we needed to try something new before I died in my sleep.

The transition was surprisingly easy thanks to the wonder wheat known as seitan.  I continued to make my favorite Asian-style dish by replacing the steak with seitan and noticed little to no difference. My taco salad saw the end of hamburger and the addition of tofu. I tried a spinach and mushroom quesadilla and loved every second of it. After a while, the thought of eating meat – or even touching it –grossed me out. My transition was complete.

Changing my way of life also had a profound change on me. I went from being over 290lbs to 260lbs in a few months. I still consume cheese and drink sodas, so my weight now lingers around the 268-270lbs area. I got rid of eggs entirely and instead use egg replacers and tofu for breakfast sandwiches.  I got rid of dairy milk and instead use delicious soy and almond milks for cooking and cereals.
Now you know my story and how vegetarianism changed my life. I love more, I care more, I am healthier, and this change allows me to think more clearly. I know vegetarianism is for you, and I know your journey will be hard to endure – and to maintain – but anyone who really wants this change can do it. I know you can.

However, taking this journey does not make you superior to other people. Time and time again I’ve had people attack me for my beliefs or stood on the side to watch a fellow vegetarian/vegan assault someone for being a meat eater. No, I don’t agree with meat eaters. Yes, I think they are being careless and thoughtless. But we are careless and thoughtless creatures in many ways. I believe a true vegetarian’s role is to work toward minimizing harm; that includes helping animal friends and educating your human friends on how to be thoughtful and help themselves to a better lifestyle. In no way does that mean achieve a vegetarian lifestyle to flaunt it in the faces of other people.

How to Feed your Vegetarian

Vegetarian recipes can be found everywhere on the Internet from the quick and simple to the complex and awe-inspiring. Just about any meat-related dish you can think of can be turned into a vegetarian utopia of flavor with a bit of planning and thoughtful approach. But always remember the most important thing when eating vegetarian meals: vegetarians eat vegetables. Shying away from eating your greens will cause sickness just like shying away from them before caused sickness.

Asian Inspiration

1 packet of seitan wheat gluten
1 can of La Choy Chop Suey vegetables
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Soy sauce
Teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons of garlic(crushed and minced)
Ginger root
2 cups of long grain white rice
La Choy Chow Mein noodles

Start by boiling half a sauce pan of water on the stove, and add in the two cups of long grain white rice. Boil them until they are floating and tender. If there is resistance when you try a grain of rice, it isn’t ready.

Next, take a skillet and add in your two tablespoons of olive oil. Roll the oil around to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add in your seitan and chop it into smaller bits for better portioning. Add on a light drizzle of soy and teriyaki sauce so the seitan will soak in the sauces while cooking. Continue this for around two minutes. Remember that seitan is not a real meat and doesn’t need to have any bad things cooked out of it.

While your seitan is finishing up, open the can of chop suey vegetables and drain out the juice content. Add the vegetables into the skille twith the seitan and drizzle on more soy and teriyaki sauce. Crush and mince a clove of garlic so it equals two tablespoons or buy a jar of pre-minced garlic for your two tablespoons. Grate in your ginger root. Add to flavor.

Allow the seitan and vegetables to cook and mix with the sauces, garlic, and ginger for around seven to ten minutes to soak up all of the flavors. In the meantime, drain your rice in a strainer. Do not add any additional flavoring to the rice – no butter, no salt, no sugar. Place your helping of rice on a plate or in a bowl and cover with your seitan and vegetables. Top it with chow mein noodles to your liking, and add soy and/or teriyaki sauce to your liking.

Tofu Breakfast Muffin

1 English muffin(there are plenty that doesn’t have egg as an ingredient – read the labels!)
1 slice of vegan bologna(I prefer Yves Meatless Deli Bologna)
1 slice of cheese/vegan cheese of your choice(try Daiya dairy-free cheese. It’s awesome!)
1 pack extra firm tofu(non-silken)
1 jar of Vegenaise(amazing, amazing stuff)
1 bottle of high fructose corn syrup –free ketchup

Start by either microwaving or toasting your English muffin. I normally go with a quick heat up in the microwave if I’m in the go in the morning, but the toaster route gives the muffin a crunchier texture. Add the cheese next. Keep in mind that Daiya melts just like regular cheese, so it’s up to you if you want your cheese or mock cheese to be as normal or melted.

It is important to prepare your tofu correctly. Those who have never used it may be in the dark about the stuff. Open your tofu packet and drain all water out of it. Squeeze the actual tofu to remove any absorbed liquid. I suggest placing the tofu on a paper towel, covering it with another paper towel, and then squishing it down. Slice off a thick piece of the tofu and place it in a skillet that has been heated to medium heat. Don’t fry the tofu; you just want to heat it up. Get it to an acceptable temperature and place it on your muffin.

The vegan bologna can be added whichever way you prefer. If you like it cold, heated, or a little fried up, have it your way.

Add a spread of your Vegenaise if you’re a mayo person or squirt some corn syrup-free ketchup on, finish constructing the sandwich, and enjoy.

Vegan Pizza Rolls

1 tube of your favorite pizza dough(try to ensure it doesn’t have egg if you can)
1 jar of your favorite pizza sauce
1 packet of Daiya shredded mozzarella
1 packet of Yves Meatless Pepperoni Slices

I love pizza rolls, and I also enjoy vegetarian/vegan foods, so this recipe was an instant hit when Dawn introduced me to it. It’s such a great recipe that we invited Eric(EvilMonkey at Debasedtothis.org) over for vegan pizza rolls and a birthday cake for his birthday last year. He loved them, and he’s not a vegan or a vegetarian. I think that means you will love them just as much.

Roll your pizza dough out as evenly as possible so it forms a circle. I would highly suggest using a rolling pin in order to get this done properly. Also keep in mind that the colder the dough, the faster it will shrink and shrivel back up. You will have to roll the dough out several times.

Cut your dough by slicing top left to bottom right and then top right to bottom left. Yes, your dough should have a huge “X” in it. Make sure that your new slices aren’t trying to shrivel up on you.

Add one tablespoon of pizza sauce to the top center of each dough slice and spread it out through the center area. You may add more if you like, but the pizza rolls will likely become messier.

Add on your shredded Daiya and make sure that it is spread out rather than clumped up in one area. Try to ensure that cheese goes only where the sauce is already present.

Next, add on your Yves mock pepperoni. I like to do three to four per roll, forming a row of them across the top center.

Take each corner of your triangle-like dough slice and fold it forward and toward the bottom point of your dough slice. Think of it as folding a bottom point of a triangle toward the top point. Do the same for the other side. Now that all corners are connected, slowly and carefully roll the top of the dough slice to the bottom point. Take a moment to tuck ingredients back into the roll if needed.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Heat your oven to 425. Place your rolls on the sprayed pan and put them into the oven for fifteen minutes. Pull them out after the fifteen minutes are up, let them stand to cool, and enjoy.

I hope these recipes give you a better idea on how to eat tasty, excellent meals while avoiding meat and most dairy products. Let me know via comments, social networking, or even email if these ideas and recipes help your health and everyday life as well.

1. “Food Chains & Food Webs.” http://www.vtaide.com/png/foodchains.htm

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