Tuesday, 22 July 2014

In answer to an email

Good morning. Another email question to answer. Thank you for asking, no need to reveal the identity of the sender, I know who you are.  

I have been following your blog for quite a long time and really enjoy it! Thank you!!! I'm a single mom in the US with 2 kids still at home. I am very frugal. I am trying to get more into a vegetarian lifestyle both for health and financial reasons, meat prices have gone CRAZY!!!!  I look at your meals and always feel inspired. My request to you is to run an article about moving to a vegetarian diet. How does one do that? I am used to simple meals at home- usually a meat, a veg and a side dish like corn or potato. When I remove the meat from the plate it just looks like something is lacking and we don't stay full long enough. Your food looks more like meals! Please help us readers, and I am sure MANY would be helped by leading them to a more vegetarian diet. Do you recommend any cook books for us beginners? I bought the Moosewood cook book (used of course!) for vegetarian cooking but it calls for a lot of spendy ingredients and most of the meals are very heavy with fat.
Any help is greatly appreciated.

First and foremost I am not an expert in nutrition, the food I eat suits me, it may not suit everyone. The information out there about what you should or shouldn't eat is mind boggling confusing.  I see you have children, I don't know their ages, but one thing you must do is to give them a varied diet, a growing body is different to, say my 65 year old body.

You want to incorporate more veggie meals but it looks like something is missing on the plate when you leave out meat. Your cooking has probably followed the same pattern for a long time, meat and two veg. You see, that's where people are stuck, in the past, it's what they have always done, it's what their parents did, and they have continued the cycle. You need to get off the bike.

Look at my plates of food, there are no gaps there, my plates are full to over flowing. Portion control by all means if you are going to eat high calorie food, but if you eat lots of veg as I do, you can stuff yourself. The key is to eat more of what goes through you quickly, and less of the heavy stodge, including meat. Last night I ate my usual plate of steamed veg, potato, broccoli, broad beans, carrots, courgettes, and spinach, there was no room on my plate for anything else. So, an option is to fill the gap with even more veg. Instead of two veg, make it four or five veg.

If you find a plate of veg too boring you can disguise it in some way, by mashing it up, turning it into veggie burgers by adding beans, chick peas, lentils, peas, grated carrot, any grated root vegetable. Bind it with an egg, and grill your burgers. You can fill pies and pasties with veg, maybe add some cheese, maybe some nuts.

You don't have to go all the way and ban meat from your diet altogether. If you want to eat some meat it's best if you can buy good quality but buy less of it, maybe have one or two meat meals a week. If I wanted to eat meat, (heaven forbid, I couldn't stomach it), I would buy a small piece of the best steak, and that's about it. Any other meat products you are better off buying the lean meat and making pies, sausages, and burgers yourself, so you know what's in them.

You mention that you don't feel full for very long if you only eat veg. As I said, eat more of it, or add something that is more filling, such as beans or rice. It's ok to snack between meals, I do when I feel hungry. I eat dairy so I might have cheese and crackers, a yogurt, a few walnuts, a banana, some grapes, a piece of wholemeal bread with cream cheese or peanut butter. You could make a pasta salad and keep it in the fridge for dipping into. Or a rice bowl with sweetcorn and peas. Make sure you use wholegrain where ever you can.

Another thing to think about, your stomach stretches to accommodate the amount of food you send down there. If you are feeling hungry you are tempted to put more fillers in. I don't know what your weight is like, but if you are skinny maybe a healthy snack or two, but if you need to lose weight ignore the hunger pangs for an hour to give your stomach chance to shrink a little. It's like stuffing a balloon.

I don't buy cookery books, as I make up my recipes, but I do have one out of the library at the moment which is interesting. India's Vegetarian Cooking, by Monisha Bharadwaj. Some of the food in there looks delicious. A quote from the author......'Much of my home cooking is vegetarian, because that was how I was brought up. All my favourite foods are from the vegetarian world. I also feel happier, healthier, and more energetic after a vegetarian meal'.

Looking at the ingredients listed for her recipes, there are indeed a lot of 'spendy' ingredients. I don't keep large amounts of herbs and spices, I can't afford them, so I use recipes for ideas, then adapt them to suit what I do have in my cupboard, using substitutions where necessary.

While I am on this subject, there was also a mention of protein in my diet, am I getting enough.. I've been looking around various web sites and have found a list of foods which supply the body with protein.
Beans. Lentils. Peas. Chickpeas. Whole grains. Quinoa. Wholegrain bread. Brown rice. Barley. Tofu and Soy products. Wholewheat pasta. Nuts. Seeds. Peanut butter. Eggs. Dairy. Cheese. Yogurt. Potatoes. Green leaf veg. Meat substitute. -  burgers, sausage, mince, soya chunks etc. I am getting nearly all these, except tofu, I don't like it. It is a general misconception that you need to eat meat for protein, you don't. You can get enough from lots of other foods if you eat a varied diet. People make assumptions about my diet from the pictures I post here. They need to live with me for a week or more, to see how varied my diet is.

Taken from the Vegetarian web site.
There are many protein rich foods for vegetarians, rivaling the protein content of meat products. Popular concern that vegetarians lack protein is misplaced and plant protein has the advantage of containing reduced saturated fat associated with meat protein.

Take from the No Meat Athlete web site.
Tell someone you’re vegetarian, and the first objection you’ll likely get is, “But where do you get your protein?” (Never mind what kind of shape the person asking is often in.) I personally have not let the protein issue affect me, choosing instead to cook and eat a wide variety of foods and trust that I’ll get enough protein and all of the essential amino acids, and I’ve never felt better. 

I hope that I have given food for thought here. Eating a no meat diet is not that difficult. Please try it, use your imagination, serve up a few meals and see how you go on. I'm going to sign off now, the letter 'n' is not working properly on the keyboard, and it's driving me nutty. Also, my breakfast porridge has gone down, I'm now going to eat a banana with yogurt, then I'm off outside 'cause it's a nice day.
Toodle pip.

42 comments:

  1. Hi Ilona, I too am veggie and don't get the protein question, I always seem to get the "so why are you vegetarian?" question. I hate this question!! I find it really personal and I find it really hard to answer without sounding preachy or defensive. I don't go around going to all meat-eaters asking "so why do you eat meat?!" I hardly ever mention being veggie unless I need to. Do you get that question a lot? I need to rehearse a short answer I can reel off when needs be I think!!

    Your food always looks amazing and so healthy :)

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    1. Hi Jill. Yes I do get asked that question. I try not to get into a full blown discussion about it. I give a short answer, 'I don't think it's right to kill animals and eat them'. If someone offers me food with meat in it, I say, 'I don't eat dead animals'.

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    2. My short & sweet answer - Vegetarians have more sex!

      By the time they've got their head around that they've usually forgotten why they asked!

      (By the way I've found it's true - meat weighs you down and makes you sleepy, meat free means you've bags more energy! )

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  2. Hi, couldn't agree more, I have been a veggie for 20+ years, I always say I don't believe in killing to eat. A bit of cheese a nice boiled egg a few nuts, so much variety can be had, you are only limited by your imagination. I buy whats on offer use it up and shop again, grow and forage
    as much as you can.I guess being a pensioner and having the time to grow and shop around helps. I have never felt healthier than since I gave up meat and fish. Keep up the good work, a brill blog I love it. Jane x

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  3. Having been raised on a farm where we viewed the "killing of animals" to be just a matter of survival, I didn't grow up with any concern for eating meat. However, I certainly do respect your right to eat the veggies, and I definitely would not ask you the question. People come from different backgrounds, have different preferences, and any eating preference that looks at quantity will help to control weight. You have done a great job of explaining the benefits of vegetarian eating, and I so enjoy your frugal approach to all that you do. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Another tip for feeling fuller for longer on a mainly vegetable based meal is to add a teaspoonful of butter to your cooked veggies, as well as making them taste gorgeous a bit of fat helps the body to absorb all the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables. And what most people don't realise is that virtually ALL foods have some protein in them.

    Yours is a really good reply to your reader Ilona, and it will help a lot of people.

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  5. U.S. children love their spaghetti, Sloppy Joes and burgers... lentils and beans work very well as meatless (and inexpensive) substitutes. My oldest son has a Mexican co-worker, who is also a chef at a local restaurant. If you want to keep some meat in your diet, try his suggestion of browning a small amount of ground beef or ground turkey, adding water and dry lentils, bring it to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until most of the liquid is gone and the lentils are soft. I find it also works to just cook the lentils in beef-flavored water using a cube or two of beef bullion. I use twice as much water as dry lentils and add water (if necessary) as they cook up soft. From there, it's as simple as adding canned sauce and a bit of herbs for spaghetti, tomato sauce, diced onion, a sprinkle of chili powder and a heaping tablespoon of pickle relish for Sloppy Joes, or 1/2 cup of salsa for tacos, burritos, etc. You can make fast & easy "burgers" from canned black or kidney beans. Drain and rinse the beans, mash about 1/2 to 2/3 of them, and in a bowl, stir together the mashed beans with one beaten egg, seasonings of your choice, 1 teaspoon olive or canola oil, and then add 1/2 cup bread crumbs, quick cooking oats or even just whole wheat flour, plus the whole beans and combine well by hand. Form your patties and "fry" in a preheated, nonstick skillet using a little oil to keep them from sticking. Turn only once, cooking each side 3-4 minutes over medium heat. I like to use McCormick's Montreal Steak seasoning blend to make them taste more like actual burgers. Trust me, those recipes are all very filling!

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    1. Hi Elise, Thank you for your comment, lots of tips there.

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    2. Thank YOU, Ilona, for sharing your shopping/meal tips all the time! :-) I'm always inspired by your yellow sticker deals and subsequent meals. PBS (U.S.) had a show on last night about poor children in America, and it was heart-breaking to hear these kids talk about being hungry while opening a can of vegetables for a meal. Or going without. Yes, growing children need more protein than we do, but *any* food is better than none. Lentils and beans go a long way towards staving off hunger.

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  6. Forgot to mention, mushrooms also work well as a meat substitute. Especially portabello mushrooms. My husband isn't a mushroom fan (at all), yet LOVED the skillet shepherd's pie I made over the weekend. Mainly, because I didn't tell him until he was done. Oops! :-) I'd gotten a small package of the mushrooms on sale (there were 2 large mushrooms in the package), diced those up and "browned" them in a bit of canola oil with 1 small, diced onion, 3 stalks celery, diced, 1 large, diced carrot, 4 small tomatoes cut up and 2 large zucchini (courgettes) diced. I added 1 cup of beef broth (bought at Dollar Tree, it comes in a carton) and some chopped basil, plus salt & pepper. Let that simmer until the carrots are soft, then I stirred in about a cup of shredded cheese and kept stirring until it had melted. Top with prepared corn bread mix (also from Dollar Tree) OR prepared mashed potatoes, cover the skillet and let it cook undisturbed on the stove top for 20 minutes. Remove from the burner without taking off the lid, and allow to sit at least five minutes before serving. It makes a LOT and is very filling. You could use the brown mushrooms (including baby bellas) as a meat substitute in any number of recipes. As an aside, quinoa runs about $7.49 per pound in my area... which rivals a beef steak, and therefore I don't buy it. Just too expensive.

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  7. Veggie here as well but the family still eat meat. I just have what they have without the meat. I find if I'm still hungry cake fills the gap lol........... umm now I know why I've put on weight!

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  8. As Sue pointed out adding fats or sugars (This is what the food manufactures do.) gives you the feeling of full. If we look at Ilona diet she has fats in it and animal proteins in the way of dairy and eggs so she feels satisfied. I have used Elise method of stretching my animal protein with beans and veggies for years. I would suggest looking at other cuisines as most are vegetable heavy. We eat a lot of Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican and Chinese. Here's a couple of web sites I have found tasty recipes on:
    http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/
    http://foodandspice.blogspot.com/p/mlla.html
    Most of all you need to experiment to find what you and your family like.

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    1. Thank you, Judy. I've been doing this for about 5 years. It started out of necessity, and not because of the high cost of meat, but because my husband was diagnosed as a diabetic. He wasn't at all overweight. It came as a shock. We were used to having pasta, rice, bread or potatoes with our meals. He didn't like whole wheat pastas, brown rice, whole grain breads/buns or sweet potatoes. I tried the lentils with spaghetti sauce, and he liked it... plus his blood sugar numbers were FAR better after a meal. At that point, I began stretching animal protein or eliminating it completely in some meals with lentils, legumes, and yes, mushrooms (that he doesn't care for, but that I can disguise). I also started incorporating olive oil into recipes, as well as dairy (like the shredded white cheese to thicken gravies). Mexican dishes are high in vegetables, but also very high in starches and fats. I've had to play with those. I do a lot of what Ilona does. I play with our food. Since I also feed our elderly neighbors (in their nineties), I try to pack as much nutrition as humanly possible into a meal on a tight budget. e grow or get many veggies free. In California, however, the cost of food has become outrageous! So out of necessity, these days I'm also planning meals primarily around produce.

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  9. Quinoa is expensive but it has so much protein in it that you could combine it with an equal amount of rice or just add a little to soup. The internet is a treasure trove for us vegans looking for cheap alternatives. My favorite webiste for vegan recipes is postpunkkitchen.com. The blogger is a chef and author of many vegan cookbooks but you don't have to spend money on cookbooks. Many years ago I bought vegan soyrizo on clearance. I took it home and used it in place of all the meat in Brazilian Black Bean soup. It was so delicious I went back to the store and bought all the clearance soyrizo and put it in the freezer. Once I used it all I had to start buying it at full price but one package combined with 2 pounds of black beans is stil a very economical meal. That soup is what I eat for lunch every day. In the evening I eat some other bean and veggie soup. I only cook on the weekend and put individual meals in the freezer for the rest of the week. There are a lot of wonderful recipes that use peanut butter as the protein. You can find nutrition guides at www.nutrition.gov

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    1. Hi Tawanka. Thanks for that, the site may be useful to Vicki, below. I agree, the internet is full of information.

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  10. Hi Ilona,
    Just popping in to to say your wonderful bag has been and still is travelling across France, Italy and Switzerland with me, doing a wonderful job!

    Hugs
    X x

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    1. Brilliant. Nice to hear from you. Safe journey.

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  11. A very interesting and useful blog. I am eating less and less meat (as I'm getting older, I think) so your tips are really helpful - thank you. Too true, it is easy to get stuck in the past and to eat the same foods. Sarah.

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  12. You can look to the past for cheap and filling ways to eat. Liverpool is famous for scouse which, if i'm right, is a stew made with very cheap cuts of meat and potato and veg. Lancashire hotpot is similar and i think Staffordshire eat oatcakes. I'm sure there are many more similar recipes from around Britain but they are all based on nourishment and cheapness of the ingredients.
    Curries can be adapted and ingredients substituted to make a plateful of food and the hot and spicyness can be adjusted to taste.
    Dave.

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    1. I buy Staffordshire Oatcakes from Tesco, they are great for all kids of fillings, sweet or savoury. I don't go with making food look pretty mullarkey, A big plate of stew hits the spot for me.

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  13. Wish I could be vegetarian but being seriously allergic to legumes, soya and nuts makes it virtually impossible! My son's allergic to dairy, most fish and nuts too which has always made mealtimes a challenge! Vicki

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    1. Oh dear, that sounds like a nightmare, Vicki. Can the doctor refer you to a nutritionist?

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    2. Hi again. Just found this o a web site that Tawanka recommends

      Talk with your doctor or other health professional about referring you to a Registered Dietitian (R.D.). An R.D. can provide personalized dietary advice taking into consideration your health status (such as other medical conditions), lifestyle, and food likes and dislikes.
      The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (link is external) has a Find a Registered Dietitian service that allows you to locate an R.D. in your geographical area with particular specialties (such as weight control, diabetes, digestive disorders, etc.). Be advised that this list may not include all R.D.s in your area.
      Check with your local health department, hospitals, clinics, and Cooperative Extension (link is external) for classes such as those on weight management, diabetes, etc.
      http://www.nutrition.gov/nutrition-and-health-issues/commonly-asked-questions-faq

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  14. After you wrote about the palm oil in peanut butter, I looked at my Australian one, and it is palm oil too. Today I bought freshly milled peanut butter from the health store. It was $5.50 for 500g, fresh and pure. Made there. The supermarket one with palm oil is about $4 for a good brand for 500g. So, I am happy, although it is a bit dearer. Thanks. You could try a shop like that too.

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    1. Hi. I used to buy fresh peanut butter years ago, the shop made it while you wait. Just peanuts, nothing else, it was lovely. I don't think we have anywhere like that in this town, but I will look. Thanks.

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    2. I make my own nut butters using my food processor--just nuts. No need to add anything, but a touch of salt IMO. Delicious!

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    3. Ilona, what a shame you don't have a health food shop like that near you. It is a little shop about 4m wide by 5m deep, with general health food stuff. They have a peanut butter nut processor on the counter where you pay, and just do it for you, or you take one of the 5 or so tubs waiting to be sold. The use by date was October this year, so I got 2 to save on fuel getting another. Maybe one day you can do an exchange to Canberra in Australia, and go shopping here! How about a house swap, and I could check out your lovely region?! That would be a super budget holiday!

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  15. Try a student cookbook as they feature cheap easy recipes and advice about store cupboard basics. Can recommend The Hungary Student Vegetarian Cookbook by Charlotte Pike, £5.59 Amazon (less for Kindle) or free from UK libraries! It's full of lots of scrummy nutritious food, frittatas, pizzas, tarts, enchiladas, bean burgers. I am sure you can find something similar in the US! Good luck xx

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  16. I agree with your comment Ilona, about children having different nutritional requirements from older people. Our teen son eats far more protein than us and often, I give him some of mine. There are various websites which allow you to check the nutritional content, including protein, of most foods and it's interesting to see which non-meat foods have high iron/protein content. Fortified cereals are a good start for growing children as they contain iron, various vitamins etc. Minced beef can be bulked out with breadcrumbs and egg to make burgers, and it can be bulked out with chopped vegetables, tinned tomatoes or passata, and lentils to make bolognese, chilli, meatloaf etc, all of which are quite filling. We are meat eaters and I tend to stock up when it's half price and cook all of it at once which saves on power, portion it up and freeze it. Also, I buy yellow sticker meat. Stir fries are also an excellent way of making a little meat stretch a long way by chopping it up finely and stir frying it with vegetables, and serving with lots of rice or noodles.

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  17. Right here is the right site for anybody who hopes to find
    out about this topic. You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I really would want to…HaHa).
    You certainly put a new spin on a topic that's been discussed for many years.
    Great stuff, just wonderful!

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    1. This comment came in as spam. I have doctored it to remove the link, and re posted it. Ha ha.

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  18. You need to take part in a contest for one
    of the most useful websites online. I'm going to highly recommend this blog!

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  19. Agree there is more than enough protein in a veggie "diet" it's everywhere and when your a veggie you know where to find it and it's very filling. Love your honesty and agree about the shape the people asking are in lol I think there is this thing about missing out great post by the way x

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  20. Hi Liona this is not releted to your topic just wanted to let you know that Farmfoods have Whiskas 48 packs for £8.95 don't know if that is a good deal or not and i remember reading your cats can be fussy they also have 2kg bag of dried Whiskas priced at £3.95 again not sure if its a good deal or not just from a advert dropped through with the free newspaper. your blog is great take care Kristian

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    1. Thank you Chris, I will have a look for that, it's a good price.

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  21. Hi Me again they have 1kg of extra mature cheese for £5 don't know how strong it is i love mature cheese but in the last year found to be Lactose intorlant pain in the arse it is so unless i buy lactoe free cheese £2.35 for 200grams I ahve to go without also they dont sell it in the villege I have to go to town (hull) to buy some

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  22. Hi again Ilona (can't seem to reply directly to your reply)
    Thanks for that info. Must see what GP can offer and must also work on other half who is definitely a confirmed meat eater! Vicki

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    1. Hi Vicki. If you are still on Outlook Express you won't be able to click on the Reply button. I had to change to Google Chrome.

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  23. I had to google Staffordshire Oatcakes because it sounded like something I want to eat. The recipe is simple and it's vegan (as long as you don't eat the bacon or top it with cheese)! I'm drooling imagining all the wonderful things I could add to them........mmmmmmmmmmmm....

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  24. I switched to a vegan diet due to health concerns over a year ago and I have found two authors to be extremely helpful and both available at my local library too. First is The Happy Herbivore cookbooks. All of her recipes are simple and most use only a few simple ingredients. I have used her mock tuna and no beef broth recipes a lot. The second is the cookbook Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskovitz. While these recipes can be a bit more involved, I have not tried a bad recipe yet and I love her tempeh meatballs and her pancake recipe! I don't like the taste of fake meats or cheese so I tend to stick to beans and grains. I especially love chickpeas and lentils because they are so versatile. Good luck!

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