by Tom Sims
Soon the house will awaken and I will start making noise. My tea and honey have been quiet and my morning reading virtually silent. I get loud when I start stirring around the kitchen. I have choices, many of them. I can have whole grain pancakes, rice cakes, something with corn meal, oats with fruit and nuts, or maybe something on the skillet.
I am a vegetarian, not a vegan. So I eat eggs, but not as many as I used to eat, and, of course, not with bacon.
I started this journey almost two years ago after gastric bypass surgery. At 220 pounds, six foot three inches tall, I am 160 pounds less of a man than I used to be. I work out regularly and vigorously, I rise early in the morning, and I have energy, enthusiasm, and freedom from most of the ailments I had before surgery.
I no longer take blood pressure, diabetes, or reflux medications. I also, no longer eat meat. I no longer have gout attacks. I can get up and walk across the room without groaning. I feel great!
For that matter, I try to avoid processed sugars, processed flours, and sodas. I generally substitute soy milk or almond milk for cow’s milk. I do, sometimes, use whole whipping cream or half and half in my coffee, but not every day.
I do not feel deprived. Life is delicious. It is also a bit challenging at times. We run two menus in my house for the most part. I cook for myself and my wife cooks for everyone else except for breakfast. My wife and grandson seem to love my pancakes and waffles. I make theirs with regular ingredients, sneaking in some healthy and undetectable proteins here and there.
I will also fry their bacon if they like. I am not dogmatic about this. This is not a mission to convert others to my lifestyle. This is about what I feel are healthy choices for me.
There is an investment in my health of well over $50,000 and I have made considerable adjustments. I do not intend to squander that. I had bariatric surgery to improve my quality of life and duration of life. After the staples were removed, it was up to me. So, I set out to learn what healthy choices I needed to make.
I had toyed with the idea of vegetarian choices for years. I had talked to many vegetarians who were healthy, vigorous, and happy. I love fresh vegetables, grains, and beans. They smile at me and I smile back.
Serving meat as the main course, which takes up most of the plate, is a modern phenomenon. It takes longer to digest than other foods. When it is out of balance it has many health implications. We simply eat too much meat.
That is the most dogmatic statement I will make on the matter.
So, for some time, even before my surgery, I started thinking of meat as a side dish and emphasizing healthier foods as main courses. It helped to ease me into the transition.
So, what is my life like?
It is interesting. I experiment a lot. I make soups almost every day. They are filling and can combine almost all the elements of a balanced meal. I can eat more soup than any other food. For stock, I sometimes use store-bought vegetable stock, but most often start with tomato or vegetable juice.
Beans make their own stock and it is delicious. Combining various beans creates variety. Throw in some dried refried beans or dried split peas for thickness and taste. Imitation bacon bits made from soy will jazz things up. I use lots of herbs, onions, garlic, and other vegetables for flavor. Sea salt, pepper, and mushrooms are my friends. A drizzle of agave will sweeten the pot.
I make a killer mushroom soup!
In the morning, I grab some nuts to get me started. I am trying to get 70-90 grams of protein a day. Nuts are a great source of protein. I focus on variety because various nuts have their own benefits. I also have some fruit in the morning – blueberries, cherries, banana, and dried cranberries.
When it comes time to make noise, I love this breakfast:
Sauté onions in a skillet in just a small amount of extra virgin olive oil (you can get it in a spray version).Add some chopped mushrooms, free greens, fresh basil, and garlic. If you are adventurous, I recommend some chopped peppers. Just use your imagination. If you like it, throw it in. Don’t cook it to death. Reduce the heat early to preserve the nutrients.
At the last minute, throw in some tomatoes.
Gather all these ingredients in a nice pile on the skillet. Now, you have a choice. One approach would to be to beat an egg with some soy milk and pour that on the vegetables. However, I also like to just crack an egg over them. Try it both ways for variety.
With your spatula, gently coax the egg to cover the “pile” and gather whatever wants to spread out too far.
Before you cover this concoction, if you are not a vegan or lactose intolerant, distribute some little pieces of your favorite cheeses on top of what is now looking like an omelet. Let some fall off directly onto the oiled skillet if you like crispy cheeses around the edges.
Then cover the skillet, reduce the heat some more, and wait. Let nature take its course. When it is done, you should be able to remove the dish as a whole. If you are not successful with that, call it a scramble. You will enjoy! It will look like a three egg omelet, but it will only be one egg. You will feel nurtured, loved, and healthy.
I have learned some tricks and shortcuts for survival along the way. The most effective trick is to experiment. If you get an idea, try it.
Watch some cooking shows, read some recipes, and try your own ideas.
Make friends with Christina Pirello. “Like” her page on Facebook and visit her website, www.christinacooks.com. Her PBS show is based upon sound nutritional teaching and her creative skills as a chef. She has combined both disciplines, first to save her own life and then to teach healthy habits to others. Christina is a vegan, so she does not use cheese or eggs, but she suggests some intriguing substitutes. You can also visit www.youtube.com/christinacooks.
I do not use “fake meats” and do not enjoy the veggie burgers you can buy in restaurants or grocery stores. Some may like them. They have good ingredients. I just don’t digest them well. Eggplant is a wonderful entree.
In restaurants, I start with the appetizer or a la carte menu. I don’t eat as much, but even if I did, I would find bargains here. For combination meals, I ask for substitutions or share with a friend. Be creative. You can put salsa on cottage cheese and live large!
You can also visit a vegetarian restaurant like Revive Café in Fresno. They have a grocery store as well. (1807 Broadway Street, Fresno, CA 93721 – Phone: 559-492-0729. Their Facebook page offers lots of ideas and links.
If you are serious about trying this, there is no shortage of resources available on the Internet. I would also be happy to correspond with you about my experiences. I am available for some life coaching around this subject. You do not have to make a life commitment. You can wade in.
Whatever you do, start thinking healthy choices. Think substitutes for high fat, high calorie, and difficult-to-digest foods. Think nuts, beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
This has been a great journey so far and there is much more I could write, but I am just too excited about thinking about cooking breakfast to continue. You have made my mouth water. See what you have done?!
Vegetarian Recipes. Things you can cook now!
The Vegetarian Resource Group. Links to national organizations and resources.
VegSource.Com – Great links and ideas here.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Dr. Fuhrman’s PBS specials are very helpful.
Dr. Joe Fawcett. Dr. Joe’s advice is not restricted to vegetarians, but is very balanced and extremely helpful for holistic health.
The Blissful Chef
On the Web
Veg Love – Lots of good information here.
Mehek Punjab De – Pure Vegetarian Restaurant In Fresno
Happy Cow lists and reviews restaurants. Here is the link for Fresno. Just substitute your own city to find a restaurant near you.
For some more links and an article on being vegan, check out KRL’s article Help Me, My Child is A Vegan.