Friday, February 26, 2016

Vegetarianism & Protein Combining

I did not become a vegetarian willingly.  My doctor simply said the magic words,
"You can eat meat.  Or you can live." 
Now there's a statement that's hard to argue with.  Thus, I became a foxhole vegetarian.  Oh, I admit that I tried to eat a little meat a couple of times early on; the unpleasantness that I experienced as a result was absolutely not worth the flavor of the food.  I decided that I liked living a whole lot more (even on a bad day) than I like the taste of steak.  And I used to like steak with fried bananas better than anything.  At least I can still enjoy fried bananas.

Most people say that they think being a vegetarian must be boring.  It's not--there's a whole bunch more kinds of fruits, grains, and veggies than there is meat.  Meat is just something most of us were brought up to expect but, really, our ancestors ate much less meat than folks now are accustomed to.  Meat used to be used to supplement the meal, not to be the basis of it, unless you were one of those rich folks who could afford it.  Poor folks got by on simpler fare; and they were often healthier and more muscular than the rich guys who got gout instead.

I don't worry about what other people put on their plates but they sure like to have a say about what's on mine and, here in small town Mississippi where vegetarians are unusual, I get to listen to a lot of views--views that are mostly wrong. 
--Yes, actually I can survive without eating meat and have done so for decades.
--No, not all vegetarians are skinny.  (We can thank my surgically-removed thyroid gland for wrecking that theory and for making me hate the scale.) 
--No, I don't miss meat.  I've been a veggie girl most of my life now and there's Morningstar Farms for fake-bacon if I should feel desperate. 
--No, vegetarians cannot have chicken broth or gravy or Jell-o, and they don't want to.  Just what do you think is in that stuff?   (Actually I once had to inform a registered dietician at a hospital that Jell-o is a meat product.  Sure shocked her.)
--No, I'm not hungry all the time--that's what protein combining is for.    

I'm mainly a lacto-vegetarian (meaning that I use dairy products), although I do occasionally use eggs for cooking.   I was a vegan (no animal products at all and that includes honey) for several years (again, not willingly, but as a temporary measure so I could heal) so I know that you can be healthy and not hungry as a non-carnivore.  (Actually the proper word for most folks' eating habit is 'omnivore' but never mind; all those terms can get tricky.) 

Besides just plain actual hunger, it's normal to feel hungry for something more and that's generally when your body telling you that you need something other than what you've ingested already. 

--Sometimes that something is sleep, believe it or not--most folks don't get enough real rest because they are too busy and too distracted by one shiny screen or another. 

--Very often that something is water.  Not soda.  Not coffee.  Not (heaven help us!) tea.  Water.  Seriously, read Dr. Batmangheldj's book Your Body's Many Cries For Water.  (You can find used copies in very good condition on for 75 cents!) 

--And the other something is proper nutrition:  vitamins, amino acids, that sort of stuff.  And, no, taking a bunch of vitamin pills isn't enough.  Fresh food, properly combined, is what does the job.

Combining food isn't just about what tastes great in a recipe.  It's about adding various foods together to make the amino acids and proteins that your body needs; it's about certain foods helping other foods to get the job done.    Early on in my vegetarian days, I discovered an already-old and nearly forgotten tome called The Forget-About-Meat Cookbook by Karen Brooks (again, this book is available on that told me the basics of what I needed to know but what no one thought to tell me when I learned that becoming vegetarian was necessary.  The recipes in the book are just so-so (except for the purple onion and broccoli stuffed tomatoes!) but the few pages of general amino acid advice were a big assist.

An egg would be considered a perfect protein because in needs nothing to compliment it.   Otherwise, you need to know which foods work hand-in-hand for you.

I'm borrowing a chart from Diane Campbell's venerable old vegetarian book Step-by-Step to Natural Food which I believe to be out-of-print but, yet again, copies may be found on  (Truthfully, I've never liked the recipes in this book but the other information has been invaluable.)

Even omnivores need to know what combinations to eat to feel full, healthy, and nourished.  Being vegetarian really isn't that hard either, and it doesn't need to be a mystery--even knowing the simplest of basics can get you where you need to go. 

Life is good.

(Just a disclaimer:  I am not on the payroll of 
I do have a small number of books for sale on
but they do not include any of the titles I have cited. 
I have nothing to gain by mentioning the books or the website.)

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