June 18, 2008

Chile Chews' Quit Now Challenge - Update

At the beginning of the month, I joined Chile Chews Quit Now Challenge. You can find my introduction to this challenge here. I realized yesterday (when Chile popped over to my blog to ask me how the challenge was going) that I hadn't posted an update on this challenge, so here we go.

How successful have I been with sticking to the challenge?
I’ve been relatively good about eating vegetarian lunches (or as Chile says, quitting “animals in my lunch”). I have to admit that I’ve amended the rules a bit to allow for food provided by clients at lunch meetings, as I can’t always inform them of my eating habits in advance and I don’t want to offend the clients.

What have I learned from the challenge so far?
First, I miss being able to order anything I want. It’s a little bit difficult to eat vegetarian meals in downtown St. Louis restaurants, especially when there’s a tomato scare. I don’t often walk more than 2-3 blocks to buy my lunch, and the restaurants within that radius have a limited number of vegetarian options (usually 1 or 2) on their menus. A few restaurants I’ve tried have no vegetarian options at all. Other places have removed the vegetarian options from their menus because they cannot serve tomatoes until the FDA deems them safe from salmonella. So I’ve learned that, if I don’t see anything on the menu that sounds good, it never hurts to ask if the chef can make up a vegetarian option or omit the meat from one of their standard meals.

Second, I’ve learned that vegetarian meals can be incredibly tasty and satisfying. So far this month, I’ve eaten a grilled vegetable panini, a strawberry orange salad, cheese quesadillas with corn and salad, a grilled cheese sandwich with creamy tomato soup, a tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwich on Italian bread (before the tomato issue was publicized), penne with chicken, mushrooms and summer squash (by special request, I got this without the chicken), a vegetarian taco salad, and rotini with broccoli. Nearly all of these meals were quite tasty, and I generally didn’t miss the meat at all.

Third, vegetarian meals are cheaper than those with meat. This helps with the rising prices people are seeing all over the world.

And last, I’ve learned that I feel slightly more energetic and generally a bit healthier when I eat more green stuff and less meat. Last week I “accidentally” at vegetarian meals for two and a half days before I realized it, so clearly I can cut out a significant amount of meat from my diet. So far, this has manifested in covering more of my dinner plate in greens and less in roast beast.

How will this challenge impact me when June is over?
I did a little research about how much protein I really need in my diet, and discovered there isn’t a clear and concise answer to that question. Estimates range from the World Health Organization’s guideline of 4.5% of daily caloric intake to the National Research Council’s guideline of 8% of daily calories. I’d guess that I have historically eaten about twice that amount, so I feel comfortable with targeting a diet that cuts meat out of all breakfasts (with exceptions for special occasions), most lunches and a dinner here and there. We're also buying nearly 100% local, naturally pastured raised meat, which I'll talk about in an upcoming post.

So my thanks go to Chile for challenging me to eliminate some of the excess from my life. I know this is a small step, but eventually all the small things do add up.


Chile said...

Very good, Lori! I'm glad you discovered that you can speak up at restaurants to request veg options. I can get a vegetarian, actually vegan, meal damn near anywhere. Steak houses are one of the best, believe it or not.

Regarding the amount of protein needed, the WHO's recommendations on based on the definitive research done in the 1950s which established human protein needs at 2.5% of daily calories. The WHO doubled this number to cover worst case scenarios such as recovering from major trauma or diseases such as malaria. I think I can get you links to the studies if you'd like.

Keep up the good work!

Melinda said...

Good job, sis! Don't forget that whole grains pack a punch full of protein, too! And also don't be afraid to order something without the meat - most restaurants readily do that if it's not in a pre-made sauce.

Lori said...

Sorry it took me a while to respond to both of your comments. Thanks for the encouragement, guys. Right now I'd estimate I have a fully vegetarian day about once a week, and I haven't had meat at breakfast at all this month. I even cooked a fully vegetarian dinner earlier this month - which is a feat because 1) Rob usually cooks, and 2) Rob likes to eat meat. I don't think either of us missed the meat one bit.

I feel like I definitely get enough protein through dairy products, whole grains, beans and rice, a bit of tofu, and some meat thrown in once in a while. I really am not worried about that part.

I'm also getting used to ordering the occasional off-menu item, especially in places I've been to more than a couple of times. Most places seem happy to eliminate the meat upon request, especially in dishes that originally included chicken (maybe because it's usually pre-cooked and added to the dishes at the last minute before serving). I've also been frequenting a few asian restaurants downtown, which gives me the most variety of all the places I've found so far.

All in all, it's been fun. I intend to keep it up.