As it was National Vegetarian Week, lifelong meat-eater Brian Stormont decided to try a vegetable-based diet for seven days. Here’s how he got on …
For a committed carnivore like myself, the thought of not eating meat isn’t something I had ever considered.
Obviously, I am aware that many people choose to not eat meat, or animal products for that matter, as a life choice, whether that be as a vegetarian as a vegan.
I genuinely didn’t think I ate a huge amount of meat until I realised that I actually eat it at least two or three times a day. So on hearing National Vegetarian Week was coming up I decided it was the perfect time to spend a week trying to get an insight into what life without meat is like.
Having now completed seven days eating only vegetables or vegetable protein, I can honestly say I have great respect for vegetarians and vegans.
I know there are different reasons for people deciding to follow those choices, for someone like me, who it seems eats far more meat than they actually realised, it was not easy at all.
The first thing I thought was I need to attempt, as much as possible, to ensure I am getting all the fuel I need into my body in respect of protein, vitamins such as iron and other nutrients into my diet.
And planning my diet was going to be key, too.
My go-to of grabbing something out of the freezer if I was in a hurry wasn’t going to wash as most of my freezer foods featured meat of some sort.
As I was beginning my meat-free week on a Monday, I immediately decided to make a pot of soup. I really believed this would work well and act as a wee pick-me-up with it being so cold and dull.
With meat missing, I wanted there to be plenty of flavour. That has to be a key consideration when there is no meat and something I was to discover as the week went on.
Normally, I would make chicken broth for a dreary day or week, but obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. I considered leek and potato, but then recalled I had a tin of butter beans in my cupboard feeling sorry for itself.
With that in mind, I decided to make spicy chilli, tomato and bean soup which I was so pleased with I wanted to eat right away.
As I normally only eat toast or cereal for my breakfast, that was lunch sorted for a few days, interspersed with a salad which would include some Quorn meat-free chicken slices and maybe a boiled egg one day.
I also sampled a plant-based beet burger one day, which was really enjoyable and very satisfying topped with some red onion and tomato.
After that, it was just a case of organising what I was going to eat for dinner – and I had a few ideas in mind, including a Quorn, sweet potato and mushroom curry which I will definitely make again.
In addition, I bought some meat-free breaded “chicken” grills which I enjoyed along with some homemade chips and peas.
And, of course, I ate the old classic, macaroni cheese, which was no hardship at all!
How was it?
Having never gone an entire week without eating meat in my life what were my conclusions?
I am not going to lie, I did miss it. However, this was mostly when the subject of a steak or burger, for instance, came up in conversation or I saw them in the newspaper or on TV.
It certainly seemed to be a case of out of sight out of mind and I would be OK.
The variety in my diet was good, and it was certainly colourful when you have a lot of veggies on your plate.
Whether this was coincidental or not, after a couple of days I definitely had more energy than I had had recently.
And while I maybe didn’t lose weight, I felt as though I was less bloated eating a vegetarian diet.
One thing I did find, however, was that following the diet forced me to concentrate on my food choices.
For instance, I picked up a Scotch egg in the supermarket before I realised that it obviously included sausage meat.
You also have to be creative with your food and ensure that nutritionally your body is getting the fuel it needs.
While I am not going to remove meat from my diet in the future, I am certainly going to place more emphasis on what is in my diet and endeavour to include more vegetables and pulses, rather than relying on meat as my main source of protein.
My soup was the star of the week, especially with the weather being so awful. So if you fancy giving it a go, the recipe is below.
Spicy chilli, tomato and bean soup
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 celery stick, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 red chilli, sliced
- 1 green chilli, sliced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 300ml water
- 1 tin butter beans
- 1 tin kidney beans
- Melt a little olive oil in large soup pot and add your onion, carrots and celery. Sweat over a low to medium heat for a few minutes, then add your garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Add your chillies, cumin and oregano and cook for another minute or two.
- Tip in your chopped tomatoes, crumble in your vegetable stock cube and add the water, using more or less depending on what consistency you want your soup.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes, then drain your beans and add them to the pot.
- Cook for another 5 minutes before serving with some crusty bread or as I did oatcakes with chutney and cheese.