My son, the former carnivore, decided a while ago that he feels better when he doesn’t eat meat. After more than three decades of consuming meat as a part of his daily diet, I didn’t know exactly what to expect his food consumption to be like going forward. Eight months later, during which he has kept to a vegetarian diet — and slowly eliminated nearly all dairy products — he is more committed than ever to his new eating habits.
Daniel’s dietary regimen has been good for him. He has found, as have many others, that he is stronger and has more energy than he did before he eliminated meat and dairy from his diet. Since he enjoys cooking, he constantly experiments with what makes food taste good. I have become a “taste tester” for all kinds of vegetarian dishes and have found that I like most of them. When I eat a good vegetarian meal, I actually no longer miss the meat.
Daniel’s way of eating has made me curious about the vegetarian lifestyle. It’s been a slow, steady learning curve. As I continue to find out more, I am changing some of my thinking about some of the foods I grew up eating.
I’ve found that a lot of the old ideas about a vegetarian lifestyle — the food’s bland and tasteless, vegetables don’t provide what you need for energy, there’s not enough variety in vegetables and grains without meat — are just not true.
People in different parts of the world have consumed a vegetarian diet for centuries. Those who come from Mediterranean countries particularly eat plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables), whole grains, legumes and nuts, but very little if any meat. Instead of butter, they cook with and consume healthier fats like olive oil and canola oil. Their cuisine is flavored with herbs and spices, rather than salt. Just a little poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt is used. Highly processed foods and sugary drinks and desserts are not a part of their diet.
Studies have shown that weight loss and reduced risk for heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes are byproducts of the Mediterranean diet. This way of eating is based on the natural, healthy foods consumed by people from countries such as Italy and Greece in the mid-20th century and earlier.
As I learn more about this way of eating I will pass along information on what appeals to me for good health and, as always, what tastes good.
Salata (raw vegetable salad)
6 Roma tomatoes (3 cups), diced
1 large English cucumber, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped ripe olives
1/4 cup drained and rinsed capers
1 6-ounce can water packed tuna, drained
Place tomatoes and cucumbers in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Let the mixture drain for 5 minutes.
Place drained tomatoes and cucumbers in a large bowl. Add rest of ingredients. Toss gently to mix.
Serves six to eight.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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