Early on in 2013 I hesitantly agreed to participate in the #MeatlessMarch Madness. You think college basketball is cray? Try going 31 days meat free. Initially, I took the easy route and I had only planned to reduce my meat consumption to 2-3 servings per week; after some additional thought and careful meal planning, I changed my mind and decided to go all the way. Warning: Mr. Kolnik is probably dying to get all inappropriate on us in the comments section. To be fair, I completely baited him.
To be quite honest, my meal planning went out the window after about the first week. It was difficult to stay on track with the amount that I dine out. I was still able to use it as a general guide for the next few weeks, and I used the weekly shopping list to pick up the basics. I didn’t eat fish at all until after the first 10 days, and then I found myself eating it at least twice per week. Seeing as it was Lent, almost everywhere I went to eat had a “fish special” on the menu. Meanwhile, the veggie options at many establishments left a lot to be desired. One thing I learned from this month is that if you don’t plan ahead you’ll often end up with a disappointing meal. That being said – props to all you full-time vegetarians out there!
After the first 5 days, I started craving beef. Actually, craving is an understatement. I started DREAMING about beef, specifically medium rare double bacon cheeseburgers. My coworker bringing bacon up from the cafeteria nearly brought me to tears (#bacontears). I knew I would never be able to persevere if the dreams continued, and so I did a little research (what did we do before Google?). Turns out, my problem was not that I needed meat, or even more protein. It was a lack of iron that was triggering the beef cravings. Enter Shredded Mini-Wheats. BAM. There was 90% of my daily recommended iron taken care of first thing in the morning. I also added some additional spinach into my diet for good measure. After a couple days, the beef cravings subsided completely.
One of the best new recipes I tried during #MeatlessMarch was stuffed manicotti with roasted garlic marinara. Best part about it was that it was all done in a crock pot! I served this to meat-eaters at an impromptu dinner gathering with a side of steamed broccoli and garlic bread, they were all very satisfied. I also tried this recipe for White Bean Veggie Burgers . They were tasty, and fun to make, but I just have a really hard time calling beans/veggies a “burger”. The one exception to this rule is the black bean burger at Republic (see right). I only indulged in this burger once during #MeatlessMarch, but I would highly recommend it to any skeptics – so tasty!
I visited Pig & Fiddle twice during March, and both times I resisted the lure of the Sloppy Pig (the best sandwich on the face of the planet). This forced me to try some of their other amazing menu options – the grilled cheese for one: smoked gouda, radicchio & some other goodies on sourdough with a side of mashed potatoes. I also tried their cheese fries with house made sauerkraut topped with a fried egg – delish!
I didn’t experience a significant change in the frequency or severity of my migraines this month, as I hoped I might (I blame the eternal winter). I do think that if I worked toward combining a mostly meatless diet with daily physical activity, I could experience some big changes. Although this was not a weight loss exercise, I did lose about five pounds. I thought it would be worth mentioning, especially since I ate all kinds of desserts, carbs, and cheese this month.
Another observation I made was that my sleep quality improved. Prior to March, I would be in bed for about 8 hours a night, actually sleeping probably 5-6 of those hours, waking up intermittently, tossing/turning, etc. Many nights since the 2nd week of #MeatlessMarch I have slept (like a rock), without waking up once. I have been waking up feeling refreshed, which is a huge change for me. On average, I feel like I’ve been getting tired a little earlier in the evenings, but I’m willing to make that tradeoff for a great night’s sleep.
So there you have it folks, I am an omnivorous being who survived an entire month without meat. I would say the most important thing I learned during this ultimate test of willpower was accountability. Going meatless forced me to be more aware and take full responsibility for all of the food I put into my body, all of the time – not just when it was convenient or affordable for me. Big shout out to Nicole for introducing me to vegetarianism, and showing me that not all vegetarians are crazy and judgy when they see you eating meat. Now, somebody pass this girl some bacon.