Becoming a weekday vegetarian

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Weekday vegetarian, some people get angry when they hear this phrase. Why? I don’t really know or understand, but I’m guessing it’s because they see life as a 0-1 kind of situation, it’s either black or white. You can’t be a vegetarian and a carnivore at the same time. Or can you?

Life isn’t black and white. There’s plently of grey (and other colours) between the black and white. The term weekday vegetarian, or ‘weekday veg’ was coined by Graham Hill, the founder of TreeHugger.com. In his short TED speech Graham explains how you can be a vegetarian and a carnivore at the same time. Watch the TED video here:

 

 

It’s such a simple concept. It doesn’t make you feel bad about eating meat, because yes – you can eat meat when you’re a weekday vegetarian. So there’s no ‘I feel guilty now’ moment if you have a burger on Saturday. And in some way it eases your transformation into a full vegetarian (if you choose so). Your routine changes as you replace most meals with veg- or fruit-based options, which are now the new norm in your diet.

You get to experience different fruits or vegetables that you haven’t had in years. And if you do a bit of reading as you prep them, you’ll notice that they can do wonders for you as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which will make you feel better than processed, nutrient poor meals.

 

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Weekday vegetarian benefits

By being a weekday vegetarian you can considerably cut your consumption of meat (no surprise here). Let’s say that you eat meat every day, so 7/7. If you cut it down to 2 days, 2/7, that’s a reduction of 70%, but hey – you may be hungry for meat, so let’s say you binge on the weekend and eat a lot of meat, so let’s move the scale to 3/7. That’s still a 60% reduction in your meal consumption. Now, why should you care?

Plant-based diets like Mediterranean diet are considered to be healthier, thanks to high amount of unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruit, and fats like olive oil. I think this is where a description of a weekday vegetarian is a bit vague.

You can cut meat and still eat plenty of sweets, drink fizzy drinks, or stuff yourself with a margherita pizza. That’s definitely not something that would make you healthier.  So if you want to be a weekday vegetarian for health reasons, then unprocessed foods are your way to go.

I think people have their own reasons when they become vegetarians, in a similar way to the weekday vegetarian idea. Some do it for health, some for the environment, some to protect animals. This is where being weekday vegetarian doesn’t resonate much. At least, that’s the way I see it.

If animal protection is the main reason for you to become vegetarian then definitely being weekday vegetarian can help you ease into the vegetarian routine and make the transition easier, but you really need to look at the end goal. After all, if you eat meat as a weekday vegetarian then meat still has to be produced.

That means that  there are farms where animals are bred for one reason only – meat production. By reducing food consumption we don’t protect animals, we reduce the amount of animals raised simply to be grown and then killed. It would be interesting to see if you have a different opinion on this.

I personally became a weekday vegetarian for the reason of food sustainability. If you follow our Science section you’ll see articles from Sam or Robbie, who talk about the importance of sustainability, e.g. this one:

 

Sustainability is key to space exploration and life on Mars

 

I believe food sustainability is important for a big challenge ahead of us – the mission to Mars. Along the way, trying to figure out how to make Mars life sustainable for our astronauts, we should be able to address and solve food sustainability problems that we face on Earth. It’s a win-win situation.

Many technologies come to us, mere mortals, after years of research in top secret military facilities. Maybe space wars (or should I say Star Wars?) will lead to new developments for food sustainability in space and on Earth? I hope we won’t have to go to that extreme to see progress.

For now, I think we could make a huge dent in the universe by becoming weekday vegetarians. Sam, in his article ‘Will we all be eating insects’ mentioned a report published by the UK government’s waste agency, which concluded that insects should become a staple part of everyone’s diet. This is because eating crickets is much more environmentally friendly than eating beef, at least when it comes to your protein intake.

I’m not going to talk about this much more, the point is that global organisations start to realise that beef consumption and production requires plenty of natural resources and it’s a very inefficient process. Meat production uses extreme amounts of water, land, and feed (+time) to get something on your plate that you will consume in minutes anyway. Maybe we should see meat as a weekend treat only?

There’s another reason for you to say with pride ‘I’m a weekday vegetarian’ – it’s called production of greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as methane and ammonia. Cows are brilliant at producing GHGs – so much that they produce more of them than cars, planes, and all other forms of transport combined (that’s a lot of gas). To put numbers on these emissions, the Food and Agricultural Organisation estimated that livestock produces 18% of all GHGs.

What that means is that even if we cut down industry emissions and transport emissions, our livestock emissions will be still way too high and we need to address that problem.

 

weekday vegetarian

Image credit: Wikipedia

 

Weekday vegetarian recipes 

At the moment I don’t pay much attention to recipes, as I’m more focused on counting calories with MyFitnessPal. My day usually starts with a fruit breakfast. My recipe for weekday breakfast would be then a couple of bananas or two oranges. Maybe some blueberries on another day. That depends on what I have at home at that moment.

My weekday vegetarian lunch is a soup, usually something from a shop that I could heat up quickly. Eating raw vegetables, e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, or celery works too. Microwaved vegetables may be quite tricky to prepare at work (unless you don’t care about your colleagues), cause some vegetables e.g. broccoli or cauliflower have a very strong, sulfur-like odor. To put it simply your office will stink for hours.

I’ve listed some simple ‘recipes’ below. I think it’s best to keep it simple. I’m rubbish at cooking, so by focusing on few key ingredients I know I can have a nutritious meal without spending too much time thinking about it.

 

Weekday vegetarian weight loss 

Losing weight as a weekday vegetarian is of interest to many people, but it really depends on what you eat. As I mentioned above, if we eat veggie pizza all day every day, then I’d be surprised if any weight loss happened at all.

Personally, I’m a big fan of apps like MyFitnessPal, which quickly makes you realise how many calories are in your food. As a very simple rule of thumb, vegetables and fruits provide you with more volume and less calories than processed foods.

So check this out, based on some data from USDA:

  • Cucumber, 16 calories per 100 gram
  • Tomato, 18 calories per 100 gram
  • Broccoli, 34 calories per 100 gram
  • Butternut squash, 45 calories per 100 gram
  • Apple, 52 calories per 100 gram
  • Potato, 79 calories per 100 gram
  • Banana, 89 calories per 100 gram
  • Olivers, 115 calories per 100 gram
  • Cooked pasta, 131 calories per 100 gram
  • Pizza (14” regular crust), 266 calories per 100 gram

If you switch from pasta, pizza, or ready meal diet to salads based on cucumber, tomato etc it’s easy to see how your total caloric intake is going to decrease leading to weight loss. You’ll also benefit from vitamins and minerals in the fresh, unprocessed food.

Soups are quite tricky, cause it depends on their recipe. If there’s plenty of flour or cream in a soup, then it has a lot of calories again, so your best shot at weight loss is making your own soup.

Right now I’m losing weight at a pace of 1kg/week (or 2.2 pounds/week) and I’d do it regardless of the diet thanks to calorie counting, but it’s definitely easier with a plant based diet.

 

Weekday vegetarian meal plan 

I have a very simple approach to food, looking at it from the point of view of energy delivered and calories. I’m not a great chef, so this meal plan is more of a simple starter for those who would like to give the weekday vegetarian concept a go at the same time keeping it simple:

 

Breakfast 1: two large bananas, 178 calories

Breakfast: 2: three oranges, 141 calories

Lunch 1: tomato soup (300 grams), 90 calories

Lunch 2: one avocado (201 grams), 322 calories

Dinner 1: couscous (200 grams), 224 calories + four tomatoes (248 grams), 44 calories

Dinner 2: pasta (200 grams), 262 calories + bolognese sauce (100 grams), 320 calories

 

When you add up the calories it doesn’t look like you get enough food. The trick is in the ‘snacks’ or foods that I have in between meals. For example, I have a glass of homemade kefir everyday – that’s about 57 calories per 100 ml. One big glass (375 ml) gives me about 210 calories a day. Add some olive oil to your food, which is about 119 calories per tablespoon (13.5g) and you can quickly build up calories for the day.

Kefir is not something that many people drink, but a glass of milk or that morning latte will quickly add up too. Still not getting enough calories? Get some cheese or a sandwich. Bread, porridge have a good number of calories too, so consider them as a top up. The problem with white bread, whether you are a weekday vegetarian or not, is the fact that it’s not very nutritious and can spike blood sugar levels.

 

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Problems with weekday vegetarian routine

Being a weekday vegetarian is easy, mostly. You have your reasons to reduce meat consumption – better health, weight loss, sustainable food, environmental or animal protection . The biggest difficulty is the first few weeks of changing your routine. It’s still a big change and can be quite a shock initially as you have years of experience of planning your usual meals which are now not in the menu.

You need to figure out what you’re going to eat. When you go to a restaurant or order a takeaway on a weekday, you have to change from your usual order to something in a vegetarian section. That chicken dinner has to be replaced by some vegetables that you’re not familar with – should you cook them? boil them, or eat raw? The initial switch is the difficult part, after that it gets much easier.

Every now and then we have catered meetings at the office, where we get a delivery of different wraps, sandwiches and vegetables. You see the wraps, chicken, dips and other food options – and you’re limited to the vegetarian option. What helps me in this situation is to simply dive in, put a lot of vegetables on my plate and start eating. Still hungry? Top up more veg until the stomach tells me it’s enough. By then I’m not hungry and I don’t feel like ‘this wrap looks great, let’s have that’.

Another thing that really helps is telling people around you that you’re a weekday vegetarian. Not only you promote a good cause and spread the message of weekday vegetarianism, but you make yourself accountable. I’d feel stupid if I told everyone I’m a weekday vegetarian and then piled up chicken and other meat wraps on my plate. On top of that you might feel better about yourself after the meal is finished in a kind of ‘I said I wouldn’t eat meat and I didn’t’ way. It’s a small win for the day and it feels good.

 

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Why become weekday vegetarian

Life can be difficult. I know I can’t control many things and I bet you can’t either. We can’t control many situations, people’s reactions or weather (not yet at least, but this might change with the way technology progresses). But there’s one thing we can control – the food that we eat. It’s one of the few things that we can actually be in control of. You make a decision what you buy and you control what you put in your mouth.

Once you become a weekday vegetarian you make your own dent in the universe. You show the world what is important to you. And if you share the message with others who join you on the weekday vegetarian journey, you can actually change the way world operates.

You can vote with your wallet and in this case with your stomach. If people stop buying products, they stop being produced. It’s a very simple business way to look at it, but no business wants to lose money, so if people don’t buy a business doesn’t make money and it has to adapt or die.

I’m sure by now we’re all familar with ‘vegetables and fruits are good for you’ line, so I think you will see many health benefits by improving your diet. Maybe ‘Become weekday vegetarian and feel great!’ could be our tag line (?).

One thing I know for sure is that we can’t go forever the way we handle food production right now as it’s not sustainable. The process needs to evolve and we need to change our relationship with food. From seeing it as a consumer, who always wants to buy more and more stuff, to a human being who understands the world a bit better than our ancestors a few hundred years ago.

Thus, becoming weekday vegetarian is a progression to a more responsible and sustainable world and as is my hope, to a sustainable life on the red planet, Mars.

 

Are you a weekday vegetarian? Or maybe you’re considering becoming weekday vegetarian?  Share your story with us and leave a comment below.

 

Greetings,
Bart @DrBaranowski
Red Planet Nutrition Founder

 

weekday vegetarian

 

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