a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Jul, 2015

My 21-day vegetarian challenge is done!

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Challenge me, challenge you|Recipes and Food

21 day veg challenge

My veg challenge is DONE.

Did I miss meat? Not really.
Was it hard to do? Not really.
Did I do much meal planning? No.
What did it change? I’ll get to that in a moment.

Something I’ve been thinking about: Food is Joy.

I made fish tacos the other night. It’s easy, just take some white fish fillets and fry them with a bit of butter and a dash of salt and pepper until they’re browned. Fold the fish into flour tortillas and add your extras: sour cream, lettuce, red peppers etc.  Instead of regular salsa I made one out of mango, red onion, cucumber, cilantro, a bit of freshly diced jalapeño, and a squirt of fresh lime juice. It was heavenly and made my mouth sing (and burn, because I did a lousy job chopping that jalapeño).

I’ve been on a mango kick lately. Mangoes are a gift from the gods. Is there anything better than a mango? Ok, maybe a freshly-picked strawberry. Or a radish sprinkled with salt. Or a fall apple. I want to eat healthy foods that make my mouth sing.

Awhile back I did wrote a profile about a local lady, and during the interview we got to talking about food. As far as I knew, she and her husband are vegan, so I asked her about it. She told me she eats a mostly vegan diet, but that it all goes out the window when she travels to France. The French, apparently, raise the best-tasting chicken in the entire world and she can’t possibly give them up forever.

Food is Joy.

I liked her story, and it stuck with me. There is no label for a person like that, or a person like me. Perhaps flexitarian is the closest we’ll get but I’m actually not too interested in labelling myself. I am, however, quite interested in the idea of labelling. During face-to-face conversations, at what point does one tell another, I’m a vegetarian/vegan/etc.? And why do we need labels at all? I suppose it has something to do with our need to (a) identify with a group for support and belonging and (b) immediately convey important facts about ourselves using only one word. If I were to tell you that I’m a vegetarian, you probably draw a conclusion right away, even though it may not be the right one. A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, but if someone tells you they’re a vegetarian, do you automatically assume they’re healthy? I ate a lot of chips and ice cream and beer this past week; not exactly healthy.

So, what did this vegetarian challenge change?

I guess I see myself as someone who fuels her body primarily with vegetables, fruit, grains, fish, cheese, eggs, and legumes. I want my food to bring me joy, corny as that sounds. I would like to eat more fish, and I think we’re already on track with this. Meat will make an appearance, but won’t necessarily be the star of the show or the centrepiece of my plate. Ideally I’d like the meat I consume to be meat that’s been harvested a certain way but I need to inquire more about this. That being said, I will continue to avoid eating beef.

I am terrible at meal planning and would really like to be better at this. If I am honest with myself I have to admit that I don’t plan our weekly meals because I’m lazy. If I have time to watch Homeland after the kids go to bed, certainly, I can sit down and figure out what we’re eating that week. As someone pointed out here recently (Wanda, I think it was you), families only have a certain amount of meals they eat anyway. Under twenty, let’s say. If Monday was meatless, Tuesdays were fish, the others would fall into place.  If there are vegetarians and non-vegetarians eating dinner at the same family table, it’s easy to plan a dinner in which meat isn’t missed: such as soup and grilled cheese, or fettucine alfredo and a big green salad. Mexican-style menus are also good for when there are vegetarians at the table. For example, tacos. Taco fillings in our house include cheddar cheese, red peppers, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa. It’s easy enough to make a sweet potato & black bean mix as an alternative to the bowl of taco meat.

Thanks again Fishies, for your emails and your support. A few of you sent me recipes too, which I really appreciate (and will try)! If you want to read all of the posts in this series. You can do so right here.

I’m deleting the page I used to track what I ate and copying it below for my own reference. Anything marked with an asterisk designates a vegan meal (no dairy, no egg). I could have eaten better but I think I did ok overall.

Day 1 (June 8)
– latte (made with milk)
– oatmeal with diced apple, raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon sugar*
– Beetball sandwich from Victory Cafe
– black bean and roasted red pepper spicy fajita *
– snacks: coffee with milk, handful of raisins and pecans, ice cream

Day 2 (June 9)
– latte (made with milk)
– toasted rye with peanut butter and jam*
– black bean and roasted red pepper soup (made from last night’s leftovers), Farm Boy multigrain toast with olive oil and green onions*
– Vegan “Caesar” Salad (romaine lettuce, croutons, marinated tofu, coconut bacon), roasted potatoes, 1/2 Spirit Tree Estate Cider*
– snacks: coffee with milk, nectarine, Farm Boy maple cookie, strawberries and cream

Day 3 (June 10)
– latte (made with milk)
– Almond-milk-based yogurt with granola and all-bran buds*
– grilled cheese and apple on buttered multigrain sourdough bread
– vegetarian pad thai (here’s the recipe), sesame rice crackers
– snacks: coffee with milk, banana, apple, air-popped popcorn with butter

Day 4 (June 11)
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
– leftover vegetarian pad thai from last night
– kale salad with vegan caesar dressing, spinach and tofu samosas, radishes, pickled cucumber (homemade), beer *
– snacks: radishes, coffee with milk, mango soft serve (DIY), banana

Day 5 (June 12)
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
– chickpea, avocado, feta salad
– homemade multigrain/thin crust pizza with cheese, pineapple and red onion; leaf lettuce, pickled cucumber (homemade), beer
– snacks: buttered multigrain toast, coffee with milk, potato chips

Day 6 (June 13)
– latte (made with milk)
– smoothie made with frozen mango, banana, and almond-based yogurt*
– vegan version of yesterday’s salad (chickpea, avocado, lime, cilantro) on multigrain sourdough toast*
– tomato and goat cheese bruschetta, grilled caesar salad
– snacks: Pommies apple cider, homemade chocolate chip cookies (3), homemade guacamole and multigrain nacho chips

Day 7 (June 14)
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
– 15-minute creamy avocado pasta from Oh She Glows (recipe here!)*
– veggie burger, coleslaw, raw veggies and dip, ice cream cake, white wine
– snacks: nectarine, buttered popcorn, crackers, beer, grapes, rum punch

Day 8 (June 15)
– latte (made with milk)
– Banana. Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
– leftovers from yesterday with an added tomato*
– fried egg, red pepper, potato pancakes
– snacks: coffee with milk (x2), salty fried mung beans, beer

Day 9 (June 16)
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
– quinoa and barley mix with chickpeas, kale, cranberries, pecans, and a light lemon dressing*
– Fettucine alfredo, kale caesar salad, beer
– snacks: pretzels, coffee with milk, banana, a handful of NY Fries

Day 10 (June 17)
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
– quinoa and barley mix with chickpeas, kale, cranberries, pecans, and a light lemon dressing (same as yesterday, plus a mango) *
– veggie burger, potato chips, corn on the cob, beer
-snacks: latte, mango

Day 11 (June 18)
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
– leftover fettucine alfredo with kale and green onion
– vegan black bean and sweet potato tacos (sort of based on this recipe), beer, tortilla chips and salsa*
– snacks: DIY mango soft serve, coffee with milk, apple, rye toast with peanut butter

Day 12 (June 19)
– latte (made with milk)
– PC mini-naan bread with butter and peanut butter, handful of pecans
– bannock, wild rice, and raw veggies
– mushroom and garlic pizza, garlic mayo dip, beer
– snacks: coffee with milk, potato chips, red pepper hummus & carrots with mini naan bread

Day 13 (June 20)
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola and all-bran buds, with coconut milk*
– Farm Boy salad, sprouted peas, cherries*
– BBQ skewer with red pepper, red onion, halloumi cheese; onion rings, caesar salad, bread and butter, cherry pie and ice cream
– snacks: diet pepsi, Pringles, cherries, pita crisps and red pepper hummus, beer, wine spritzer (2)

Day 14 (June 21)
– latte (made with milk)
– toasted sourdough bread with sliced tomatoes*
– Boca brand veggie burger on PC mini naan with tomato, lettuce and onion
– waffles and fruit salad
– snacks: coffee with milk, homemade butterscotch-chip cookies (x3), sprouted peas, cherries, white wine

Day 15 (June 22 )
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola and fresh berries, with coconut milk*
– “Eggcado” sandwich from Victory Caffe
– roasted zucchini on a bun, sauteed mushrooms, quinoa/mixed veg salad with feta
– snacks: coffee with milk, homemade butterscotch-chip cookies (x2)

Day 16 (June 23)
– latte (made with milk)
– Granola with coconut milk*
–  quinoa/mixed veg salad with feta and roasted zucchini (leftovers from last night’s dinner)
– grilled cheese, quinoa/veg leftovers, white wine
– snacks: coffee with milk, cherries, tortilla chips with hot sauce, popcorn

Day 17 (June 24)
– latte (made with milk)
– grilled cheese sandwich
– quinoa/chickpea bowl*
– coleslaw, cheese/tomato/lettuce sandwich, potato chips
– snacks: banana milkshake

Day 18 (June 25)
– latte (made with milk)
– apple slices with peanut butter*
– vegan vegetable curry*
– rice paper rolls with rice vermicelli, mint&basil, cucumber, carrot, shrimp, glass of wine
– snacks: latte, bowl of pea shoots with caesar dressing, slice of garlic bread, radishes

Day 19 (June 26)
– latte (made with milk)
– banana
– yesterday’s vegan vegetable curry with added lamb’s quarters and green onion (from our CSA!)*
– homemade multigrain pizza: mushrooms, red onion, lamb’s quarters, mozzarella, beer
– snacks: coffee with milk

Day 20 (June 27)
– latte (made with milk)
– toast with peanut butter and sliced banana*
– leftover pizza
– leftover pizza (yes, for lunch AND dinner. sigh.)
– snacks: potato chips, peach/yogurt smoothie, Farm Boy maple cookie

Day 21 (June 28)
– latte (made with milk), bagel with cream cheese and strawberries
– Boca burger, caesar salad, boiled potatoes, raw veggies and dip, drop biscuits with butter, white wine, ice cream
– snacks: banana, Party Mix




3 Responses to "My 21-day vegetarian challenge is done!"

1 | Michael Milsom

July 1st, 2015 at 8:33 pm


Way to push yourself out of the box to explore another dimension..taking us all along for the ride :-) 21 days ..is a LOT of days to commit to doing something new. Nicely done Andrea.

2 | Alina

July 5th, 2015 at 9:48 am


You did a great job, Andrea! You ate a variety of foods and the majority of them were nutritious. How would life be without a cookie, an ice cream, or a glass of wine here and there ?????

Since you mentioned meal planning, I thought you might find useful the step-by-step process I included in a recent post on meal planning. It works for the whole family. Here it is: http://orgali.ca/2015/06/how-to-make-a-meal-plan/.

3 | Lynn

July 7th, 2015 at 11:25 am


I find the idea of labels interesting, too. Sometimes it’s just easier to say you are one thing, for the sake of simplicity, even if it doesn’t 100% fit. My husband often identifies himself as a vegetarian although he is a mostly-vegetarian who will eat chicken or fish at restaurants and barbecues. But if we are having dinner at someone else’s house, and the main course might be something like steak, it’s a lot easier to just shorthand it to “vegetarian” rather than have to explain everything.

Food is such a central part of our society. It’s such a hotbed of stress when trying to describe your preferred diet to someone else. Will they be offended, or feel like a social door is closed because you can’t share the same food? I feel like a sociology PhD is possible here :).

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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