Sunday, July 14, 2013

Calling All Veggies!

So in the last month and a half I have tried very hard to change my diet (yet again).

I have been trying to eat meatless and cut back on gluten.  The gluten is to calm down my skin.  They say gluten aggravates skin sensitivity.  Dairy also causes skin issues but I cut dairy out of my diet years ago.  I am lactose intolerant so instead of downing Lactaid and crossing my fingers I just gave up dairy.  It was pretty easy giving it up.  Though I fall short in the summer when I start craving ice cream and once in a blue I miss being able to have cream based soup.  Oddly, I don’t even remember what milk tastes like.  I used to crave it once in a while, but no more.

So I am not too concerned about cutting back on gluten, but eating meatless is HARD TO DO!  I know all the Vegans will chime in and tell me I am wrong, but I am not.  It’s easy at home and it’s even easy at work.  It’s hard when you go to a restaurant. 

It’s hard because all restaurant menus are loaded with chicken and beef, except for a random fish option which often tends to be a potent fish like salmon (yuck) or a house salad.

Last night, I went to a pub style restaurant after enjoying a band at a local vineyard with a few friends of mine.  One of my friends is on some wild plant based diet that is completely vegan and clean.  Great for her, but even she admitted eating out is pretty much impossible.

It’s clear to me that restaurants don’t know how to adapt their menus to fit a meatless diet which forces us to go to more hipster eateries.  It’s really not that difficult.  I can’t even eat at Panera anymore because they offer hummus or a Mediterranean Veggie sandwich; boring.  Give me options filled with edamame and black beans.  Would it be so hard to have a substitution on the menu so that I could still order the amazing Strawberry Poppyseed Salad but have edamame and not chicken?  I feel like I am over paying if I order it and asked them to take the chicken off.  Though it’s possible that they do have a substitution list and I just haven’t asked.  Maybe I can get more strawberries and blueberries in lieu of the chicken.

I am NOT trying to become a vegan.  I don’t even want to call myself a vegetarian, because I have chosen to give myself a little bit of leeway and allow meat when I am craving it.  My reasoning for doing this is not what is normally associated with vegetarians.  It’s not even for health reasons, even though it has been proven over and over that meatless lowers our risk of quite a few health complications.

I have never liked eating meat. As a child I only liked eating chicken, burgers, and hot dogs.  My parents used to actually lie to me and tell me that pork was chicken to get me to eat.  I remember sitting at my grandparents table and being served venison and not being able to get over the fact that it used to be a deer and it was shot by my grandfather.  I also didn’t eat fish for a long time because I got to see my grandfather fish and filet fish.  I am still not crazy about fish but I do like a few of them.  So my thought process is I don’t really like meat and I don’t eat much anyway, so why I am force feeding myself something I don’t even really care for?

It’s taken me a long time to try to do this.  I have made attempts in the past.  Most notably when I was 11 and my mother laughed at me.  About three years ago I tried for a few months but I didn’t stick with it.  Nowadays I have a lot of friends that are vegetarian or vegan which makes it a bit easier because I don’t feel like such an odd ball.  I rarely chat about it and I promise to never ever become a preachy meatless person.  In fact, that’s another reason it’s taken me a long time to do this.  It’s the rebel in me.  Preach to me about what I should be doing and I am most likely going to head the other direction.  It makes me cringe and I didn’t’ want to be associated with people that preach about veganism.  Although I support their choices, I also know how uncomfortable that makes me.

In the beginning the hardest change was changing my habits.  I started to realize that when I went to eat I would grab chicken without realizing it almost robotically, but I have stopped that.  That was tough, but I am no longer doing that.  I did go a solid three weeks with absolutely not red meat or poultry and then Wizard World NYC Experience happened and I wanted that precious Poppyseed Salad.  Then we went to Bareburger and I had to have the beef burger because I couldn’t help myself (they did have a veggie and a black bean burger), but I was able to get a Tapioca bun there (gluten-free).  Then I saw The Heat and we ate at Chili’s (nothing meatless except possibly a veggie burger).  Last weekend I went to Applebees and we split a 2 for 20.  All of the items on the 2 for 20 menu had chicken or beef.  It’s quite possible I am just too shy to ask for substitutions, but it drives me a little bonkers that restaurants have rather quickly altered their menus for gluten-free diets.  They often have a separate menu or an icon noting everything that is gluten-free, but meatless has been a popular diet for years now and there is a standard of eggplant or a veggie burger that is boring and usually not so great.

So to all my meatless, vegan and vegetarian friends and followers, how on earth do you maintain your diet while eating out?  Do you still eat out?  I can’t imagine not going out to eat dinner with my friends or going and just eating a house salad.  I also have the double whammy of not being able to have dairy so a penne a la vodka is out of the question.

Do restaurants have a secret substitution list?  Maybe I should email or call the places I eat out at often and inquire.