Many thanks to my friend Alicia for kindly offering to share her story about living life as a vegetarian. I cannot wait to try the lovely recipe she shared...
I have been a vegetarian for as many years as I am old, which makes it over thirty. I didn't start out as a vegetarian because my parents chose it for me, or because of ethical reasons; I actually just hated the texture of meat. Throughout my childhood I was the only vegetarian I knew in a land of meat-and-potatoes meals. Additionally, I had the unique position of belonging to parents who were very enthusiastic about healthy living. I was surrounded by juicing (and 50lb boxes of fresh carrots), supplements, kombucha tea, cleanses, and a home gym that sprawled across over 75% of the basement of our house.
As with most teenagers, I had to find something to rebel against when I reached adolescence. I chose to rebel against healthy eating and made a concerted effort to infuse my diet with nothing but chips, soda, candy bars, cookies, and popcorn. I tried skipping meals, including breakfast, not to diet but because I had never before skipped a meal. The idea of skipping breakfast was completely unheard of in my family as well as ending the day with nothing in me but soda, chocolate, and Chee-tos.
It took some time, but ultimately I had to admit to myself—and my parents—that healthy eating had its benefits. I had far less energy and verve on a junk diet. I was sick more often, my skin wasn't as clear, my PMS was worse, and I got far more headaches. All of which had affected my schoolwork, activities, and especially dance—something I was strongly dedicated to.
As I grow older (and hopefully more wise,) I can see the value of healthy eating even more than I did so many years ago. In recent years I have found great joy in skimming through vegetarian recipes before visiting our local year-round farmer's market. Because I did not ever eat meat, I never gained a taste for it, and thus I tend to focus on recipes that do not include meat substitutes. They're all based on beans, grains, rice, spices, good cheeses, and of course vegetables and fruits.
I'd like to share a favorite side dish recipe of mine which was found on For the Love of Cooking: Baked Zucchini Sticks. These are perfect with an Italian-style meal and I tend to make these more often than garlic bread, which means I end the meal with less of a carb overload. For dipping, I just pour out a bit of my pasta sauce into a small glass bowl so that the flavors of that blend well with the main dish.
No matter your diet, vegetarian/vegan or not, I think it is so important to make healthy eating decisions. Without it, I would never be able to keep up with running my own business, taking four advanced ballet classes a week, chasing after an energetic two-year-old, and keeping the household in order. So, here's to healthy eating and healthy living!