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Green for life

By KATHY MORAN, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 24, 2021 4:00 pm

Plant-based products are the craze now with more people, who work from home and beyond, looking to eat healthier alternatives. 

I have been a vegetarian for 30 years and one of the hurdles for me when I started was finding vegetable meals without meat when I was out of my home.

Today, during this pandemic, many plant-based products have sprung up as people look for healthier meals. Getting a plant-based product, whether online or in the popular fast-food chains, has become easy and yummy.

One of the most difficult things when I became vegetarian was getting used to the vegetable taste and banishing that meat taste. It took me over a year to learn to love the taste of vegetables and to “forget” meat.

A short background: I come from a family of meat-eaters so that steaks, lechon kawali and fried chicken, to name a few, were a staple during my growing years. A family celebration was capped off with a good steak meal and lots of cake. After all, my mom was the best cook ever.

Eat your veggies

Although mom cooked a mean steak, pork or chicken dish, she would always remind me that if I ate my veggies I would have nice skin, be healthy and happy, too.

I was young and because her meat dishes tasted so much better than the veggies, I was forced to eat. The veggie lecture remained a lecture.

Turning vegetarian

I have talked to lots of people who tell me they’d like to become vegetarian, but it seems like it would be too hard, and they just don’t have the willpower.

When I began my own vegetarian way of life over 30 years ago, it was difficult because vegetable meals looked mushy, overcooked, and more often than not were cooked in chicken or beef stock. 

Why did I become vegetarian? At first, I really just wanted to become thinner, period. That is always a place to start. Cold turkey it was for me — I was much younger so I believed that with willpower, I would succeed. 

Let me share with you three things I did that helped me:

  1. Eat the sidings, if that was all that was available, and just remove the meat. I know that I was not being a pure vegetarian, but it got my tastebuds used to all kinds of veggies, whether I liked the taste or not. A rule that I lived by then was: I can learn to like the taste of anything.
  1. If all that was available was a salad, then salad it was. I often had cold salad meals that left me hungry after an hour. But the pounds I wanted to lose were coming off and that was a good thing.
  2. Hydrate with water. Water is clean and it kept my system clean. If I needed a drink with flavor, I added calamansi or lemon to my water.

After a year of eating just veggies I discovered a deeper meaning to being vegetarian that went beyond my diet. 

I started reading more about how farm animals have no legal protection from cruelty when they are prepared for meals, yet farmed animals feel pain just like dogs, cats, or any other pets we have and love as companions.

This was when I began to change for good. What began as a diet became a lifestyle and moved me towards a spirit of compassion for animals and all things living.

I learned to eat tofu in place of meat. It is a good source of protein in my diet. I ate soy protein in all forms — fried, steamed and sweetened taho — which was a lifesaver for me.        

For a year I stayed away from places that smelled like yummy cooked meat meals, because when I smelled them, I would be tempted to eat. It took all my willpower to make the change. I have not looked back since that first “cold turkey” vegetarian day.

Don’t make becoming a vegetarian a restrictive, grueling ordeal. If you feel like you’re depriving yourself, you won’t last long.

If you want to become vegetarian just because everyone else is into it or, like me, you want to become thinner, you probably won’t stick with it — not because it’s hard, but because any lifestyle change or habit change requires motivation. You need to first think about why you want to become vegetarian, and really believe in it.

Don’t make becoming a vegetarian a restrictive, grueling ordeal. If you feel like you’re depriving yourself, you won’t last long. But if you feel like you’re doing something good while trying out some great-tasting food, you’ll stick with it for much longer (for life, maybe). 

Today, there are sooo many yummy options; it was not like that 30 years ago. Eating healthy has never been as yummy and as easy to find as it is now. Here are five new plant-based finds during this pandemic:

The Plant-based Whopper from Burger King. When I ordered this burger, it only came in one size and is served a la carte or with fries and a drink. It tastes okay for a burger and is loaded with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. I don’t really know what a Burger King Whopper tastes like, so my companion tasted it and said it was okay, as she continued to gulp down with gusto her cheese Whopper.

The Good Burger from Shakey’s. It isn’t a “good burger” for nothing. I guess plant-based means good. At the office we ordered these Good Burgers and my companions said, “Lasang karne and madaming vegetables in the burger.” So, it seems to be a good alternative.

Vellychon from Thevellychon. I had this cooked at home and no one believed it was not meat because it tasted good and looked like it had fat. I thought it tasted good and was juicy with a crunchy skin covering.

Hungarian sausage from the GentleGourmetph. These franks come frozen. I opted to eat them for breakfast with home-made lumpiang ubod. The texture of the hotdogs seemed like meat. I did eat a hotdog but had three lumpiang ubod because the veggies were the star of the lumpia.

Pie from Pieexpressph. These pies are frozen and advertised in three variants. They are made of kutchay and come in original, cheese and spicy. Now, I liked these pies best because there is no meat-looking ingredient in the pie and they are a good baon for work.

I could go on and on because the choices for veggie meals now are plenty. A love for animals and all things living has remained all these years; it has even grown, and that has made all the difference in my life.