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July 11, 2007

I admit, when I started working here a year ago, the idea of becoming a vegetarian never crossed my mind. Friends would gasp “You went veg?” and I’d quickly snap back, “Don’t be ridiculous, of course not.” But as someone who has always had an interest in health and nutrition (I gave up fast food at age 12, and I’ve been working out five times a week ever since) it’s only natural that the more I learned about an omnivorous diet, the more I grew concerned. While I don’t eat a lot of red meat, the thought of animal fat clogging my arteries and raising my cholesterol started to make me nervous. It also made me wonder if I’d feel better physically if I cut out animal products. And finally, with my wedding only eight weeks away, I got my final push to try going veg—the hope that I’d finally lose those pesky last five pounds. So I took the pledge, I’m officially veg for 30 days (I started July 1).

While VT has taught me all the ways to get protein and the proper vitamins as a veg, there are still two obstacles that I’m dealing with. First is my mild soy allergy. While it’s not life threatening, it’s best not to consume large quantities of tofu (to my detriment because my favorite Vietnamese dish is lemon grass tofu!). So far, I’m finding it hard to feel satisfied after dinner. I want something hearty, but baked tofu and tempeh are out of the question. I’ve tried seitan. It took some getting used to, but it makes a good stir-fry. And while I don’t mind cooking, I don’t have the time or energy after work to spend hours coming up with a meal (especially one with crazy ingredients that I don’t keep around the house). The second biggest obstacle is my budget. My fiancé and I are doing our best to save money for a honeymoon, so spending $6 for a package of seitan is not something I can do nightly. So, VT readers, I’m looking to you for help. What are some of your favorite inexpensive-yet-hearty veg meals? I’m especially looking for some baked tofu and tempeh substitutes. I can’t wait to hear your ideas and get your support as I take my first steps into a meat-free diet. I’ll be posting weekly to tell you how it’s going.

— Jacqueline Smith, assistant editor