Friday, February 20, 2009

Fast-food vegetarianism

Cheeseburgers, steaks, chicken burgers, fish fillets and bacon.

Cheap and delicious, meat is a great food stuff for fast food menus.

Terry and I used to order enough at Wendy's that I had a regular order. We would pull up in the drive-thru and Terry could order everything for us without any comment from me.

"Number 2 Combo - (double with cheese) no onions, extra pickles, fries and Sprite. And a Number 3 Combo - (triple with cheese) plain, just cheese add bacon. Fries and Coke."

Now that I'm vegetarian my order has had to change and since he prefers Wendy's and the local Burger King is less than sanitary, I've made a compromise.

Although good tasting it's less than filling (but it's cheap):
"Cheeseburger Deluxe combo, no meat, extra veggies, heated with fries or baked potato and Sprite." The first time I ordered this I got an extremely odd look.

"No meat?"
"Yes. No meat, extra veggies, please."

I imagine as soon as we left he started talking to his high school buddies (most of whom are younger siblings to people I went to school with) about this crazy woman that ordered no meat on a CHEESEBURGER.

That's right, they have no veggie burger. They have salads but they all seemed like dead leaf lettuce bowls. Apparently Wendy's even used to have a salad bar a while ago. I often wonder why they took that out, perhaps to increase speed. More customers through means more money in the tills.

You would think during this time of increased vegetarianism and veganism that more popular fast-food chains would offer vegetarian options that aren't salads. I have nothing against salads but I find that all fast-food salads around here are one of two things. 1) Boring, dead leaf lettuce bowls or 2) full of fat and dressing.

In my area, which is a small town (1500 people) and slightly bigger town (10000) the pickings are slim. It's about an hours drive to the next biggest city and while there I always stop at Harveys, which to me is one of the best veggie burgers around the Maritimes.

Of the various available fast food chains: Burger King, MacDonalds, Wendy's, KFC, Subway, A&W, and Tim Horton's there aren't many menu options. There are customizable options but for those looking to grab something off the menu, the choices are slim.

For veggie sandwiches we have Subway, with their Veggie Delight, available without cheese for vegans.

For veggie burgers we have: A&W, Burger King and KFC. A&W has the Swiss Veggie Deluxe, a horrible-tasting "low fat" and "healthy choice." It tastes horrible and although they cook it away from meat, mine had a burnt fat flavor.

Burger King has the BK Veggie Burger made by Sol Cusine which I still haven't tried thanks to the unsavory conditions of the local Burger King.

Finally, KFC after the PETA scandal introduced a vegetarian "unchicken" sandwich. Keep in mind that the KFC veggie burger will no doubt be cooked with all the other meat, it doesn't hurt to ask if your local KFC practises this if it bothers you.

Then we have Tim Horton's. This chain is so very Canadian and unfortunately hasn't made the same impact in the United States. Although a great lunch choice I don't find it filling enough for supper but there are tons of options for ovo-lacto vegetarians. Tim Hortons Nutritional Info. [Click Vegetarian in FAQ section.] They are also extremely revealing about animal content in their food and say this:
"The following Tim Hortons baked goods have been produced without the use of animal fats and by-products (including gelatin and rennet). Please note these products may contain milk or egg.

. Donuts & Timbits
. Danishes & Croissants (excluding Cheese)
. Muffins
. Tea biscuits (excluding Ham & cheese)
. Cookies
. Bagels

In addition:
. All donuts are cooked in 100% vegetable based fats
. All donut glaze is completely vegetable based
. All L-cysteine is from a synthetic source
. The mono- and diglycerides of all Tim Hortons products are vegetable based."

I've found that although quite a few sit-down restaurants (even a Truck Stop!) are more than happy to accommodate vegetarians and even offered vegan options as well if I was interested. Fast-food places however pretend to offer a "what you see is what you get" policy. If you ask, they'll sometimes try to do their best but I don't feel it's their responsibility. Ninety percent of the fast food places around here are staffed by people my age (high school to late-twenties) and make minimum wage, I'm sure the last thing they want to deal with is some vegetarian being picky at a burger joint.

However, it's also wrong for us to have to go to 2 or 3 different places to grab a "quick" bite to eat. I know home-cooking is best but I wish that small towns still offered choice when it comes to, let's face it, junk food.

What about you? What choices are offered in your hometowns for vegetarians or vegans? Know of a great veggie burger in a chain restaurant?

Let me know, share the quick veggie wealth.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Absent but not forgotten

Just a quick heads up that I haven't forgotten about this blog or the 30 Day Veg Pledge. I'm still meat-free and will be resuming regular day-to-day blogging starting tomorrow (Day 14).

I had some life problems that needed to be dealt with and although I had the time to blog I didn't have the mindset to do so. Please accept my apologies and look forward to more posts.

I've got some recipes to share, some insights and a couple revelations about being ovo-lacto vegetarian and eating out.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Day 5

Great food of the day: Chickpeas

Beaver Buzz Energy Drink
- 140 cal, 0g fat, 36g carbs, 0g protein

2 cups of cheerios with 1/2 banana and 1 cup of Lactose-Free 1% Milk
- 312 cal, 5.7g fat, 56.4g carbs, 13.2g protein

1 snack package Eggies
- 210 cal, 9g fat, 29g carbs, 3g protein
Large black coffee
- N/A

Quick Curried Chickpeas with tomatoes and brown rice
400 cal, 3.1g fat, 74.4g carbs, 18.6g protein
Everything Bagel with 2tbsp cream cheese
390 cal, 11.7g fat, 56.9g carbs, 13.2g protein

Video-Game Snack with Little Brother
1 3 Musketeers Bar
1 glass of Pepsi

Grand Total:

1922 calories
43.5 grams of fat
327.5 grams of carbs
52.0 grams of protein

I had some junk food but I kept within my limits for calories and fat.

Quick Curried Chickpeas with tomatoes
(adapted from 'Easy Chickpea Curry'

1 can of chick peas - drained
2 hothouse tomatoes - roughly chopped
1 medium onion - halved and thinly sliced
1/4 Large bell pepper - diced
garlic - minced
ginger - finely grated
chili powder
curry powder/paste
rosemary stalk
red wine vinegar (to taste)
1 tbsp soy sauce (optional)
organic vegetable stock - no sodium/low salt
oil - small amount
lemon juice

Heat oil in a pan and add onion, ginger, garlic, curry powder, bell pepper and fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add cinnamon, chili powder, paprika, optional soy sauce. Add enough vegetable stock to get spices off bottom of pan. Lower heat. Add chickpeas. Toss in rosemary stalk whole and add red wine vinegar. Incorporate everything together and submerge rosemary in chickpeas. Simmer for a few more minutes.

Add diced tomatoes and leave for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until chickpeas are tender.

Just before serving, add lemon juice and remove rosemary stalk.

Serve with brown rice and adjust spice/sweetness to your own taste. Taste throughout the cooking process and adjust as necessary. Serves 2.

Haven't had any cravings for meat at all in the past few days and the craving for ice cream has subsided.

Moods have been stable all day but started getting tired around 8pm. A quick nap and I was back and ready to go. Very productive all day and feeling more refreshed on smaller amounts of sleep when necessary.

Day 4

Today's great new food is Pomegranate Juice. Preferable to drinking soda.

2 pieces of white bread
- 133 cal, 1.7g fat, 25.3g carbs, 3.8g protein
1/2 avocado
- 161 cal, 14.8g fat, 8.5g carbs, 2g protein
Slice of tomato
- 4 cal, 0g fat, 0.8g carbs, 0.2g protein
Cheddar Cheese
- 56 cal, 4.6g fat, 0.2g carbs, 3.5g protein
- 8 cal, 0.1g fat, 1.9g carbs, 0.3g protein
1 banana
- 105 cal, 0.4g fat, 26.9g carbs, 1.3g protein

Uncle's Birthday Party
Tiny piece of rainbow-white cake with white frosting
- 150 cal, 7g fat, 20g carbs, 2g protein
Chocolate covered ice cream bar with nuts
- 320 cal, 17g fat, 20g carbs, 38g carbs, 2g protein
1/2 bottle of 100% pomegranate juice
- 79 cal, 0g fat, 19.8g carbs, 4g protein

1/2 Lost energy drink with juice
- 89 cal, 0g fat, 21.7g carbs, 0g protein

Swiss Chalet: [Nutritional Info from
Veggie burger with bun, pickles, onion, lettuce and tomato
Garlic loaf with tomatoes
1/2 piece of caramel pecan cheesecake

Grand Total:
Oh my...
2520 calories
121.6 grams of fat
329.6 grams of carbs
66.6 grams of protein

Cravings and Choices
I knew eating a whole garlic loaf would do me in but I couldn't resist it was slathered in garlic! We were going to get a garlic loaf to split and a perogies to split but thankfully they were out of perogies. We still should have split one loaf like we did with the cheesecake.

However, I did make good choices yesterday such as having an ice cream bar with a tiny piece of rainbow cake at my uncle's birthday party. Drinking pomegranate juice while being teased mercilessly about this 30 Day Veg-Pledge by my meat and fish eating family was better than drinking soda (and better for my health.)

I'm beginning to adjust my portions according to the weight I want to be rather than avoiding high fat/high calorie foods and asking at restaurants for vegetarian options is getting to be a bit easier.

Restaurant Adventure
It figures we would go to a chicken/rib place when I'm trying to eat vegetarian, but Terry had a gift certificate for Swiss Chalet that expired today so we wanted to use it. Thankfully they had plenty of salads, breads and desserts I could eat as well as the same veggie burger Harvey's sells that is exceptional. I got an odd look from a nearby table when I asked if their Veggie Burger was actually vegetarian (some do contain meat despite the name) but the waitress merely laughed and said that it was "ovo-veggie friendly but did have milk products in it." Cool. She received a $5 tip for being so helpful and even offered additional vegetarian options.

Things are going well, we're both over-worked/tired from late nights driving but the next few days should help with that. Didn't have any mood swings yesterday but felt tired and sluggish after all the carbs at Swiss Chalet. Slept exceptionally well and soundly.

Not sponsored in any way by Swiss Chalet or Cara Foods Corp.

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Day 3

- Bowl: Egg Noodles and broccoli with portabello mushrooms in a homemade tomato sauce
- Beaver Buzz Energy Drink

- 12 grain bagel with light cream cheese, tomato, cucumber and lettuce
- Medium French fries
- Small Cola

- Medium TCBY Fat free frozen yogurt
- Small theatre popcorn
- English muffin with egg and cheese

- Coffee Crisp chocolate bar
- Date Square

That was Saturday. Sure it's vegetarian but it's full of fat and carbs. I actually can't bring myself to get all the nutritional information or weigh myself for Saturday because I know the round-about numbers.

Terry and I went to see "Coraline" in theatres so I had to have junk food. I was also still craving ice cream so I settled on frozen yogurt from TCBY which is mostly fat-free. It settled the craving for the most part although it was icy and not as thick and creamy as real ice cream. All in all, I think theatres around here offer limited choices for healthy eating. I noticed the hot dogs were in large supply but a bowl of cut veggies and dip was over $9 with tax. So I indulged. I kept portions reasonably small but it only barely helped the numbers.

My moods are beginning to be a bit easier to handle but still no drastic change. I had a really enjoyable time on our 'date night' with no animals or friends around, just Terry and I. Working 7pm - 5am didn't make eating healthier any easier since we have limited choices (truck stops) along our route which aren't known for healthy options.

Terry went to Wendy's for supper and I resorted to Tim Hortons. The girl behind the counter seemed confused when I ordered a sandwich without meat and had to double-check with her supervisor to see if it was allowed. Of course it's allowed, it's a bagel with vegetables on it.

Had a minute craving for a double cheeseburger, no onions, extra pickles (my "usual") with fries and sprite but satisfied myself with my veggie bagel.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Day 2

Only Day 2 and there will be some changes.

It's quickly becoming apparent that I'm going to need to consume milk products in order to eat in this small town. We have one restaurant, one Tim Hortons and one grocery store. Eating out today meant picking through a three page menu and settling on a Caesar salad simply because it didn't have meat. (Originally it was a Chicken Caesar but I asked for it without chicken and bacon bits) then I got the dressing on the side and had to check for anchovies. Thankfully it was cheap and didn't have them.

I'm still going to make an effort not to consume milk since I'm lactose-intolerant but I'm going to consume aged cheese in small amounts and yogurt. These two items have greatly helped with indigestion in previous years.

This challenge is meant to be about changing my moods and losing weight. Although I deeply care about animal welfare I know the conditions my local egg and dairy farms operate in.

I feel it necessary to come completely clean and early on in the challenge to avoid setting myself up for failure.

It's only been one day but already my dreams are focusing around food and attempting to ignore meat. They were also extremely vivid and are still stuck in my head. I'll spare you the details as they were silly but fun dreams. I will however give you the key points. I win a cooking competition along with 50 others; a lot like American Idol in a way, and Jamie Oliver was involved.

Woke up earlier than normal and felt rested but got extremely irritated with little things especially when Terry offered to go out to eat.

I want ice cream. No real meat cravings yet but the craving for milk products is extremely difficult to cope with given my limited options. I'm going to allow myself frozen yogurt if the cravings really get bad but I don't think I should indulge in ice cream until after the challenge is over.

Weight Change
Currently I weigh 179.4lbs a loss of 2.6lbs in 1.5 days.
I'm using the same scale but even to me this seems like a huge loss.

Facts and Food

First Meal
- Caesar salad with 2 pieces of garlic bread
Dressing: 78 calories, 8.5g fat, 0.5g carbs, 0g protein
Lettuce and croutons: 82 calories, 1.5g fat, 15.2g carbs, 2g protein
- Tomato juice
50 calories, 0g fat, 13g carbs, 0g protein
- 2 Pieces Garlic Bread
300 calories, 14g fat, 36g carbs, 6g protein

- Berry Smoothie (2 cups of frozen field berry mix & 1 cup of orange-tangerine pure juice)
250 calories, 0g fat, 59g carbs, 2g protein

- Starbucks DoubleShot Coffee
140 calories, 6g fat and 18.0g carbs, 4g protein

Second Meal
- Egg Noodles and broccoli with portabello mushrooms in a homemade tomato sauce
502 calories, 7.4g fat, 91.5g carbs, 18.9g protein

- 2 Clementines
70 calories, 0.3g fat, 17.8 carbs, 1.3g protein

Grand Total of:
1472 calories
37.7 grams of fat
169 grams of carbs
34.2 grams of protein

Didn't eat a lot today, probably because of lack of choices. Nothing interested me and I was fairly angry all day that I couldn't have something more convenient like a burger or potato skins with gravy and cheese.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Day 1

So begins the 30 Day Veg-Pledge. Unless otherwise noted all nutritional information comes from

Starting Weight
On February 5th, 2009 I weigh 182.0 lbs.

Facts and Food
- 1 Bag Fresh Express Salads Salsa! Ensalada Supreme!
480 calories, 32g fat, 40g carbs, 12g protein

- 3 clementines
104 calories, 0.3g fat, 26.6g carbs, 1.8g protein
- 1 pkg Chips Ahoy! Thinsations Cookies
100 calories, 3g fat, 18g carbs, 1g protein

(Recipe) Stirfry Veg & Salsa Egg Wraps and Sprouts with brown rice.
486 calories, 17.1g fat, 60g carbs, 26.5g protein
- Extra-Large Black coffee
Negligible amounts

- 1/2 a Rockstar Energy Drink (355 ml)
207 calories, 0g fat, 45.9g carbs, 0g protein
- Tim Hortons Plain Bagel with Peanut butter
260 calories, 1.5g fat, 52g carbs, 9g protein & 188 calories, 16.1g fat, 6.3g carbs, 8g protein

Leaving me with a Grand Total on Day 1 of:

- 1825 calories
- 50 grams of fat
- 239.2 grams of carbs
- 58.3 grams of protein

I ended up eating a bagel with peanut butter during work because Tim Hortons is the only thing open at Midnight. Tomorrow I'll just have to watch what I'm eating a little better.

Mood was stable all day but that's most likely because this is only Day 1. I don't expect immediate mood changes but it was nice to not have to deal with an emotional roller-coaster.

Only Day 1 but I wanted the chicken that everyone else was having for supper. I fully expect the cravings to get much, much worse. I really, really wanted cream cheese instead of peanut butter since that's what I always have on my bagels but the peanut butter wasn't that bad and it beat a protein craving. Beating a routine will be the hardest part of these 30 days.

Stirfry Veg & Salsa Egg Wraps and Sprouts
1 bag Frozen Asian Stir-Fry Medley (or suitable substitute)
3 eggs
Jar of Salsa
Alfalfa Sprouts
Romaine lettuce (shredded or full-leaf)
Soft-shell Tortillas
Olive Oil (about 3 Tbsps)
Garlic Powder
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Beat 3 eggs, add garlic powder, pepper and salt to taste and set aside.
  • Heat frying pan to high and add some of the oil.
  • Add frozen vegetables and heat through. Set them aside in another bowl. Turn down heat to medium.
  • Microwave or oven heat soft-shell tortillas and keep warm.
  • If necessary re-oil pan. Add beaten eggs to frying pan, scramble and cook until fluffy.
  • Add 1/2 the salsa and cooked vegetables and mix together until all are fully heated.
  • Spoon egg and vegetable mixture onto tortilla and dress with lettuce, more salsa, alfalfa sprouts. Wrap up.
  • Serve with brown rice or salad. Serves 2 or 1 person with leftovers.

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The 30 Day Veg-Pledge

Panic Attacks
I regularly experience anxiety and panic attacks. For anyone that has ever experienced either of these they are not pleasant experiences. They can be frightening, worrying, and can leave you shaken for many hours afterward.

After recovering from a recent panic attack I made the conscious decision that I was going to cut out animal protein for a while to see if it helps ease the panic and anxiety attacks. I also wanted to lose weight and along with exercising thought that an ovo-vegetarian diet could help me do this.

The Rules
Ovo-vegetarianism is going to constitute a few rules:
  • No meat products or by-products
  • No fish or shell-fish
  • No milk or milk products
  • Eggs are permitted (all eggs I buy are from local farms where I know the conditions)
To lose weight I'll need to stick to roughly 1500 - 1600 calories with no more than 1700 calories according to my current weight (182 lbs), height (5'3") and age.

It takes 30 days to develop a habit. Perhaps I'll go back to meat after the month, perhaps it'll stick -- I don't know but I know it should be a delicious and interesting 30 days. Losing some weight wouldn't be that bad either.

Follow me on my 30 day journey and hopefully this inspires you to give vegetarianism a try even if it's just for a few days.