My Five Days as a Semi-Vegan

Sherry McGuinn

Who needs meat when you can go “Beyond?”

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For a long time, the guilt of eating animals has weighed upon me, even though I haven’t touched, beef, pork, or lamb in years. I just can’t fathom it because I am NOT blissfully ignorant about what occurs on factory farms. Horror shows far worse than anything Netflix or David Cronenberg could serve up.

I Give a Cluck

That said, hypocritically, I eat a lot of chicken, followed by seafood. I’ve turned a blind eye to what these gentle birds have to endure during processing. I won’t go into it as I know I’ll turn you off and I don’t want that. Because I know that there are die-hard, veteran meat-eaters here who wouldn’t think of giving up their buffalo wings, much less their steaks or burgers.

Animal rights aside, I’ve been wanting to explore a plant-based diet because I firmly believe it’s better for our bodies and the environment. I’ve done my homework; I’m not talking out of my ass here. I’ve had breast cancer and that alone keeps me on the straight and narrow when it comes to what I put into my body. But not sufficiently so. I drink alcohol, and I shouldn’t. And again, I ingest far too much chicken.

So I put out the call in my story for brave “volunteers,” to join me in this brief but what I hoped would be a game-changing adventure.

And I was able to do it! Without meat. I ate a lot of salads, (big surprise), cauliflower rice, and faux, plant-based meat, like the Beyond Burger. More about this, later.

Full disclosure: “Sterling, babe, I scarfed down a couple of jalapeno poppers. They were just staring me in the face. That warm, cream-cheesy goodness. The slick, green tip of the pepper poking out…”

Okay. This is sounding vaguely sexual, which I’m down with but I must take a moment to give a shout-out to my lovely partner-in-crime, Sterling Page who was the ONLY one to take on this challenge with me. She wrote about it in my Medium publication, Rogues’ Gallery.

Still Vegging-Out

She’s one, cool, funny chick and I love her for giving this a shot with me. And guess what? She’s still at it!

The food industry has made it so much easier for us to ingest more plants. Do you want to try cauliflower rice? Done! You don’t even have to “rice” it yourself. You can purchase it frozen or in vacuum packs. With all sorts of goodies added to it, like chopped onions, bell peppers, and the like.

If you’re lazy and don’t like to spend time cutting up veggies, or aren’t particularly handy with sharp objects, like me, once again, you can buy them already chopped and bagged. Sure, they may cost a bit more as the work has been done for us, but it’s worth it in the time saved, as well as the convenience.

Mini bell peppers, orange, yellow, and red, are a revelation! Sauté them with mushrooms in olive oil with a little chopped garlic and serve over cauliflower “fried rice.” Delicious and you’re getting a ton of antioxidants in the bargain.

When it comes to vegetables, the more colors, the better. Think “rainbow.” Fill your plate, grab a side of hummus, and go to town. Hummus, by the way, now comes in every flavor combo imaginable. There’s even dessert hummus, which serves up a whole lot of “yum” for not a lot of calories. Ideal with apple slices.

The “Forbidden Fruit” With a Schmear

Speaking of, I ate a lot of apples with peanut butter during my veg-out. That is one of the most filling and satisfying snacks you can eat. Actually, more like a meal. Since I’m scheduled to get a chipped tooth fixed, I had to chomp on one side of my mouth, but that didn’t stop me.

Now, when I wrote the original piece, I wasn’t thinking of ditching dairy. I don’t drink cows’ milk, only plant-based “milk” like Almond and Cashew. But I do eat eggs and occasionally, cheese. But Sterling led the charge and I followed suit. I figured, “What the hell? If I’m going to do this, I might as well go balls out.”

That too, wasn’t all that hard. I missed eggs, but at least you can find those little protein bombs from humanely-raised chickens if you just have to have your Western Omelet.

As for cheese, I steered clear, but once again, most grocery stores carry a vegan version. Slices and shreds. I’ve tried it and I can tell you it melts like the real thing, and that melt-factor is what I look for. There’s even a decent substitute for parmesan because without that salty, tangy, umami goodness, what’s the point of pasta? It’s called nutritional yeast. I know that doesn’t sound particularly appetizing but I find it to be delicious. I buy it in a shaker bottle on Amazon — it comes in flakes — and I use it on salads, eggs, my fake “noodles,” anywhere I would use parmesan or romano cheese. It’s loaded with B vitamins, by the way.

I Buried the Lead

Now let’s get to the meat. Increasingly, we can find plant-based meat substitutes in our grocery stores, like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. My preference is the Beyond Burger. I like their patties, crumbles, and even their faux Italian sausage and bratwurst.

Comprised largely of pea protein, with no soy, which is important to me, Beyond Meat has the mouthfeel and juiciness of real beef.

Now I know there are people here who’d rather eat their old gym shorts than faux meat, but I’m telling you, if you’re trying to cut back on the real deal, whether for ethical or health concerns, you have to at least give one of these options a shot. That’s it. No more preaching.

By the way, my plan is to go back to this way of eating ninety percent of the time, at least. For me, it’s the right thing to do.

There’s Nothing Funny About Flab

Finally, vegging out was attractive to me for another reason: Weight loss. Like everyone else, I’m battling Pandemic Pudge and thought this would be a relatively easy way to lose a few pounds. I did. Two. And then promptly gained them back. But here’s the deal: I also started using my 30-Day Shred DVD again, which is twenty minutes of sheer hell thanks to Jillian Michaels or the “demon” as Sterling refers to her.

When I bemoaned this fact to Sterling she quickly responded, “That’s probably muscle weight!”

And that’s what friends do. “Thank you, Sterling.”

© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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