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so…. what do you EAT?!

August 3rd, 2011 | 18 Comments »
This post contains snarky commentary, a hefty dose of sarcasm and extreme frustration. You have been warned. And I will warn too, that it’s for means of discussion and to provoke thoughts on ways to improve our overall health. It is NOT for personal attacks, finger pointing and shame. So be nice.

So…. what DO you EAT?!

Good golly, I’ve encountered this question a lot since sharing with people that I’ve given up eating meat. And upon hearing this, I want to shake my head. Or maybe, shake the person asking me. Really? What do I eat? As if meat is the Be-All to End-All of every single thing we put in our mouths? Someone even asked Mike ‘So, how’s it going on the “Eat Nothing” diet?’

The ignorance, I’m sorry, really really annoys me. I mean…..REALLY annoys me. We, as a nation and people, are much smarter than this.

I could get in to discussing the health benefits of a eating plant based meals; I could go on and on about the sheer prevalence of heart disease, diabetes, sky-high cholesterol and the problems associated with that. I could talk about the national epidemic of obesity in our country, how we’ve become the fattest, most unhealthy nation on Earth, how our food policy is screwed up, how Big Ag has taken control of our food system and plunged our country in to this crisis as a neatly controlled and highly selective means to push their own agenda and pad their pockets. I could discuss the effects of meat consumption, and really, I could get into the whole tired meat debate about factory farming (yawn) and blah blah blah……

But that’s just a dragged out and relentless argument. We KNOW the facts. We KNOW that the huge portions, high fat, processed foods, food additives and preservatives, junk food, fast food, soda, and a million other bits of garbage that crush the aisles of our grocery stores are bad, bad BAD for our bodies. But for being a country of intelligent, highly educated people with the highest standard of living on Earth, we sure know how to turn a gold mine of knowledge into a cesspool of ignorance.

And really, I’m just tired of hearing the public consensus of ‘Gosh, I know this is bad for me!’ as they shove garbage in their gullet. I’m tired of hearing people whine about the crap their kids eat (that THEY BUY for them…. GAH!) and I’m just sick to death of the hand-wringing sense that ‘Oh dear! What can we DO about it!!’ because everyone has within them the means to change everything about their situation. Everything. Every bite they eat, every sip they take, every item of food tossed carelessly into a grocery cart and right down to where and how they shop for groceries. We each have the capability to change any situation in the palm of our hand if only we have the willingness to put down the bad stuff we consume and pick up something better.

Because I did just that. I changed everything about my food, my life and my health. And if you want to see the Readers Digest Condensed Version, please go to my friend Nicole’s blog, and read all about it. But be warned; it took me a long time to get to where I am; the timeline in my story covers twelve years. Twelve! Years!!  I did not make these changes overnight. And they won’t happen overnight if YOU take on the challenge to change what you don’t like about your health and well-being. But they also won’t happen if YOU do nothing about it, and then the whining gets kind of annoying to those around you. My deepest apologies for sounding harsh. Deepest, deepest apologies. Because I do get the inertia that comes when faced with making such powerful changes. It’s hard. I know. Been there.

But there is nothing about eating plant-based foods that smacks of deprivation, so I thought I would make note of some my meals lately, and let everyone know what you really can consume on a meat-free eating plan. Because, you may think I’m really just wasting away, gnawing on a block of bland boring tofu and a plateful of plain ordinary brown rice, hungrily dreaming about a juicy steak.

Heh. Not.

I’ve been enjoying braised kale and poached eggs for breakfast quite often, and tried it with chard too. Loved it. The energy and ability to focus after having this as a start to my day simply amazes me. Eggs cross my plate a lot. I love those little orbs.

Mike and I shared a delicious ciabatta loaf  for dinner one night, stuffed with grilled asparagus, portabella mushrooms and eggplant, then topped with fresh spring greens and sliced tomato. We both had our hands full of this amazing sandwich, and even before I’d joyfully swallowed the final bite I was already dreaming of the next time we’d eat this. It was divine.

I made a pretty good veggie burger, with black beans, mushrooms and bulgur. Even Griffin ate it and declared it to be OK. I plan to experiment more with veggie burger options as I do like the ones I’ve tried so far.

Quinoa makes for a terrific base for just about anything. Add in grilled red peppers, mushrooms, baby bok choy (yes, grilled) zucchini, beets (yes, grilled), more asparagus and chopped radish and you’ve got an incredibly satisfying meal. Griffin will happily eat this without one raised eyebrow. That makes me ecstatic.

I’ve made two amazing tarts with puff pastry as the base. One had asparagus, the other had caramelized onion and roasted radishes on it. Fancy pants stuff, those tarts.

Griffin made pizza for us one night. Ours had grilled zucchini, red and orange peppers. Plus a ton of fresh chopped tomato. It was like a slice of summer in my hand.

More grilled vegetables, plus some canned black beans made for terrific grilled veggie quesadillas. I did these at home for a friend who came to hang out with us, and I made them for a meal at our lake home. They were enthusiastically received both times. My friend was halfway through his second quesadilla before realizing there wasn’t any meat in them. He ate a third, and took home a few too.

Salads. Folks, we’ve had some sticky hot days here in MN. On a scorching and humid day, there is nothing like a big bowl of salad greens and a wide array of crunchy cool vegetables and fruit like carrots, radish, cucumber, apple, nuts, grapes….. you name it. Toss it all in a bowl with a drizzle of good olive oil and it’s a meal worthy of some serious mastication.

These Lemony Garlic White Beans are on a continual rotation in my kitchen. And some version of these Better Black Beans from wayyyyyy back in 2008 get dished up just about weekly, served over rice or eaten as Nachos.

There was a giant container of Peanut Sesame Noodles that lasted for days. I used a commercial peanut satay sauce that I found on sale, added shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, bean sprouts and fresh mint. It was heavenly. And perfect for hot summer days.

I’ve become utterly besotted with balsamic glazed grilled mushrooms and look for just about any excuse to make them. Serving them over Fresh Herb and Corn Polenta is stunning both for the eye and the tongue.

And of course, every recipe I’ve posted since the beginning of May, such as……

Chard and White Beans with Fresh Herbs. Nothing delicious and healthy about that, is there?

Fettucine with Braised Kale. Rich but light and flavorful. Pasta, people! Pasta!

Kale with Quinoa and Toasted Pecans. Crunchy, earthy, cheap and easy.

Toasted Farro with Greens and Tahini What a unique flavor, and so filling in such a good way.

The best snack ever: Roasted Chickpeas. Like popcorn. Killer addiction. If you dry roast them there is zero fat calories.

Here’s that Roasted Radish Tart, if you’re interested

Oh, and a Charred Cherry Tomato Pizza with Balsamic Mushrooms. Yeah, one means of eating those amazing mushrooms. Hoo boy…. wildly good, and some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.

And this Ratatouille Gratin? Desperately lacking…… nothing. Nada. Zip.

So there it is. We eat better now than we did before, what with all the glorious color, variety and options available. I’m always satisfied at meal time, and the best part is that I can eat a lot and be full without that painfully stuffed feeling I used to get when I ate meat. My belly is healthier and my menopausal symptoms have dwindled to almost non-existent. If I can achieve that simply by modifying my diet, then I know I’m on the right track.

There is absolutely nothing lacking in plant-based eating. Nothing at all.

And this plan works for us, but it may not be your thing and that’s OK. We all need to find our own means to the ends we seek, and we need to dialogue and discuss instead of point, question and ridicule. Most of all, we need to support, encourage and praise every victory, every step in the right direction.

So what steps do you take to improve your health? Have you seen any decrease in problematic symptoms with dietary changes? I’d LOVE to hear what’s worked for you and your means to achieve optimum health.




18 responses to “so…. what do you EAT?!”

  1. Ali says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your journey, it sounds very familiar. When I cut out processed foods, my health improved dramatically! We are so lucky to live in Mpls where there’s such a great focus on real, whole foods.

    And, some people will always have comments about what you choose (or choose not) to eat. My (30-yr old!) brother still tries to get my attention before taking a giant bite of a greasy hamburger, as if the temptation will be too much for me to resist (I don’t claim to be a vegetarian either, just less meat). He will never understand.

  2. JKH says:

    I really enjoy your site, have been a fan for years. I’m definitely making the chickpeas as soon as it’s safe to turn on the oven (it’s 107 today!). I have not eaten red meat since 1982, stopped on a whim, haven’t really missed it. I still eat poultry and fish. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve heard the “Oh, you don’t eat red meat, well, then we’ll have lamb”! Anyway, I don’t know how much is genetic but my doctor is constantly amazed at my cholesterol – she says she’s never seen anyone with as good numbers as me, my HDL is over 140. We eat a lot of salads and fruit and lentils and hummus and whole wheat everything. One of these days, maybe I’ll take the plunge and give up the poultry, would probably only take getting some chickens as pets.

  3. jane says:

    Kate, I just made your garlicky lemon white beans… Oh MAN are they delicious. And so easy! I happened to have every single ingredient on hand, which made it easier still. 🙂 Thanks, cousin!

  4. Missy says:

    I hear the same thing when people hear my daughter has food allergies to eggs, milk and peanuts.

    It’s actually quite easy to have a full diet without eggs or peanuts. The dairy is a bit trickier, but manageable.

    Also, I heard the same thing when I quit drinking — people thought it was so weird. The fact is that they instantly think about what if THEY were to do what YOU are doing (it’s human nature) and they think it sounds crazy (to them).

    Deep breaths my friend. It won’t stop anytime soon. You are doing amazing things for yourself and others. 🙂 love ya! xoxo

  5. Jane says:

    Thanks, Kate. Very inspiring!

  6. Nicole says:

    Love love love. I totally feel you here, especially after nearly 9 years of eating a vegetarian diet. You really hit a lot of things on the head here. I only hope that more people will start realizing that the food they put in their bodies does have a direct correlation to how they feel.


  7. morchella says:

    Having eaten plant based diets for the past 25+ years, I understand the exasperation portion of your blog too well. But, reading your article I realized that over time, instead of telling people I’m vegetarian, I tell them I’m not. A few times a year I have a bite of someone’s burger and infrequently eat fish which makes me not vegetarian- and therefore I do not need to justify my eating habits. Being healthy and eating great food justifies itself ; )

  8. Midwesterner says:

    A phrase overheard from teenagers – “tend your own trough” – could come in handy from both sides of this.

    It may help conversations to mention that the plant-based menu includes plenty of animal-produced, non-low-fat (i.e., flavor-carrying), ingredients in the form of eggs and cheese.

    Great serendipity that the timing of this post coincided with another blogger’s, titled “When Vegetables Attack”

  9. Angela @angelalindell says:

    I applaud anyone who gives up most sugar and processed junk food. I was a vegetarian in college, but I find that grains (especially wheat) don’t sit well with me. I feel fab (and stay thinner) when I eat lots of veggies, eggs/quality meats/fish, and fruits. I think eating quality, whole foods that make you feel great is the key.

  10. I’ll never understand why other people find the need to be rude about someone elses’ food choices, for any reason.

    Everyone is built differently, and reacts differently to different foods. It’s not a matter of “we’re fat/unhealthy because we eat meat”, though that is certainly true for SOME body types. I’m fat because I don’t eat enough meat, and can’t keep away from gluten. Would be my healthiest on nothing BUT meat / meat products, but that’s just me – I know plenty of others wouldn’t be able to handle that, physiologically… never mind thrive.

    Yep, I get the same rudeness from preachy vegetarians. Doesn’t matter what’s healthy for ME, it’s just an agenda that gets pushed. Drives me nuts. If I went vegetarian, I’d be dead in a matter of weeks – and miserable after days, from muscle and digestive pain. It’s just how I’m built. Trust me, vegetarians have a LOT more variety in what they can eat, than when I’m actually eating clean. Meat gets so boring, so fast.

    Like I said on Twitter, I don’t know your body type, etc. As long as you’re being healthy about it, go for it. I’m assuming if it’s been 12 years in the making, you have a pretty good idea of how your body works, etc.

    The only time I’d “pass judgement” and harass someone over their food choices is if they were being really unhealthy about it. I can only recall one time this has ever happened. I had a friend who was a fitness model – sweet girl, but pretty naive. Well, she read the blood typing diet book, and was convinced she was supposed to be a vegetarian as a result. So, she went super clean vegetarian, and just … it was awful. She was sick all of the time, weak, looked and felt like hell… but too taken in by the book (almost religiously!) to admit that it just wasn’t suitable for her body type. I seriously thought she was going to die, so when it gets to that point, yeah.. caring about my friend and her health comes above anything else.

    That said, I’d have done the same thing if it had gone the other way, and she wasn’t built to be a meat eater.

    So, enjoy your choices and just be healthy! If you feel great on vegetarian, I’m glad you found something that works for you!

    If you DON’T thrive on it, I just hope you’re open to intervention (from someone who actually knows you!) IF it gets to that point.

    Til then, I’ll just be jealous of the variety of food you can choose from. I love vegetables and plant proteins of all kinds, even if my digestive system can’t handle em!

  11. […] [exasperated] defenses of vegetarianism, a look at a local goat gouda, Minneapolis chef Chris Thompson makes an […]

  12. Great post, Kate. I get it. I applaud your enthusiasm and commitment. I still eat meat — not much, but some. What bothers me more than anything is all of the processed foods available. Very sad.

  13. Hi Kate, I saw your comment on Amy on the prairie’s blog and wanted to stop by read your blog. I have followed you on Twitter for a “long time” in social media years. I work in agriculture communications from my home, hail from a 5th generation family farm in rural North Dakota and live in hay field on the prairie now with my husband and three kids. I would love to have more conversations with you regarding your views of “Big Ag”, food production and food purchasing. I personally could never be a vegetarian. I feed my family a balanced, healthy diet with food from one and only grocery store within 90 miles and a garden I am *trying* to grow. I respect your decision and understand how you reached it. I do want to connect more food bloggers like yourself to farm families. It’s a passion of mine to truly connect farmers to foodies! I look forward to connecting again soon.

  14. AmandaK says:

    I love your honesty and compassion to what makes you feel good and live happy. That is what I am all about. I had to change to a gluten free diet about six months ago and I hear the same things…”You can’t eat anything that tastes good!” Are you kidding me? Have you tasted a quinoa, beet, kale salad with lemon tahini dressing? Or how about grilled pork loin with apple chutney? Pulled pork tacos with corn tortillas? Actually my change has opened me to a whole new world of grains and foods that are naturally gluten free and awesome to cook with. And the other statment “That’s just some sort of fad diet to lose weight.” Really, where do you want me to start with the issues I had been having that are now gone and allow me to be a participant in this world, not a bystander. It has nothing to do with my weight. It has everything to do with me recognizing what the ingredients I put into my body do. The thing is, I am not saying that the way one eats is the end all to all problems. We each need to find balance and the forefront to what makes us click.
    I am so glad you are happy with your decision and wish you the best. Cheers to living a healthy life!

  15. Kat says:


    My husband and I do eat meat probably…two times a week? I will say that once I graduated from college and moved from a diet of processed foods and refined sugars/carbohydrates to a diet primarily comprised of whole grains, plants and natural sweeteners, I saw a drastic change in my health.

    Between that and a running/yoga habit I’ve managed to peel off 60 pounds in the past two years. Did it happen overnight? Absolutely not. But I will definitely say that the healthier/cleaner you eat, the more that your body craves those types of foods compared to the ones that are processed. I’ll also say that the more I run (I’m training for a marathon), the more I crave unprocessed foods.

    My co-workers make snarky comments about what I eat and how much I eat as they warm up their Smart Ones and Dinty Moore Beef Stews and it absolutely makes me want to tear my hair out.

  16. I agree with every word in this post. I have really struggled with people feeling the need to comment on what I eat and don’t eat. I had someone comment at the grocery store on how many vegetables I was buying (using a snotty tone). Really? You’re commenting on vegetables? Am I commenting on your lean cuisine, processed cheese food and diet coke? Nope.

    And the whole bit on “i know this is bad for me” while shoveling it down the throat really spoke to me. There have been so many times that I have just wanted to say, “do you hear what you are saying and see what you are doing?” Ugg..

    Anyway, thanks for sharing – glad I’m not alone! 🙂

  17. Becky says:

    Preach it, sister. I’m moving to be totally vegetarian and when I get questions (it’s really none of anyone’s business what I eat), I say I like it.

    I’m very interested in the non-existant menopausal symptoms! What a great side benefit of this new lifestyle!

  18. Amanda says:

    I think its great that you are meat free! If that is what makes you happy and is right for your body type then I fully support it.

    I also think there are some myths about meat consumption. This is a good article that cleared some things up for me. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2000/04/02/vegetarian-myths.aspx

    But mostly, I believe that we can consume meat based on my faith. I think that God is perfect and that He created some animals for humans to eat. However, Biblically speaking, I know that you can still follow Gods will and NOT eat meat. I just dont think we should say that meat should not be consumed by humans.

    All that being said, I am a big fat slob and would do well being MORE HEALTHY! Eating more greens and much less carbs, following a plan you have outlined.

    Yay you for finding your happy place after a 12 year journey. That is commendable my dear.