Why I’m no longer a vegetarian (and a Comforting Stuffed Pepper recipe!)

My diet has changed pretty drastically lately, and I feel it’s worth mentioning.  Recently, I was eating mostly vegan.  Well, all vegan for a period of time.  I did this several times but could never sustain it longer than 30 days or so, at the most.  I would start feeling off and craving chicken, and so would eventually give in.  

This is a bit of a struggle emotionally for me, which needs a back story.  When I turned 14, I was introduced to PETA by a friend, and subsequently watched every horrifying video of the way animals are treated in factory farming operations.  Mortified, I didn’t touch meat again until I was 24, but I was just a vegetarian, not a vegan.  

When I did start eating meat again, just fish and chicken, I lost eight pounds within a month without trying.  I remember being really startled by that and noticing that I felt much better.  I knew, though, that I hadn’t been a healthy vegetarian at that time, mostly subsisting on bread, cheese, and pasta.  In my mid-twenties, I worked in fine dining, and fully embraced eating meat again, while always trying to be conscious that the meat I was eating came from a local farm where the animals were treated humanely and not a factory farm.  Luckily, where I live it’s easy to do that, as there is a big farm-to-table movement here.  

In the last three years or so, I revisited my connection with vegetarianism and veganism when I started doing yoga regularly.  I found that I still carried a deep desire to abstain from doing harm to animals in any way.  I embraced veganism a few different times, always saying I was going to do it for a while to see how I felt and go from there.  I read tons of vegan cookbooks and blogs.  I felt really excited, like I had found the way of eating that was going to work for me!  I became pretty good at vegan cooking and wanted to focus my health coaching on helping people transition to veganism.  For a while, I felt good too, although in retrospect I think it was my emotions that felt good about eating that way, not my physical body.  

See, every time I would be vegan for a while, I realized I was putting up with some pretty uncomfortable symptoms.  Fatigue and extreme bloating being the primary discomforts.  (And you know what comes with bloating — gas.  Ugh.  The ugly truth was that I was constantly plagued.)  I kept thinking it was just the transition to being vegan and that my body would adjust.  But it never did.  I realized that I simply cannot process beans, soy, and most grains efficiently, and I constantly had a stomach ache.  Constantly.  It seemed that no matter what I ate, I felt immediate pressure and I often got headaches.  Without soy and beans, it was pretty hard to get adequate protein.  And without grains, I was basically left with vegetables.  

At Integrative Nutrition, where I’m studying to be a certified Health Coach, we talk a lot about the concept of bioindividuality, which basically means that one person’s perfect food is another person’s poison.  Right around the time I was suffering a lot of discomfort, we studied the more Paleo style, traditional diet of eating animal protein in its cleanest form — organic, grass-fed, pasture raised animals only.  I also read a lot of studies indicating that healthy animal foods are beneficial for fertility, which is definitely important to me.  

So I decided to back off, listen to my body, and change the way I was eating.  Within the first two days of eating lean animal proteins and veggies, and eliminating all soy, beans, and grains, my stomach felt 100% normal again.  My digestive issues disappeared.  I had significantly more energy and no headaches.  I was shocked.  It’s still a little difficult for me to fully embrace this way of eating, because I care deeply about the way animals are treated.  But I can vote for the small, humane, organic farmer with my dollar, and still refuse to purchase factory farmed meat.  So that is a healthy balance for me.  Sometimes to find our own, individual, optimum health, we need to really listen to ourselves rather than a diet book, or the latest trend.  And sometimes, our bodies may not even agree with what our mind wants!  I learned it’s important to honor that, though, and to give myself the type of food that is most nourishing for me as an individual.  

On that note, on to the peppers!  It had probably been years since I had cooked beef prior to making this.  As I was wandering around in Whole Foods pondering what to do for dinner, though, I suddenly CRAVED stuffed peppers.  Which is weird, because I don’t think I’ve had them since childhood.  And they certainly don’t look pretty in pictures!

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Nevertheless, I picked up some grass-fed, pasture raised, lean ground beef (it felt so weird even getting it from the shelf!).  Got some peppers, and headed home.  

First I hollowed out the peppers.  

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Then I chopped up a red bell pepper, some cilantro, garlic, and spinach.  I mixed the beef up with the cilantro, spinach and red peppers, and added some salt, pepper, cumin, and chile powder.  Tossed the garlic into a pan and sautéed for a minute before adding the beef mixture.  

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Cooked that until the meat was done, then added ricotta cheese to the mix.  All while sipping on my latest favorite meal-prepping beverage, gingerade kombucha by GT’s.  

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While the meat was cooking, I heated up some marinara sauce on the side and preheated the oven to 350°.  When the meat mixture was cooked, I stuffed it into the peppers, topped off the peppers with marinara, and sprinkled a little parmesan on top. Then stuck in the oven for an hour, uncovered.  Stuffed pepper perfection!

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Sorry guys, like I said, they don’t look that pretty.  But they tasted AMAZING.  You could easily substitute ground turkey for the beef, if you prefer!  Eating beef was a feat for me and I expected to not like it.  But you know what?  It was absolutely delicious and I felt healthy afterward.  I highly recommend this recipe if you are a meat eater (but please, support your LOCAL and preferably organic, farmer, and remember that grass-fed is much healthier for you in that it has the right balance of Omega 3 healthy fats!).  Remember to tune into what your beautiful, individual body’s needs are in regards to all food choices you make.

To your health, 

Rachel

xo

Comforting Stuffed Peppers

Serves 2

Ingredients: 

2 large green bell peppers, tops removed, washed, and deseeded

1 lb. lean, ground beef (preferably organic, grass-fed)

1 red bell pepper (diced small)

1 bunch spinach (2 cups, chopped fine)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

3/4 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chile powder

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp. coconut oil

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 jar marinara (use as much or as little as desired to top peppers)

parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°.  In mixing bowl, combine beef with chopped cilantro, spinach, red bell pepper, chile powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Saute garlic in a teaspoon of coconut oil for one minute on medium high heat, then add the beef mixture and cook, breaking meat apart as much as possible, until meat is cooked through (about 10-12 minutes).  While the meat is cooking, heat a jar of marinara sauce (your favorite) in a small pot.  

Once meat is cooked, at ricotta cheese and stir until evenly combined.  Turn off heat.  Spoon meat into peppers until fully stuffed and place in lightly greased (with coconut oil) baking dish.  Spoon marinara sauce over the top of the peppers and sprinkle with parmesan if desired.  

Bake, uncovered, for one hour.  Then pull those suckers out and serve, preferably on a chilly night with warm, cozy socks on.  🙂

6 thoughts on “Why I’m no longer a vegetarian (and a Comforting Stuffed Pepper recipe!)

  1. I love this blog! I’m going to try your stuffed pepper recipe because I love them but every time I try to make them, it is a complete disaster! In fact, it’s kind of a joke around the house. We eat only grass-fed beef too, which my husband insists upon.

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    1. Thanks Kristen! Yes, try it, and let me know how it goes! Hopefully you can redeem yourself and be the stuffed pepper queen. 🙂 Good for you guys, grass-fed is the only way to go!

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  2. Wow, Rachel, you took the words right out of my mouth. Seriously, you nearly described my own dietary journey to a “t”. I, too, was an on-again, off-again vegetarian and vegan for the better part of the last decade. My journey started as an attempt to cure my vaguely diagnosed IBS and related health issues that had always plagued me. I read so much vegan literature and was convinced it was the best diet for my body, the planet and, of course, animal welfare. Only problem was that I never felt good eating that way. I was always bloated, fatigued, constipated and plagued with acne and other issues. I thought my problem was that I needed to “detox” more. I can’t tell you how many cleanses I have done over the years. And never felt better during or after any of them. This summer I put myself on a FODMAP elimination diet to try to get to the root of my food sensitivities once and for all. And you know what I found out? Grains, in all forms, are the worst offenders. I don’t tolerate beans either and dairy only in small quantities. Cutting all these foods out made me feel wonderful. It was almost as if I could feel my stomach healing and my body returning to a state of health and balance. So, I sort of accidentally fell into a Paleo lifestyle of eating pastured meats, eggs, lots of veggies and fruit. I haven’t felt this good in years.

    I think you’re right in saying we need to really listen to our individual bodies and not the latest diet propaganda that we’re surrounded by. Never again will I “cleanse” or try the latest diet trend. I know what my body needs to function optimally and what does it harm.

    Also, your peppers look amazing! I happen to have ground beef in the freezer and bell peppers in the fridge, so I know what I’m making this weekend.

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    1. Wow, Sarah, it’s so nice to hear I’m not alone! I could have said more, and if I had, it would have echoed what you are saying: I always thought I needed to detox more as well. And I experienced the same healing feeling when I would just eat chicken and greens, or fish — protein that I can digest easily. Whenever I ate tofu, beans, or any soy, I would get awful stomach cramps and I could literally feel myself swelling up. In retrospect, I can’t believe I kept eating that way for so long, but like you, I had immersed myself in so much vegan literature that I was totally convinced it was the right way to eat. This journey has been a huge lesson for me, proving that we all have different needs. I know lots of people who thrive on a vegan diet, but like you, I’ve sort of fallen into a more Paleo style by trial and error. And I haven’t felt this good in a long time. Hope you like the pepper recipe!

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  3. Yum…those sound really good and I think they don’t look bad either. I will have to try this. Much better mix of ingredients than I have used before. Liked reading your back story. What a food journey! So glad you are listening to your body and giving it what it needs. You are so right. We are all different in what works for us.

    Love, Mom PS…looking forward to hearing how the wedding went this weekend. You missed the earthquake this morning!

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