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VEGETARIAN DAY 30 – CHALLENGE COMPLETE

So this is it. This is my last post for my VEGETARIAN challenge and it’s very hard not to sit here typing this with a huge smile on my face. It always feels great when one accomplishes something, it’s even greater when you accomplish something you didn’t really know you could. Growing up in a Filipino household, the word VEGETARIAN is not even in our vocabulary. With a culture heavily fixated on dishes filled with meat, I was a meat lover my whole life. I was even asked once if I could have my last meal what would it be, and I answered without hesitation that it would be steak. To sit here and say I was a VEGETARIAN for a month straight WITHOUT cheating, well I’m pretty damn proud of myself!

WHAT I LEARNED

Going into this challenge, I have to admit I didn’t know much about the lifestyle I was about to get myself into. I tried VEGANISM with my best friend Vanessa for a week, and that in itself was a challenge. I had to really read up on it and do my research to make sure I was doing it right. And even after all that, there was still so much to learn. I was definitely nervous going into this because frankly I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or if I would even be able to do it. What would my motivation and inspiration be? Would I fall apart the minute I smelt steak cooking? What do I even eat other than salads?

If someone had asked me on Day 1 what do you think the VEGETARIAN lifestyle encompasses, all I would have to answer is that they eat nothing but vegetables and meat is forbidden. While yes true, that is a big part of what defines it, I learned so much more than that. The biggest lesson from this was to really not judge or make assumptions about people who choose to become VEGETARIAN. When I told people I was doing this, I would get the occasional “That’s awesome!” but most of the time, I did get the strange looks that said “Wow she must be a tree hugging hippie who is a member of PETA and throws red paint on people at fashion week”. And to be honest their reaction really didn’t shock me. Most people are very uneducated about the practice. And while it is more prominent now with celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Alicia Silverstone making it mainstream, it’s still something that is stigmatized by society in general.

Some of the assumptions I received was that it was unhealthy. The biggest misconception was I would always lack energy because I didn’t get enough protein. Others were quick to label me as high-maintenance or a burden when going into restaurants and ordering a dish minus the meat. Many didn’t really understand what I could eat and were quick to lecture me on the fact that animals are meant to be eaten.

While I found some of the misinterpretations of VEGETARIANISM understandable because I was clearly in their shoes 3o days ago, I was mostly shocked that more were quick to judge on others choosing to take on a healthier lifestyle rather than the person wolfing down junk food on a daily basis. I learned that because it isn’t completely mainstream, people are afraid to give it a chance and are quick to just judge it based on the stereotypes associated with it. That actually motivated me more to keep going with the challenge. I loved the comments I was receiving from my blog; people would write to me and say “Wow I didn’t know that restaurant catered to vegetarians” or “Interesting to see what other type of foods also carry sources of protein“. It made me realize that by spreading the knowledge I was learning from all the resources I was using, it was giving the lifestyle a better reputation and really opening people’s eyes to something that could be really good for them and for our planet.

I also learned how to really dig deep and use all of the resources available to me. Some of my proudest moments in the last 30 days was being able to discover that I didn’t need to change much about my lifestyle in order to accommodate this new way of living. I found sports bars that had VEGETARIAN options in their menus. I was able to explore my city more because I realized how much it had to offer in terms of shops, restaurants, health centres and more for the VEGETARIAN lifestyle.

Finally the biggest lesson I got from this was that with the right motivation and inspiration, anyone can have the will power to do whatever it is they set their minds to. I know it sounds absolutely cheesy and cliche, but it’s actually true. There were so many times when I thought I would crack because I would pass by a restaurant and smell meat cooking. There were times when I thought I was being too difficult at restaurants so I thought I would just give up and get the meat item on the menu to make things easier for everyone. But I didn’t. I pushed through. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and now I can really say I did.

WHY I DID IT

Whether they supported me or not, one of the most repeated questions I heard is why was I doing it. My first answer was that I wanted to try something I wasn’t familiar with. I figured what is the point of challenging myself in something that I already knew a lot about. I went into VEGETARIANISM literally blind and not knowing anything. I wanted to be able to allow myself to explore a lifestyle that I thought I would never try and really give it that chance. I also knew it was important to shed light into this practice because too often it is quickly judged by others when it has so many great advantages to it.

Number one it is healthy for you, which is one of the top reasons I wanted to do it. I think it is so important that everyone live a better and healthier lifestyle because our bodies are our machines, and just like a very expensive car, we need to care for it and really put in fuel that will make it work properly. With VEGETARIANISM, contrary to popular belief, it is a very healthy way of living.

Secondly, I wanted to see for myself firsthand if this was the right type of lifestyle for me. Was it something that would benefit me? Would I live a happier life? Would it affect my overall health, both mentally and physically, in a better way?

Lastly, after reading up and watching documentaries on the ethical treatment of animals, I really did want to do this because of my love for animals. I know you’re thinking wow, she’s going to go join PETA and preach to people how animals should be treated better. While yes, I do believe every animals should be treated with respect, it was eye-opening for me that this was not always the case. I was one of those people who did eat the meat that was on my plate because it was delicious and it was just part of human life. I was ignorant to the fact that not all animals are killed humanely and I thought this was important to educate myself and others on. While this challenge has not turned me into a “hardcore activist”, it has largely educated me on making better choices should I choose to go back to eating meat. There are many farmers who practice in the humane treatment of animals and at the end of the day, we just really need to open our eyes to that. It has also shown me that we should not be ashamed or afraid to speak up about this because no living thing on this earth deserves to be treated crudely. Many voices is better than one and if we all just took the time to enlighten ourselves on this issue, then we can make a difference in the world.

NEXT STEPS

As I neared the end of my challenge, I had the same question that most people had for me. Am I going to continue being VEGETARIAN? To be completely honest, my first reaction was YES. I have fallen in love with this lifestyle and it really has made me happier about myself both physically and mentally.  It was such an eye opener in so many aspects that it will become difficult to just let it go and return back into my meatatarian ways. However that being said, I have to admit I do miss the occasional salmon roll or chicken salad. I have made the decision though to keep at it but allow myself certain meats as a treat. I have a dear love for seafood and turkey at Thanksgiving just sounds too good to pass. I will continue at it though and carry forward educating myself more on VEGETARIANISM and buying the right type of meat, i.e. looking at organic options, and how the animals were killed, etc. When I told people I was doing this for 30 days, most reactions I got was that it was a long time to do it. But the thing is time actually flew by and I even felt that it wasn’t enough time to really learn more.

I’m happy to say though that I have successfully completed my FIRST 30 DAY CHALLENGE and I am excited to carry it on.

Thank you everyone for all your support in the last month and I look forward to sharing with all of you what my next ONE GOAL THIRTY DAYS is going to be. Stay tuned!

xoxo
Amira

VEGETARIAN DAY 29: RESTAURANT REVIEW – LOU DAWG’S

Tomorrow is officially the last day of my challenge and I can hardly believe how it flew by. Being a VEGETARIAN has really been an eye opening experience for me, not just in terms of the actual diet but the lifestyle overall. More on that when I reflect on the last 30 days in tomorrow’s blog entry.

For this post, I’m doing my last restaurant review, and as you may know by now, I am a huge sports girl so what’s a better place to go to than  Lou Dawg’s Southern Sandwiches. A well known favourite of the city’s pro-athletes, Lou Dawg’s name has really gone out there mainly because of their famous pulled pork that the Toronto Blue Jays are such a big fan of. Doesn’t sound exactly appealing to VEGETARIANS now does it? Again I prove you wrong! One thing I learned from doing this challenge was to never shun away a place just because of what you’ve heard their menu is famous for or even for its name. Instead, really look at the options that are available for you and you’d be surprised how many places really do cater to the VEGETARIAN/VEGAN lifestyle.

Being super close to work, Lou Dawg’s has always been a favourite lunch spot of mine. Introduced to me by my friend Wendy of The Hip and Urban Girl’s Guide, I was instantly hooked on the place because of their delicious wings and sandwiches. At the time I was a meatatarian. Luckily for me, even with my change of lifestyle, I didn’t have to stop going there because their menu actually has a section specifically titled Veggie Optionsand may I be the first to tell you that these options are delicious.

My go to meal is the Veggie Wrap with Black Bean Corn Salad and a side of Sweet Potato Fries. This is a very hearty meal, so trust me you won’t be disappointed. The wrap contains fresh sliced tomatoes, lettuce and lime chipotle black bean corn salad, topped off with provolone and homemade BBQ mayo. I know, I’m pretty much salivating too right now.

The Veggie Wrap with Black Bean Corn Salad and a Side of Sweet Potato Fries

Fresh sliced tomatoes, lettuce and lime chipotle black bean corn salad, topped off with provolone and homemade BBQ mayo

In addition to the delicious food, you have to check out Lou Dawg’s even just for the atmosphere. Their name says it all, very cozy and rustic, a little bit of country in the city. Perfect place to grab a few drinks with friends and enjoy a game.

Happy Eating!

xoxo
Amira

 

VEGETARIAN DAY 26: EVENTS – VEGETARIAN FOOD FESTIVAL

First of, I want to apologize to my readers for missing the last post, I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather lately so I wasn’t able to put up anything on Wednesday. But I’m back, healthy and well now!

Also I realized that I am down to my last week of VEGETARIANISM and I must say I’m pretty excited that I am so close to successfully completing this 30 day challenge! So much I’ve learned in such a short period of time and I’ve actually discovered a new lifestyle that I love and may keep. But more on that when I reflect on the overall challenge in my last post.

This post is dedicated to bringing your attention to an exciting event coming up soon: the 27th ANNUAL VEGETARIAN FOOD FESTIVAL taking place from September 9 – September 11 at the Harbourfront Centre. The best thing about it? It’s FREE! That’s right, I’m sure I got your attention there!

So whether you are VEGETARIAN or not, make sure you check out this event held every year by the Toronto Vegetarian Association. The festival is actually considered to be the largest one of its kind dedicated to VEGETARIANISM and gives you a chance to educate yourself more on the diet and the lifestyle through new products and ideas from more than a hundred exhibitors and a variety of presentations and cooking demos.

So mark your calendars people! Visit the Toronto Vegetarian Association’s website for more details and see how you can even help get involved with it.

xoxo
Amira

VEGETARIAN DAY 22: RESTAURANT REVIEW – GRINDHOUSE BURGER BAR

I’m going to start this blog post by flat out saying, this particular restaurant I’m reviewing has the BEST veggie burger I have tasted to date.

I was first drawn to this place from  the Twitter buzz I was hearing about it. Located on King Street West and Peter Street, it’s a little modest place tucked away right at the intersection. I’ve always passed it but never thought of going in as I thought it would be “just another burger place”. When I started following their account however, I was intrigued immediately. With a bio reading “Feeding the meatatarians, the vegetarians, the Gluten-free lovers, the health conscious, and the not-so-health conscious”, who wouldn’t be? A burger place that caters to vegetarians, gluten-free lovers and the health conscious?! Now this I had to see for myself. And what a perfect time to do it than before a JAYS game! Situated just a few blocks from the Rogers Centre, it was the perfect place for a VEGETARIAN sports fanatic like myself to hang out and enjoy a good and healthy burger and delicious organic beer. What’s even greater, because they do cater to MEATATARIANS too, I didn’t have to drag my friends to it.

Grindhouse Burger Bar prides itself in providing its customers with the freshest and best ingredients. All items on the menu are free from refined sugar and preservatives and are all made in house. All burger meat is ground on premise and is naturally raised, hormone, antibiotic and GMO free. And as I mentioned earlier, what’s even greater is their menu caters to VEGETARIANS, VEGANS, GLUTTEN-FREE LOVERS and HEALTH CONSCIOUS INDIVIDUALS.

I was recommended to try the Forest Floor Burger –   All Vegetable Goodness. Handmade & Soy Free Veggie Burger. They didn’t need to twist my arm.

The Grindhouse Burger Bar Forest Floor Veggie Burger

 All Vegetable Goodness. Handmade & Soy Free

Also ordered some delicious Yukon Potato French Fries on the side with their own homemade ketchup

My verdict? Like I said, BEST Veggie Burger I have ever had in this city thus far. And I have to say SERVICE is an A++, when you’re there, you’re treated like royalty.

With still a few restaurants in place jumping on the bandwagon of advocating fresh and local ingredients as a priority for their menu, it’s always great to support places like Grindhouse Burger Bar who prides itself in that particular movement. Highly recommend this place; it’s a great little gem in the sports area and a perfect way to start off your evening before enjoying a game in the city!

Happy Eating!

xoxo
Amira

VEGETARIAN DAY 19 – REFLECTION: OWNING BEING A VEGETARIAN

So it’s been a little over two weeks now with my challenge of being VEGETARIAN and as I’ve told many, it’s not as difficult as most people think it is. By finding the right resources, it has been a lot easier than I thought. I’m not really craving meat like I was expecting and I still have as much energy as when I was eating proteins like chicken and turkey. As you’ve seen in my previous posts, there’s ways around embracing this lifestyle as I have proven so far. You don’t really need to make as big of a sacrifice as most people assume.

If anything, my biggest test has been in trying to justify why I have become a VEGETARIAN. The most interesting thing I’ve learned is people’s quickness to judge someone on this diet. Automatically, when you tell someone, “Oh I can’t really eat that because I’m vegetarian”, some of the reactions I have actually gotten was disbelief and the assumption that I am a hard-core animal activist who will throw red paint at someone wearing fur. While, it is true that one of the main reasons I chose to challenge myself as a VEGETARIAN was my love for animals, I also did it because I wanted to and was inspired to embrace a healthier and cleaner diet. And I found I had to constantly explain myself as to why I was doing this.

Don’t get me wrong, A LOT of people, both strangers, friends and family have commended me for taking this on. I’ve gotten a lot of encouragement and support and even admiration. It’s evident though from what I’ve noticed is that society as a whole view this lifestyle as pretentious, extreme and something that they just don’t understand why people would do. Recently, my best friend Vanessa (who went VEGAN for a month for an article she’s working on for  GLOW Magazine)  and I were at a Tim Horton’s and tried to order glutten-free and non-fat/soy coffees. The lady at the register stared at us blankly and while we tried to explain what and why were ordering those items, we also noticed people in line snickering and laughing at us. We knew we were being judged and we could feel what everyone was thinking; “Man, these girls are pretentious“. We had high-maintenance written all over us.

While we left the place a little upset, and even angry, I actually couldn’t help but feel a bit ashamed. Were we being a bit snobbish? Then we thought, what if we were allergic? Would we have to explain our orders then? And if you just happen to like glutten-free bread, do you have to lie and say you’re allergic just so you don’t get judged by people? The questions came flooding in. Why is it that a person lining up at McDonald’s seems normal to everyone but a person lining up at a VEGAN restaurant is looked at as pompous? Have we really ignored the idea of what we put into our bodies?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the occasional french fries and I indulge in foods like ice cream and cheesecake, and I am not quick to judge someone who opts for a big mac instead of a salad. But why is it that my lifestyle choice as a VEGETARIAN is so questioned when it is actually good for you and the person chowing down junk food isn’t?

At a recent lunch meeting that I was at, I ordered a VEGETARIAN option from the menu and as usual questioned the ingredients to verify that there really wasn’t any meat in the meal. I did this apologizing profusely for making the waitress’ job “more difficult”. And although she was understanding, I bowed my head a little feeling bad that I was being burdensome and appearing again, “high-maintenance” and “demanding”. It wasn’t until the people I was having lunch with said, “If you’re going to be vegetarian, stop apologizing for it. You gotta OWN your vegetarian self“. And that made me stop and think. They were right. I need to OWN this lifestyle I chose to take on because I should be proud of the many good things it embodies.

Just like with other things in life, you should never have to feel like you need to justify choices you make for yourself, especially when you’re proud of it and you know the benefits it reeks. So moving forward with the last 2 WEEKS of my challenge, my biggest goal will be to learn how to embrace this mentally. No more apologizing, no more feeling embarassed… instead, like my lunch pals said, I will OWN it and carry forward proud that I have taken this on.

Thanks for supporting me and I look forward to the last stretch of this challenge!

xoxo
Amira

VEGETARIAN DAY 17 – RESOURCES: TORONTO VEGETARIAN ASSOCIATION

For anyone who has been thinking of going VEGETARIAN or taking a challenge like me, it can be a bit overwhelming. Most of the time, people don’t know where to start or they are simply misinformed from various sources. While google  is a fantastic place to search for pretty much anything, it can be information overload and may easily discourage someone from taking the VEGETARIAN route. This is why I was extremely happy when I came across theTORONTO VEGETARIAN ASSOCIATION website: Veg.ca.

Founded in 1945, the Toronto Vegetarian Association is a diverse community of individuals who are passionate about healthy eating, sustainable living and compassion for animals. With a mission of inspiring people to embrace this lifestyle, the Toronto Vegetarian Association is a FANTASTIC resource on everything and anything VEGETARIAN. 

Operating on donations and membership fees from the community and volunteers, the organization provides information through healthy eating workshops, their walk-in resource centre, their intensive vegetarian business directory, and  holds North America’s largest Annual Vegetarian Food Fair (now in its 27th year).

The site has helped me immensely with this challenge. With the TVA, it is effortless to find any VEGETARIAN/VEGAN restaurants, natural health food stores, events, wellness services and more in the city. Here’s the link to their 2011 VEGETARIAN DIRECTORY.

So if you have been thinking of turning VEGETARIAN but don’t even know where to begin, I highly recommend speaking with the TVA. They even have aVeggie Challenge where they encourage people to go meatless for a week; and they make it super easy for you. When you sign up for it, they’ll deliver recipes, health tips, nutrition info and much more to your e-mail on a daily basis for 7 days. Once the week is up, they support you in pushing yourself further by trying it for a longer period of time.

I can’t say enough great things about the Toronto Vegetarian Association. They are one of the main reasons why my challenge has been thus far easier than I imagined. So if I can do it, you can too!

Visit the site and make sure you like them on FACEBOOK and follow them on TWITTER for instant updates, news and info.

Good luck!

xoxo
Amira

VEGETARIAN DAY 15 – RESTAURANT REVIEW: FRAN’S RESTAURANT

You know those days when you’re just craving a hearty-easy-no-fuss meal? Think road trip food, truck stop diner … well that’s where my stomach was at tonight. And I’m thinking, how am I suppose to curb that craving as a VEGETARIAN? Answer: Fran’s Restaurant

A famous landmark in the city, Fran’s  was brought into Toronto from Buffalo, New York as a modest ten-stool diner at St.Clair and Yonge St in 1940. The owner’s vision was one of serving unique high quality food throughout the whole day to their customers and that is exactly what they did and still do to this day. First of all, there’s nothing I love more than when something is open 24 hours; there’s something so great about a place that is open whenever you need it to be. Second, if you want a fast and easy made,  all-North-American meal, I suggest going to Fran’s.

As a VEGETARIAN, I was pleasantly relieved with the wide selection of VEGGIE items the menu carried. My first thought walking into their Front St. and Yonge St. location was that I had to opt out for a boring salad when I was craving a good substantial meal. Instead, their all day breakfast menu had things like Vegetarian Omelette and Vegetarian Rainbow Benedict. To satisfy my trucker appetite this evening though, I went for the Vegetarian Sausages and Eggs served with 2 large fresh eggs, homefries and toast (multi-grain in my case).

The verdict? DELICIOUS! Definitely satisfied my appetitie.

So if you’re a VEGETARIAN and you’re looking for a hearty diner meal, Fran’s has some great options. And if your favourite meal of the day isn’t breakfast like mine, they have some nice choices for lunch like the Hearty Vegetarian Chili or the Vegetarian Garden Burger with Mushrooms, just to name a few.

Here are their list of LOCATIONS.

Happy Eating!

xoxo
Amira