Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Taking on Tofu (My Real Food Challenge)

I've taken on Tofu. That is to say, I tried it a week ago - because of a very complicated, yet also quite organic (pun both intended and not) series of events involving Oprah, Michael Polland, Gillian Chase, and Jasmine Hooligan - and did not dislike it. As a matter of fact, I quite liked it. Now, I did not try tofu by itself. I'm sure it tastes like a bland, foamy mass of blandness.

But, thanks to Whole Foods' deli section - which is EVIL and full of uber deliciosity - I was able to try several selections of tofu about a week ago. Tofu Curry Salad quite agreed with me. It was spicy and tasted exactly like chicken. I took home one serving spoon full of it, which was approximately 5 bites. Maybe 4. It was tofu; I can't be expected to remember.

Either way, it turns out I quite liked this Tofu Curry Salad from Whole Foods. Also, I liked the fact that not only did I like this strange thing called tofu, but I didn't eat a dead animal to sustain myself. Double Green-Hippy Bonus points!

Now, to digress, Fire Lyte is not turning into a granola eating, patchouli bathing, hemp clothed hippy. No, I still like meat. I realize that I am an omnivore. However, I also realize that I do not need to be eating meat in the vast quantities that I was eating it. Sadly enough, I have become aware that I was just consuming...not really eating to sustain myself. If I was just a little hungry, I would pile far too many slices of pastrami or ham or both on a couple of slices of bread and just swallow.

Meat is good. Or, at least, I quite like it. As a biological omnivore, my diet should include meat, vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. However, I have sort of realized - and not for the first time, but in a much more serious way - that my diet was consisting of fat, meat, fat, potatoes, meat, meat, and pie. My last name is not Rex. I am not a carnivore, and if I truly want to internalize the ideas of balance, a great place to start is my diet.

That's what I decided a week ago when I walked around the aisles of Whole Foods. I also decided to prioritize food over some other things. Not everyone has a Whole Foods in their area, but it is a bit more expensive than your average grocery store. But, trying really hard to buy the cheapest, crappiest edible food-like substances when I am - thankfully - able to afford better for myself seems to be a bit ridiculous.

So, my balanced diet is thus:

  • Breakfast won't change too much. Eggs. Cereal. Milk. Toast. Jelly. Fruits, etc. Really no meat there, and I'm not a vegan so the eggs and milk being included don't bother me. Though, I make no promises about the occasional inclusion of bacon. (Mmmm....bacon)
  • Lunch and Dinner are the big deals. There 7 lunches and 7 dinners a week. That's 14 balanced meals that I need to eat. While I'm not great in the Planning My Meals department, I am going to become conscious of what it is that I'm choosing to eat. So, for now, my decision is to mostly eat white and lean meat, meaning either fish or chicken. Who am I kidding? I mean chicken. Organic, fluffy, hippy, green chicken, yes. But, still, chicken. So probably 5-6 of my meals will be white meat based. 2-3 meals at the most will still include red meat. 3-4 meals will be replaced with my good friend Tofu. 
Now, the goal of this new, balanced diet is to eventually cut out meat or meat substitutes for 1-3 meals a week. No, the goal is not to eventually become a vegetarian, but if I could get to 5 meat meals, 5 tofu meals, and 4 totally meat free meals. Then, I would feel good. 

Because, here's the number that stopped me, shocked me, and made me seek out tofu:

Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total.

Do you know how many Americans there are?

307,006,550

Those numbers don't seem to add up. If my trusty Calculator App on my iPhone is correct, then this means every single American eats 32.6 animals every year. According to that same New York Times article, every single American eats 200 pounds of meat, poultry, and fish every year. 

This isn't going to turn into a Please Become A Vegetarian rant. I am by no means going that route. But, all part of living a balanced, conscious life is being aware of what I'm eating. I kind of made a resolution without even realizing I was doing it. 

And I feel all the better for it. If you'd like to take this journey of a balanced diet with me, leave a comment or follow me on Twitter. I'm sure I'll be talking and griping about keeping to healthy eating constantly. In fact, I can guarantee that I'll quickly become disenchanted, which is where I'll need encouragement. And hey! Maybe I can encourage you right back! If you follow me on Twitter, just let me know with a mention that you're taking on this challenge, too. Maybe, just maybe, we can decrease that 10 billion number this year.

That would be a Riot to be proud of.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

13 comments:

  1. I read recently that you can reduce your "earth impact" more by going meatless one day a week than by eating only local produce (source: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es900427m )

    And while I will still buy local produce whenever I can (my inlaws ARE farmers after all), husband unit and I have decided to follow a similar, balanced food plan to what you've lined out in this post. Not "all meat is bad", but that we can definitely eat less meat and more whole grains. I've argued before that the "politics" of food are rather ridiculous, but the actuality of food is that we can all do small things and actually make a difference. Being sensible, who knew?

    That said, I hope that you will continue to have "pie" as an element to your diet. Pie is awesome.

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  2. I've been vegetarian since i was 4 (personal choice, only slightly influenced by the parents), and I think it's a really good lifestyle. I'm healthy, happy, and skinny. =P
    But I have no problem with other people eating meat, as long as they do it in an eco-friendly way. I totally support your choice - and as far as meat substitutes go, might I suggest trying a bit of Seitan? Its this really awesome stuff made out of wheat gluten. And although its not necessarily the best for you to eat it this way, dipping it in batter and frying it and then covering it in barbeque sauce is delicious! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seitan

    anyway, just felt like chipping in. There's no reason to eat 32 animals in a year. Think of the piggies!

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  3. Good for you! We have started this lately because of my Husband's cholesterol...Doctors said he was headed for a heart attack in five years if he doesn't change. Our daughter is only a year and a half old, so that bugged him quite a bit. One thing I'd suggest to you is to have a cheat day once every two weeks. We eat out every payday, and that keeps us honest on white meat and whole grains the rest of the time.

    Good luck with the tofu! We aren't starting that yet...hubs is a butcher, so that one is a little more difficult.

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  4. I am proud to be a part of your descent into double green hippy madness! LOL.

    And inspired. As you know I am sort of what I’ll describe as a selective omnivore. I do eat certain meats (mainly a grass fed cow from a local farmer, venison if the gods are with Sam (which they were not this year) ;0 and some select fish. I also try to stay away from dairy unless it is local and/or organic and I only buy local eggs.

    My problem is the tendency to be a “junk food vegetarian” – I’m sure people have heard this term. It refers to the tendency of some vegetarians to exist off of vegan chips, crackers, rice cakes, bread and any other processed carb product available. Our talk last night reminded me that this isn’t being a vegetarian, it is being a processed carbetarian! LOL.

    So, for my commitment to your challenge I will make better choices within the lifestyle that I have chosen already and pledge to be a true selective omnivore. One that eats REAL food for my meals, not a ½ pint of Rice Dream Carob Chip Frozen Dessert for “dinner” or a handful of Kettle Cooked Vegan Chips as a post workout “snack”.

    Anyone else that is a junk food addict, vegetarian or not, you can make these commitments too!

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  5. Congrats! I’ve been attempting to limit meat in my diet to a few servings a month, with varying levels of success. My only exceptions to a meat free life are duck, rabbit, and goat/sheep (you haven’t lived until you’ve had a duck ruben with strawberry cream cheese and a good dark beer) and have had some awesome success on the health front.
    My only complaint is simply that you are shopping at "Whole Foods". The retailer is actively anti progressive (one might say conservative) on issues like gay rights, healthcare, and environmental issues. I would encourage you to save some money, and buy from a more progressive organization. The very least anyone can do to make a statement is to shop where their money is going to a neutral (or even positive) company. Might I recommend the alternative, less conservative, “trader joes” for your next organic-hemp-wearing, hippie induced munchie run?

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  6. You are describing the diet I adopted awhile back, only I am allergic to seafood so there are less choices for me. I adore whole foods. Trader joes is good, but not worth the 6 hours round trip. I live less than a mile from the store and I find myself eating take out from there about 4 times a week. I've dropped 40 lbs., and my skin and hair are pretty enough to be commendable by strangers. I think you are doing this diet for all the right reasons, which deserves a congratulations.

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  7. FISH! Its good for you! I agree with you 100% I don't eat a ton of meat and LOVE tofu! :) I eat a ton of fish though. Its good my your brain! I grew up on the water though so I have always had a lot of fish in my diet!

    From a watching what you intake perspective... don't just eat tons of tuna. Tuna is awesome and I love it but fish that eat other fish can concentrate things that build in up in your system like trace amounts of mercury. so eat fish but vary the types of fish. Tilapia is a good sustainable fish and its usually pretty cheap. Also they are mostly herbivores and don't concentrate things like mercury. Of course I live in Alaska so I eat a TON of salmon! (P.S. Atlantic salmon... not as good ;) )

    keep up with the tofu! Make sure you put something with flavor on it and I think you will love it!

    ~Kathleen

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  8. P.S. something my family and friends have done in the past is go in on a cow from a local farmer and freeze the meat and use that for a looong ass time.

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  9. Hello, long time reader (and listener) first time poster. This post inspired me to write because I was so happy read it. I’m an ex-vegan (still eat about 80% vegan, but I now put animals products in my body, so I’m out of the club). I don’t think you need to cut out meat and animal products from your diet completely, but cutting it down like you are doing is great. It definitely makes you more conscious about what you’re eating, where your food comes from and if something died to feed you.

    If I have any advice it would be, don’t limit yourself to tofu! There are delicious black bean burritos, TVP tacos, lentil stew and tempeh burgers to be eaten. Not to mention all the other beans, nuts and seeds you can indulge in. Fake meats can be yummy too (and help make the transition easier), but they are full of salt and other preservatives, so I use them more as a treat. Good luck!

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  10. Tofu can taste great. Not like meat but if prepared right it can also taste delicious. The key to prepare good tofu is to remove existing water out of it. Then with good marinade you can make it taste exactly the way you like.

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  11. I had been suffering from some gastrointestinal issues and just recently found out that I can no longer consume any grains, beans, or corn. Even though I am restricted to eating fruits, veggies, nuts, and meat I have found that once my body adjusted I actually eat a lot less.

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  12. Tofu is a powerful enzyme inhibitor. It is very hard on your thyroid. Meat and animal foods are a natural part of a healthy human diet. Some groups of humans are completely adapted to a meat and animal fat only diet, such as the Inuit. They were some of the healthiest people on the plant before they were converted to a modern western diet (according to studies by major universities).

    Weston Price traveled for over a decade and studied the diets of indigenous people on every continent. He didn't find any vegetarians! The human populations he studied had almost no tooth decay, no cancer, little arthritis, low cholesterol.

    http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert.html

    The Weston Price foundation has excellent articles on diet.

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  13. On the topic of tofu, General Tso's Tofu = awesome. Try it some time!

    Regarding Whole Foods, if anyone doesn't like them (I hate them because I think their prices are ridiculous for the Texas market), there's seemingly always an alternative. I remember back-woods "eat Wal-Mart food" Clarion, Pennsylvania had a natural foods store. It was very popular with our foreign students too, not sure why - just was :D.

    Here in Texas, we have HEB which acquired "Central Market" a long time ago. This has created a huge amount of competition for locally grown and organic foods here in Texas, the state where Whole Foods started. Visit their first store in downtown Austin some time if ya get a chance just to see how big Whole Foods is here in Texas.

    Central Market has their farms set up in Austin, which means my milk is only being shipped 60-120 miles. Granted, not as good as getting it from my metro area, but certainly better than many alternatives.

    I'm no vegetarian - despite going "accidentally" vegetarian at one point in college - getting used to red meat again was... an experience.

    I'm a huge fan of "eat food not food-like substance." This means cooking food (not microwaving it), cooking your own food instead of whatever that is at fast "food" places. Just doing this, I've managed to drop a couple *hundred* pounds - though exercise didn't hurt either ;).

    Been meaning to do something widespread in the Pagan community to help my fellow husky Pagan colleagues, guess I found something to promote to get that done :D

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