8 Months Gone Green : Lessons Learnt from Turning Veggie

Those who know me well have often said that I was born in the wrong decade. Whether it’s my funky sense of fashion, or my love of Diana Ross and The Beatles, apparently I would have fit in much better to the 60s than the 2020s. With all of these hippie tendencies, my friends and family weren’t really surprised when I decided to take the plunge into vegetarianism….

Although the majority of this decision was rooted in my love and interest in sustainability and the environment, it happened to coincide with a bit of a plateau in my training on the roads and in the gym. Starting a new diet seemed a good way to throw a spanner in the works and get things moving onwards and upwards.

8 Months Later, I am stronger, faster, and healthier than I have ever been, and it’s fair to say I have learnt a fair few lessons about plant-based nutrition…

#1 – Vegetarians Don’t Just Eat Veg

Everyone knows the stereotype of what a vegetarian looks like: the dude wearing tye-dye trousers and a bandana munching on a carrot and some greens whilst listening to Bob Dylan…

Image result for vegetarian foods

You may be thinking that all we humble Veggies eat is hefty piles of spinach garnished with a couple of stems of broccoli, but the reality is very different! Most vegetarian and vegan diets contain a vast array of foods besides vegetables, ranging from heart-healthy nuts, to fibre-filled grains and beans.

Plant-based diets are so much more than vegetables, so next time you think eating vegetarian is eating solely vegetables, think again…

#2-…That Said, Veg is F**king Awesome

When I made the switch, it opened up a diverse world of weird and wonderful veg that I never knew even existed!

The modern Western diet can err on the side of monotony, with similar meals on the menu week-in-week out. However, when I went green, it gave me an excuse to cook using a much wider variety of ingredients to help bulk meals up without meat.

Most vegetables can be cooked in so many different ways to produce so many different textures and tastes, also making them a versatile food choice when cooking facilities are few and far between. I have also learnt to appreciate the amazing tastes of raw veg like carrots, peppers and (weirdly!) mushrooms.

Even if you don’t go full-on Veggie, try making an effort to vary the fruit and veg you include in your diet; Big Mother N has all manner of tastes to behold, so take advantage and broaden your herbivorous horizons!

#3 Creativity is Key

Cooking sans meat requires a wee bit of ingenuity and skill in the kitchen, meaning that your creative side has to take centre stage when it comes to meal planning and prep!

Vegetarian meals often require a bit more attention when it comes to preparation; from peeling and washing your veg, to priming and prepping them for cooking. However, after a month of making the switch I began to enjoy it, whilst revelling in the variety which my newfound culinary skills had bestowed upon me.

Image result for healthiest vegetables

Take a sweet, juicy red pepper, for example. You could sautee it in a sesame stir fry, bake and stuff it with lentils for a protein-punch, dress it lightly in paprika and olive oil and stick it on the BBQ, or simply eat it as Mama Natty intended in a summer salad.

It may require a touch more effort, but trust me when I say that you will learn to love the culinary craft behind your newfound diet….

#4 -Watch Out At Restaurants!

One conclusion my vegetarian journey so far has led to is that too many restaurants are ridculously bad at catering for us Veggies .

Although you will always see a vegetarian option on a menu, there is usually one or maybe two choices to pick from; usually complying beautifully with the aforementioned stereotype of hippie-with-carrot!

I remember one meal in particular, avidly awaiting my Stilton & Garlic Stuffed Mushrooms at your quintessential la-di-da gastro pub (that shall remain nameless), only to be confronted with a mound of questionable brown-ish sludge accompanied with a few grotty salad leaves. Need I give you the verdict on how it tasted?..

However, ’tis not all doom and gloom; Asian cuisines, for example, are very plant-centric and tend to have a more extensive variety of dishes that cater for both the veggie and the meat-lover alike.

So next time you want to get dolled up and go for a meal to celebrate, best sway towards the local Curry instead of the Bar & Grill!

#5 – Vegetarian/Vegan ≠ Healthy

The widespread perception of Vegetarianism is that it automatically puts you on top of the pile in terms of ‘healthiness’. Again, the hard truth is that people often justify their crappy diets with the statement “it’s okay, I’m vegan/vegetarian so I’m healthy”.

Ben & Jerry’s is vegan. Oreos are vegan. Maccers Fries are vegan. You get the picture; “vegetarian/veganis not automatically synonymous with “healthy”.

Image result for unhealthy vegan foods

Being plant-based doesn’t make you exempt from standardised healthy eating guidelines, either. Ass a vegetarian, it is important to focus on getting 80% of diet from healthy, whole foods, getting 6-10 servings of fruit and veg per day, eating a variety of wholegrains and healthy fats etc. All the usual business!

These same guidelines are often neglected by vegans and vegetarians as much as they are meat-eaters. Processed foods are just as unhealthy even if they have a big ol’ V emblazoned on the packaging!

Don’t even get me started on the Gregg’s Vegan Sausage Roll…

#6 – Plant Protein Power

No vegetarian on the planet has avoided the inevitable question: “If you don’t eat meat do you get your protein from?”

Image result for vegetarian protein sources

Lentils. Nuts. Yoghurt. Cottage Cheese. Eggs. Beans. Nut Butter. Legumes. Oats. Tempeh. Tofu. Seitan. Need I go on?

Non-meat based proteins are a thing. You don’t have to eat a 16oz ribeye and a kilo of chicken to hit your daily protein targets. However, it is true that very few plant-based sources of protein are complete (besides soy and quinoa), meaning that they contain all 9 essential amino acids needed in the human diet. This is often the ammunition used by meat-loving Gym Bros who condemn any vegetarian diet as lunacy. There is a very, very simple solution, though…(see #7).

The RDA of Protein for the Average Joe is 0.8-1.2g per kilo of bodyweight, however studies show that if you engage in frequent vigorous physical activity then recommendations are anything between 1.6-2.2g per kilo. This is more than achievable if you include a variety of the aformentioned foods.

Image result for vegetarian protein vs animal protein

The next time a Bro comes up and has a crack about your lack of protein as a vegan, hit them for 6 with this nutritional match up!

#7 – Don’t Fear The Fibre

Plant-based proteins like lentils, black beans, and bulgur wheat tend to have higher amounts of carbs than their animal counterparts, a large proportion of which is fibre.


For example, 1 cup of cooked chicken breast contains 43g protein and 0g carbs; the same serving size of cooked lentils contains 18g protein and 40g carbs, 16g of which is in the form of fibre.

This higher carb intake scares people, when in actual fact fibre plays a central role in general health, and can facilitate weight loss through feelings of satiety.

Don’t be scared of the higher carb content of foods like beans and lentils; check out all of the great benefits of a fibre-rich diet in the infographic above!

#8 – Have A Plan

When I started going green, I initially dived in with the traditional Gripper-family-ethic of winging it. However, after a couple of days going on this approach, I realised that it was going to take a wee bit more of a structure to get the right amount of the good stuff…

Once I took the time to get a plan sorted, I was able to hit my protein, fat, and overall calorie targets to support my heavy training regime. After following the plan for a month or so, I felt in a position to be more spontaneous as I had gauged the types of food and serving sizes required to hit my daily macros, and have thrived ever since!

Creating a diet plan might be useful when starting out plant-based, just to ensure you are getting all the right macro- and micronutrients. A great resource is available at https://www.eatthismuch.com/ ; I used this calculator to identify exactly what sort of meals I should be eating.

Plus, who doesn’t love a colour-coded grid to calm the mind….

The Final Word

I love being vegetarian, and what was intially just a trial/experiment turned out to be the formula that kickstarted my progress in the gym back on the right track. I personally do not miss meat at all, and all of my markers of health appear on face-value to be higher than before.

However, Vegatarianism/Veganism is not for everyone; if you enjoy meat a lot, why deprive yourself of something you enjoy? Meat very definitely has its place in a healthy diet, and I would never advocate anyone going complete Veggie if they spend 99% of their waking hours craving a Nandos or a bacon sarnie…

That said, I think everyone can make an effort to include more fruit and veg in their diet on the whole, as you will no doubt reap the many benefits I have experienced in my new lifestyle!

Have Any Questions? Hit the comments section below, or drop us an email via gripperpt@gmail.com

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