Okay guys it has been a looong time. A month or two of me sitting down to blog, and then getting up to clean up spilt milk, or break up toddler fights, or a million other things. (Truth: There may have been a few bright and sunny days where I shirked this off to go play outdoors and other times where I just sat down to write and then possibly took a few naps instead.) But I’m here now. And determined as ever. (Read: I’ve just napped.)
So for the two months I’ve eaten meat. A lot. Sort of my choice, but mostly ordered by a doctor. (And I’m serious when I say that, the only way I could get out of a month of frequent injections of iron and B12 was to promise I would eat meat, at least 3-4 times a week.)
“What?” you say “But you eat a balanced diet and I know you get enough iron because I read your blog and there are ALWAYS meals high in iron content and you write stuff about nutritional components so of all people YOUR iron shouldn’t be low!!”
Oh my god I’m hearing voices now.
Truth be told even the best vegetarian consuming iron sources, isn’t getting the most bioavailable type. As a vegetarian we eat non-heme iron from plant-based foods. And the absorption of that iron is inhibited by things we also eat: like oxolates in the greens, phytates in the grains, and calcium (say cheese!) So although they are good sources of iron, if there is underlying pathology in the body affecting the ability to absorb or “bank” iron eating veg may not be enough. The type that is most readily available to our bodies is the kind from meat. The heme iron. Like hemoglobin – one of the markers in our blood that we use to measure iron. Long story short. I need iron. What I was doing wasn’t working, and it was time to try something new.
Because hey, when there are bold alerts all over your lab sheet from your last 6 months of blood work it generally means something needs to change.
So change I did. And happily for all my non-vegetarian friends I’ve included some of my favourite meat recipes here. Or what I thought were my favourites. After gradually cutting meat out to nill over the past 5-6 years it just doesn’t taste the same. Especially when you HAVE to eat it 3-4 days a week. Especially red meat. Sorry, I’ll continue.
My meal plans consisted mostly of red meat or high iron shellfish 3-4 days a week (the highest sources of iron one can get). Which consisted of a whole lot of leftovers, ensuring that I ate meat almost every day. Plus a whole lot of supplements from the doctor, which I won’t get into. I’m not that into supplements and did this begrudgingly. But it was only a month. And I’ve done worse…remember the 6 week dairy free diet?? Ugh. I am a crazy person.
Week One (meat meals listed, the others consisted of my regular vegetarian go-tos and meat leftovers) :
- Lasagna (my favourite) with garlic bread and vegan cesaer salad
- spagetti and meat sauce with salad (Did NOT taste the same as I remember, I used to love this stuff!)
- Rapini linguine with steamed clams
- Lasagna with cesaer salad
- smoked mussels on crackers
- Pork shoulder butt roast with kale and roasted new potatoes (I loved this meal growing up. It still brought back the fond emotional memories. My husband called it war food. No offence to those during war times. Or to the recipe. But be warned, without the emotional ties it apparently doesn’t taste the same. Just ask EVERYONE in my immediate family. So sad. It was so good…to me.)
- Dear god no more Lasagna.
- Chicken cattacori with vermecelli and salad
- More smoked mussles on crackers (In a tin…for lunch. I was getting desperate to boost the iron and not have to eat any more red meat. Or cook meat. Or think too much about meat. Do you know how gross it is to pull skin off of chicken? *shutter* I had forgotten.)
- Lazy cabbage roll casserole
- Turkey wraps (no recipe genius here, just hummus, smoked turkey breast, mayo and cheese in a wrap with a ton of veggies on the side.)
- Smoked clams (So happy to be done the smoked mussels…some of them were kind of gritty *shutter*) on crackers
- Breakfast sausages. And bacon. Because skiing weekend. And they were served to me. And they were greasy. And SOOOOOO good. Not sure these actually count as there was likely more health repercussions from the artery clogging goodness than any iron benefit. But it was my last week, and bacon.
So the meat eating is done. And I’m awaiting results. The one thing I do know is I got the worst flu I’ve had in years this month, and have felt overly tired. The supplements made me anxious, as did trying to figure out what to cook…I had forgotten ALL my meat recipes. Also I’ve been less active and more sluggish. I just don’t have my usual get-up-and-go attitude. Is it the meat? Or the weather? Coincidence? No idea.
My conscience has also weighed on me heavily. The fact that 3 chickens died so we could make one meal just didn’t feel right. Although I think Astrid, Gloria and Peep lived a happy life in the middle of a green field loaded with grubs and felt no pain in the end. (At least the price and assurances on the labelled chicken led me to believe that.) Same goes for Henry the cow. And Cornelius the pig. Not sure about the clams and mussels and oysters (sadly, too many to name). The tins said “wild caught” and had other assurances, but I’m just not so sure about any ethically sourced seafood anymore. I’m not really sure about anything anymore. After all, a big portion of being vegetarian was health related. Only I haven’t been healthy in regards to my iron levels at all, for months now, even on iron supplements and with fastidious attention to diet.
The environmental impact of eating meat is also something that is concerning to me. From the farming practices, to the waste produced in the the processing and transportation of meat products, I’m just not sure I’m ready to jump back in to being a full-time omnivore. I tried to eat locally sourced meat, ethically and organically treated/raised/processed but it’s hard to trust a system (that you can’t check up on yourself) when so much bad media on the matter is available. I’m conflicted. Currently my health is the priority, so it was easy to me to sweep the other concerns aside for just a month or two. But what if being vegetarian doesn’t work for my body?
Time will tell.