I got this email recently:
I love your blog, and have been cheering you on from in front of my Mac as you've charted your health and fitness journey. Your positivity and strength of character are a real inspiration. Like you, several years ago I decided to start making better choices with regards to food, and lost 2 stone through cutting right back on alcohol and junky processed carbohydrates. I found I stabilised at a weight that I was happy with, which was great.
However, at the start of this year I became a vegetarian. Ethically, I've never felt better, and can't see myself ever going back to eating meat. But physically, I'm finding that an increased reliance on cheese for quick, easy protein, and on things like bread, rice and pasta for energy, have had a negative impact. I've put on almost half a stone (I'm only 5'4, so it really shows), and feel sluggish.
I was wondering - would you ever consider writing a blog post on how you've managed to become a happy, healthy, low-carb vegetarian? I'm sure there are lots of us out there who would be very grateful for some pointers!
How could I refuse such a flattering request! So here is my attempt to explain the sort of meals I eat, considering I follow a pretty low-carb and vegetarian diet.
I have been vegetarian since I was about 12, but my diet has been pretty poor until about 20 months ago when I changed my attitudes to health, food and fitness.
What foods do I fall back on, instead of breads, rice and pastas? Eggs are bloomin' fabulous, and they're easy, cheap and quick. Technically the Vegetarian Society says that veggies do not eat eggs, but I don't know any that follow this rule! I certainly couldn't give them up.
I'm not much of a cook, I think of myself as someone who heats food up, so I like quick and easy. Tins of lentils are great - ready to go instantly! As are pouches of cooked pulses like quinoa are great too, and can be eaten hot and cold. Kidney beans and butter beans are also all available tinned. They can be thrown into a salad, or heated in a sauce.
Personally, I don't restrict cheese, but I don't eat hard cheeses really anymore. I eat feta, goats' cheese, mozzarella, again, as a base for a salad, or heated into vegetables.
When I have a craving for the comfort of a spag' bol', I replace the pasta with courgetti, which is a courgette sliced into spaghetti with a spiraliser. I get to enjoy the yummy sauce, some mozzarella cheese, but none of the 'empty' pasta. The empty white carbs are often just a carriage for the taste we enjoy. They don't have the taste themselves.
I do eat some faux meat, sometimes I use the mince in sauces, and I quite like the ham as a dip. Quite nice for adding texture to things like stirfries.
In colder months, I find I rely a lot on sweet potatos, I bung them in the microwave for about 7 mins. In the warmer months I survive on hummous. Pretty much have a tub every day. I really should start to make it myself!
Some meals don't have much protein in at all, I'll just fill up on veggies. If I'm hungry I eat, so may just snack later on some nuts or fruit.
I've never had more energy than I do now (although I do drink a lot of coffee too), and don't suffer from those after-dinner slumps that I used to get after a big carb-loaded meal. I'm not a nutritionalist of course, but am just sharing what has been working for me!