Healthy Eating For Me – Vegetarian and Low Carb Food
I have had issues with food all my life. I am now at a point where the limitations that I set for myself are not caused by any disordered eating, but a need for healthy eating. And with healthy eating, I don’t mean that I want to lose weight with it. Instead, I need to handle my diabetes, calm my IBS and make food choices that overlap with my moral convictions. I am aware of that if I deny myself too much of one thing, it can lead to disorderly eating again. So I am always working on a balanced diet, that also includes the occasional junk food and sweet thing so I don’t turn to binge eating again.
It is hard to not be able to just eat the way I want and where my appetite and desires take me. But once I had found enough staple foods I didn’t seem to grow tired of, there were only a few other things I needed to focus on. I need to cook and prepare my own meals. That one is difficult sometimes when I am struggling with my mental health and really don’t have the energy. It is so much easier to just order things home. I have been able to counter this by limiting myself to a few restaurants that offer things I can eat. That includes a keto restaurant, a salad bar and a fast food place that has healthy options.
Another thing that has helped me with this is going grocery shopping and filling the fridge with enough options to pick from so that there is always something I can imagine eating. I also dislike letting food go to waste and wasting money that way as well. So having a full fridge is a good motivator for me to cook.
Another thing that was important for me was to find things that could soothe my cravings for salty and sweet snacks. It took me a while to find food that was satisfying enough for me. Keto snacks and low carb snacks are being sold everywhere these days and I found a few that work well and don’t irritate my stomach. I also found a few fantastic recipes for cookies and such. And the salty cravings are now being met with olives and pickles!
I had to let go of that I can become vegan. Looking at all the options for low carb food that work for my easily irritated stomach has made realize that there are some things that I can’t get away from: eggs and cheese. So I need to stay on a vegetarian diet, while buying thing consciously: free range eggs and check the dairy farms where my cheese comes from. Every now and then I still shed tears about this. But I have tried everything else and as of now there are no food options that give me the same nutrition and fats that can get from cheese and eggs, without upsetting my stomach.
I didn’t become a vegetarian for health reasons but because it is a moral choice for me. Don’t worry, I am not one of those people who want to convert everyone to not eating animal products. I just made a choice for myself, and I am an animal rights activist. I was a vegetarian for most of my teenage years, then went back to eating chicken and fish, then had a short vegan period and have now been a vegetarian for over ten years.
The choice wasn’t made because I don’t like the taste of meat, but because I can’t with a good consciousness eat dead animals. So I am very happy that there are a lot of meat replacement products out there now! I don’t eat them all the time, but when I want a good burger, I can have one (with a lettuce wrap or low carb bun, of course). So there are always some fake meat things in my freezer and fridge. They are low carb, low fat and high in protein. And as long as you check that they don’t have a lot of odd additives, they are actually very healthy. Most of them are basically just made out of soyprotein and spices.
I have also become a huge fan of tofu and Asian food. I can’t eat a lot of beans because of my stomach issues, and because they actually have quite a lot of carbs. But I occasionally eat meals with hummus, chickpeas and other beans. It is all about moderation here.
Eating vegetarian food has not been an issue for me at all the last few years. The market for that kind of food is booming. It is just a matter of finding what is healthy, picking the things that have the lowest carbs and avoiding to always eat meat replacement products.
I have had stomach issues ever since I can remember but it has gotten a bit worse the last few years. In 2013 it was suggested to me by a doctor that I might have IBS and after reading up on it, and cutting out a lot of irritants in my food, I was better. But then it got really bad last year, to the point that I had to go to the ER. They did an ultrasound but didn’t find anything. Instead, I was told once more that I most likely have IBS. It is a diagnosis that is one of exclusion, there is no test for it. But it seems that that is what I struggle with.
Well, and just a couple of days ago I had the most terrible stomach cramps for hours after not having watched what I ate. I thought I was going to die. Basically, I had been an idiot about what I ate. And after a day of eating properly again, my stomach has almost settled down.
So because of the cramps the bloating and gas, the pain and other things, I really need to watch what I eat. I am aware of two major irritants for me: avocado and aspertame (a sweetener). Now that is quite inconvenient because both those are often used in low carb food! Other things I can either only eat in moderation or not always: coffee, broccoli/cauliflower, soft cheese, beans, yoghurt, spicy food, cucumbers, onions, mushrooms, milk, nuts.
Some of those things I can eat sometimes, others I need to take breaks from (like coffee). And some things I only found about because they became a staple in my diet and boom, I was living with stomach cramps from hell for weeks. Aspertame was one of those things. I had protein bars every day because they are an easy low calorie and low carb snack. But 90% of them have aspertame in them! So now I know that aspertame is not good for me.
Nuts did something similar to me, but I can eat them in moderation now, When you have an easily upset stomach, then it is all about trial and error. And every now and then you mess it up badly and end up crying from pain and are sure that death is imminent. I am learning!
The first time I got diagnosed with pre-diabetes, my way of getting my blood glucose levels under control, was losing a lot of weight. But medications and Hashimoto’s put a stop to that and eventually I got a diabetes diagnosis. After having tried medication for it, and enduring terrible side effects, I decided to go for a low-carb diet instead. And it has definitely been helping! As of now, I am not on any medication for my diabetes and my numbers are in pre-diabetes range again. Yay!
I tried not being rigorous about carb counting (sometimes I still have to) and I even tried a keto diet. But that didn’t work for me because my energy levels were really low and my body doesn’t really take a lot of energy from fatty foods. So after some trying out, I have now found a diet that is low carb, healthy, vegetarian and doesn’t upset my stomach too much.
Low carb food means that I can’t eat normal bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, anything with sugar or hidden sugars. Instead i go for low carb bread, low carb sweets, miracle noodles, cauliflower or the occasional tiny portion of brown rice.
It also means that I can’t eat most fruits, need to read the labels on everything that I buy very carefully. Eating out with me is a nightmare because I always need to ask what kind of wheat was used or if there is any added sugar. Most restaurants or cafés do not have any options for someone with diabetes, it is quite shocking!
But there is the internet, and there a lot of great recipes out there, either for those that are on a keto diet, or those that need to watch their carb intake because of diabetes. So I have tried out many different things and I have found quite a few that I love eating. My to go to foods are egg muffins, salads, cauliflower rice, and halloumi!
The thing I have found most annoying is that I need to eat every two hours, and only small portions. I was used to eat three big meals a day, and I was never a huge fan of regular snacking. So this was a very difficult adjustment and I am still struggling with it sometimes.
An Example – Healthy Eating for me
So knowing what I can and can’t eat to stay as healthy as possible, and adding that I also don’t want to eat too many calories, here is an example what I would eat on a normal day:
Breakfast: Egg muffin with spinach, mushrooms, sundried tomato and feta cheese. With a few kalamata olives on the side.
Snack: Keto cookies/low carb cookies (5 carbs, 100 cal)
Lunch: Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives, mushrooms. With fried halloumi cheese.
Snack: a bit of greek yoghurt with blackberries and roasted nuts/seeds
Snack: A couple of cheese crackers
Dinner: Stuffed green bell pepper with vegan ground “meat and a handful of brown rice; with roasted green beans as a side
Snack: some flax seed crackers
Eat what you feel your body reacts well to
I don’t believe in diets for weight loss. Instead, I think in the long term they only create the yoyo effect and they make you miss nutrients. I believe the best way to eat is to be kind to your body and to embrace the body shape it has when it is at its healthiest. All my numbers that are related to food, are fine. I don’t have iron deficiency, my sodium levels are fine, so are my cholesterol levels. I don’t eat badly. But I need to watch what I eat due to a lot of reasons. But I approach eating differently now than I did in the past. It is a way to make sure I am okay physically. Not a way to soothe myself or to self-harm. And that is a very health step in my relationship with food.