So I think I'm a little over two weeks into this foray and while I'm not doing well on the dairy side of things, being a vegetarian is quite easy. Vegan is still going to be a difficult, if attainable, goal for me.
I have learned a few things during this beginning part of the process. The first is that shockingly (at least to me) it is much easier to eat out at local restaurants than at chains if you are a vegetarian. I know that my local restaurants cater to a wide variety of people, but given that this is a big farming area and that pretty much everyone I know loves meat, I didn't expect to see as many vegetarian options as I have.
In the past month I've eaten out a bit more than I normally do. Part of this is because my birthday falls in this month and so I was either taken out, or treated myself to a meal out. I went with my mother to a chain restaurant while we were in another town shopping a few weeks back. This was before I decided that I had to make a clear start if I was ever going to do this, and I ended up eating meat because I couldn't figure out a better choice. We went to this particular place because they have a Weight Watchers friendly menu and we are both on the plan. I looked at every item on the menu and was hard pressed to find something without meat. I also couldn't figure out what I could order that would still be a real meal without the meat and not kill me with the other stuff. So I went with the safety net of the WW chicken. You would think that chain restaurants would be all about catering to the special diets given that they are much more likely to be sued by someone for not having something on their menu that they could order. I'd never consider suing because there was no vegetarian option, but we are a sue happy country.
Since that meal, I've eaten meals at two different local restaurants and was very pleased to find vegetarian entrees clearly labeled as such. They were also amazing! So once again, eating local wins out and I'll be going back to support local businesses who support my eating habits!
I also learned (and here's where the post title comes in) that meat and dairy in some form are in EVERYTHING!!! Seriously, it is very hard to avoid some variant of meat or dairy product in any processed food. Even things you wouldn't really think to look for them in. I'm trying to avoid processed foods as much as possible, but some pretty simple things I'm used to being able to use have meat or dairy in them. I noticed that I had started to become a little obsessed with reading labels to check for these hidden things and that I was feeling bad when I found them in something I thought would be safe. So last night I decided that I won't beat myself up over those things. I'm only two weeks in for starters and this is a major life change for me. I also have a pretty limited range of stores to shop in here and so my ability to find some of the better versions of common items is not that easy. So, I'm just going to keep doing the best I can. I realize that simply cutting the actual meat itself is a huge step and helps the environment and my body. Hopefully as time goes on I will learn more substitutions and find new things to enjoy that help me move away from the things that I was beating myself up over naturally.