I've talked several times about my transition to vegetarianism being driven by simply feeling better rather than because of ethical reasons and beliefs. I wanted to take just a few moments to elaborate on some of the changes that I've made, and actually stuck with, that I feel really have made a huge difference in how I've felt.

No More Milk

This change wasn't truly a result of vegetarianism. I think it was more to do with being borderline lactose intolerant, or at the very least lactose sensitive. I realized a while ago that I would feel really bad if I had milk on my cereal or, much to my displeasure, I would feel instantly sick if I ate ice cream. I love ice cream, so this is pretty tragic. I still eat cheese and yogurt, as yogurt is a pretty big staple in my diet. But I've noticed that, by cutting out milk and ice cream, I've felt tremendously better. I now drink low-fat soy milk with my cereal, and it has made a huge difference.

More Beans, Please

Since moving away from meat, I have looked to add something with substance that can be the foundation of a meal. Kidney beans, red beans, black beans, white beans . . . you name it, I've been eating it. With proper seasoning as well as the addition of other ingredients, I've been finding that beans are incredibly versatile in the ways they can be  used. They are also packed with good nutrients and really keep me full and satisfied.

Less Take Out

I noticed that Ellie and I have made a pretty drastic shift away from restaurants, ordering out, and buying prepackaged food. We have been cooking a lot more, trying dishes outside of our normal habits. For instance, the other night we had broccoli cheddar quiche. My mom used to make it and I never really was a huge fan of the texture, but it was a nice change of pace and I'm glad we tried it again. We've also been using way more raw fruits and vegetables, featuring them in the dishes we make instead of relying on meat to be the main ingredient.

I think this has been really helpful in more ways than one. We've sat down and had dinner at our dining room table, and it is a nice way to de-stress and just be able to talk without the distractions of the television or restaurants. It lets us talk about our day and catch up. Saves money, too!

Outside the Box

I realized that I am much more willing to try things that I otherwise wouldn't have. Honestly, sticking to a no-meat diet, or at least eating meat less than once a month . . . damn pepperoni is too good to give up . . . stupid pizza logs . . . has really forced my hand in trying some other dishes. I actually ordered a portobello-mushroom veggie burger one day. I can honestly say I am not a big van of mushrooms, but even after I ate the whole thing, I found out that it wasn't going to kill me and wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I've also tried eggplant with goat cheese sandwiches, along with other roasted-veggie sandwiches. I realized that veggies aren't my enemy, and it has really opened up my culinary world. In a way, meat really just let me sit inside my comfort zone because it was pretty easy to make a burger rather than explore other, healthier options.

I am not trying to preach that meat is the devil, because honestly I could not care less if people eat it. For me, it is about feeling good, feeling like I can go for a run whenever I want without worrying about my stomach feeling like I ate an elephant. After meals, I have been feeling full without feeling stuffed.

I like the switch and plan to keep it going because, as I am finding out, there are loads of ways to skin a tomato.