To be [vegetarian] or not to be…

Patty-less would be great, too!

…that IS the question. Now, I’m taking a bit of a risk with this post and what I don’t want to do is anger any Veggies or Vegans with this, because I honestly HAVE pondered this very thing for myself many times. I’ve always had difficulty with the idea of eating an animal. That’s probably why I like to pretend my meat comes from a package on a cold shelf and didn’t exist in any previous form. I like fish, but hate cleaning them. I love crab, shrimp and lobster, but cringe at every crack and peel. Don’t even get me started on the time I went to a Filipino friend’s birthday party. I had to make someone go get a slice of meat for me and bring it back to my seat (they roasted the whole pig, apple and all) so as not to appear rude by not eating the delicious food our gracious hosts had prepared. Unfortunately, although I’m a vegetarian at heart, I need what those meats provide. This is where personal opinion comes in and there is room for argument about various ways of supplementing and substituting, but I take issue with most options because I don’t think any of them truly supply the nutrients of meat in the proper way. Again, everyone has their own studies, opinions and ideals, and I can only say how I feel for myself, not anyone else.

I also feel, that the majority of our U.S. society does not make many healthy choices in general, and therefore the point of whether or not they eat meat is drastically overshadowed by the fact that they eat way too much of whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever form they want. Shows like Man Vs. Food (which I admittedly love watching with Jeremiah) promote the idea of “cool gluttony,” and Paula Deen (as delicious as her recipes may be) can give you 20 extra pounds and a heart attack in no time. There are ways to get the protein, iron, vitamins, etc. that you need without the fat, empty calories, cholesterol, and excess junk that you don’t. Red meat is delicious, but probably the worst choice of proteins, so enjoy it less frequently and in small portions. Find ways to incorporate more fish, chicken, and lean turkey into your meals… but still remember portioning and balancing meals with different colored vegetables and smart carbohydrates. Of course, beans (all types) or soy (in small amounts) are a good source of protein for some meat-less days as well. Your daily diet should always be vegetable-heavy, and include as many fresh, organic foods as possible. The point is to eat well overall and make good choices consistently. That is what I DO acknowledge and appreciate about the vegetarians that I personally know, that they are striving to keep a healthy lifestyle in general.

believe it or not, there’s a burger under there!

Since I’m not interested in cutting meat out of my diet, I generally try to find the best way possible to incorporate it with the least amount of “damage” to my body. That’s what got me so interested in The Pampered Chef and creating this blog. Yes, I do the occasional dessert or fabulously indulgent meal, but I feel that it’s ok to make small allowances here and there as long as your main routine is healthy. I’ve said before that simply choosing to prepare fresh [organic, if possible] ingredients every day rather than running out for fast food not only cures the exact same hunger for a lower price, but also gives you back the control of fat and salt content, preservatives, and weird unpronounceable ingredients in your meals. When I want a taco, I make the salsa and guacamole myself, warm tortillas instead of fry them, add vegetables, and try to make it full-flavored but less bad for me. If I crave a burger, sure I could let some fast food joint slap one together for me, but I know they aren’t going to make decisions on my behalf in order to create a healthier meal. It’s up to me to make those compromises and ensure that I’m at least enjoying a better version.

my very own cheeseburger salad!

In fact, I think a burger is one of the best examples of a meal that can be taken in either direction. Since I don’t believe food should be a legal form of torture, I can eat a hamburger and not feel guilty or disgusting. To be fair, I find ways to adjust it in order to cut the unhealthiness factor without losing that satisfaction that only comes from stuffing a huge juicy burger into your mouth (cut to a “Don’t Bother Me, I’m Eating” commercial). We put both fresh and grilled fruits or vegetables on our burgers, such as onions, tomatoes, spinach, sprouts, pineapple, lettuce, avocado, jalapeños, mushrooms, or peppers. We use light cheeses and make our own sauces with light ingredients (be careful to read labels since light or fat-free isn’t always better). Although Jeremiah uses them, I forego buns and wrap mine in lettuce in order to be able to choose my carbs in the form of potatoes or pasta during a different meal. I also often exchange my beef patty for a turkey or veggie patty, and I saw lots of fun recipes for portobello mushroom burgers (looks just like one!). When we do use beef, we try to choose an all-natural, grass-fed/hormone-free beef. I love ordering from Omaha Steaks, and even their burgers are “gourmet.” Per patty, they have less calories and fat but more protein and fiber than the average grocery store burger. Plus, they are individually vaccuum-sealed and shipped with dry ice to prolong [icebox] shelf life. Unfortunately, none of their products are cheap, so I always wait for deals or coupons if I plan to place an order. But I digress.

The one we decided to make this time used Omaha Steaks Gourmet Burgers, Jeremiah’s with sesame buns and mine in a few pieces of romaine. They were topped with melted Lite Swiss and grilled jalapeños and onions. We also grilled some organic portobello mushroom caps and added sliced organic tomatoes and a handful of fresh spinach leaves (love that Farmer’s Market!). I found recipes on The Food Network by Rachael Ray and Paula Deen, and liked both so much that I ended up with a sort of combination of the two. The ingredients were inspired by Rachael and the spread idea came from Paula, although I used almost no salt and light mayo. I still had a bit of my homemade pesto to mix in, and although it sounded weird at first, I was very tempted to lick the sauce out of my prep bowl it was so tasty! Maybe I’ll steam an artichoke and dip the leaves in the leftovers! Our burgers (like most of our meals) are slightly different every time, and that’s what makes them so much fun. So go ahead, play with your food! It keeps things interesting even when you’re eating right. The point is, eat your food – be it creature or ruffage – and love it. But always be conscious of how the food is made and how much you should consume. That is how I choose to be healthy AND happy, with ALL types of food!

Mega Burgers

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