Vegetarian Experiences: An Interview with Courtney Carver

[Editor's Note: This is the third installment in a month-long series on the benefits of being vegetarian, approaching vegetarian eating from a family perspective and insights/perspectives from other vegetarians and vegans. Read Part 1: A Family Guide to Vegetarian Eating and Part 2: Vegetarian Recipies That Keep Them Coming Back for More. The series continues with an awesome interview with Courtney Carver of Be More With Less who shares her experiences with life, health and vegetarianism.]

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Courtney Carver of Be More With LessCourtney, for those not familiar with you and your writing at Be More With Less, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What drives you in your mission to — as you write — “create a life with more savings and less no debt, more health and less stress, more time and less stuff, and more joy with less obligation.”?

Like many people, I incurred a lot of debt at a very early age. With student loans, credit cards and car loans, I was making some hefty monthly payments. I didn’t worry about it too much, because it seemed like the “normal way to do things”. The more I owed, the more I worked, and the more I worked, the more I spent. It dawned on me a few times that I was caught in a vicious circle but couldn’t really see a way out. In 2006, I was diagnosed with MS, a chronic, often progressively debilitating disease. While I had made some small changes prior to that, It was then that I decided, enough is enough. I focused first on my health, making necessary changes like cutting meat from diet and adding yoga to my life. Next, I took a good look at my spending habits and my husband and I decided that debt was not for us. The healthier I became and the less I owed, the more I wanted to really embrace life instead of stuff.

I loved your post, “25 Tips for Vegetarian Newbies“. Can you share with us your journey and experience as you became vegetarian? What were some of the easy things along the way? What were some of the more challenging things and how did you overcome them?

Thanks! That was a really fun post to write. I became a vegetarian in stages. In the Fall of 2006, shortly after my MS diagnosis, I stopped eating all meat except for seafood. After living in New England for so many years, I never thought I would live without shellfish! My initial motivation for dropping meat was for better health. I wanted to consume food that was less inflammatory. The more I read about vegetarianism, the more I learned about CAFOs, animal cruelty and how our meat consumption was affecting the world. I started to really understand that not eating meat affected a lot more than my personal health. The more I learned, the less appealing all meat became, including seafood. I became an official vegetarian in October of 2009, so it took me three years to get there!

Easy things – meat substitutes. There are so many great tasting veggie burgers and other substitutes that it was easy to make the transition.

Challenging things – Everyone in my family eats meat. They don’t pressure me to eat meat, but sometimes meals can be more complicated when you are cooking several things. While I do not include meat in every meal, I try not to push my eating habits on my husband and daughter. Holidays are interesting because the thought of cooking a whole turkey or a roast is out of the question. Last Christmas I made a vegan brunch and my husband cooked a more traditional breakfast. Our guests got to try a little of everything. This year, I would like to turn the focus from food to the real meaning of the holiday. While there are plenty of ways to create a vegetarian Thanksgiving, I would much rather get out on the slopes for the day and enjoy my family.

julienne carrotsGive us a sense of your what’s on your plate each day. What are some of your favorite things to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Sometimes I wish I was the kind of vegetarian who only liked vegetables, but I love bread and pasta too! Here are some of my favorite meal options:

Breakfast

  • English muffin with Earth Balance + Apple]
  • Swedish Pancakes with Strawberries
  • Oatmeal with a little brown sugar and chia seeds

Lunch

  • Amy’s Burger on a One Bun with lettuce, tomatoes and sprouts
  • Veggie Soup (Tomato – Sesame is my favorite)
  • Hummus and pita bread with veggies
  • Panzanella Salad

Dinner

  • Pasta with homemade marinara sauce + vegetarian meatballs or breaded eggplant.
  • Rice and veggies with ginger soy sauce
  • Soup and salad

For those who want to explore a more vegetarian diet, can you share some insight and tips for the best way to approach it? Have you added anything to your original list of 25 tips? Are there any particular resources that you think others might enjoy?

My recommendation is to find five or six go to veg recipes. Keep them simple and easy so you aren’t tempted to fall back on meatloaf or an old stand by just to get dinner on the table. Read great vegetarian and vegan cookbooks and see that there are so many options besides salad when adopting a vegetarian diet.

Recommended Reading:

Chia Seeds via Be More With LessTell us about your Chia Seeds Mini Mission. Why should chia seeds be part of a vegetarian diet?

I’m really glad you asked about “The Chia Chronicles”! I first read about the health benefits of chia seeds in the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. The book goes into great detail about the lifestyle of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico’s Copper Canyons. Chia seeds are a big part of their diet and they are incredibly healthy. They run hundreds of miles for fun and sometimes survival, and seem to be immune to many of our modern day diseases and health issues.

Matt and Christine Fraizer from nomeatathlete.com created a really cool cookbook called Fuel Your Run the Tarahumara Way and I thought it would be fun to bake and blend my way through it and document the results. It’s sort of a mini Julie and Julia project.

If you want to learn more about about the health benefits of Chia Seeds and get my favorite Chia seed smoothie recipe, I wrote about it here: http://www.bemorewithless.com/2010/try-chia-seeds-mini-mission/.

Thanks, Courtney, for taking time to share your story. Any last words to share with readers of The New Pursuit?

The only other thing I would like to add is that if you are considering a vegetarian diet, have a good understanding of why you want to make a change. This will really keep you motivated. Adapt a new diet or lifestyle at your own pace. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing overnight.

Thanks again Bill for not only letting me tell my story, but for inspiring bloggers to write about vegetarianism and for sharing the benefits with readers.

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[images: Courtesy of Be More With Less. Original photo credits can be found there.]

Comments
One Response to “Vegetarian Experiences: An Interview with Courtney Carver”
  1. Majeeda says:

    Lovely to read more about you and your road to vegetarianism Courtney. I can imagine it must be a little tricky sometimes with your family still eating meat but this proves that it’s doable and hopefully you are planting little seeds in them. I’m sure they eating less meat now than they would be if you were not vegetarian too, and every bit helps.

    You mentioned wanting to take the emphasis for holidays away from food and back to other things. I can really relate to that a lot. The most important month for most Muslims is Ramadan – a month of fasting, praying and to some degree socialising. The fast is broken each evening and it’s nice to do that together with family and friends but I notice that for many people it’s easily goes overboard – some women spend so much time planning, preparing & serving food…it really takes away from the basic essence of the month which is about spiritual renewal – not food!! :)