— by Tifany Henderson
Lama D. Dorjee has requested that his students observe a vegetarian diet for the month of Saka Dawa, from May 26 until June 24.
Rinpoche also said each of us would determine what vegetarian means to us.
So, let’s keep in mind the intention behind being vegetarian during the month of Saka Dawa. All virtuous actions are multiplied. By going vegetarian, we reduce the number of animals that must be killed for our benefit. (It’s not a complete reduction because even when growing and harvesting plant-based foods, worms, insects, and micro-organisms are killed.) This is helpful on our environment. By simply adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet, it is helpful to our health. Also, virtuous actions require us to sacrifice a little, to stretch out of our comfort zones.
Our Lama has asked us to do this, so we do it for him and his long life. We meet this request to the best of our abilities, with our best intentions, to benefit all sentient beings. Then, we commit to it.
Vegetarianism is eating a plant-based diet, along with dairy, eggs and honey, but free from animal flesh of any kind. So, in the strictest sense there is no beef, chicken, fish, poultry, etc. But, you could eat food that comes from animal that doesn’t require killing the animal to get it. So, you could eat milk, cheese, yogurt, honey and such. Of course, all plant-based foods are acceptable to eat such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and grains.
To help you define what “vegetarian” will mean for you during the month of Saka Dawa, here are a few creative ideas. Remember, whatever you choose it should be a stretch and it should be for the benefit of our Lama and all sentient beings.
- One Vegetarian Day a week – Does this whole vegetarian thing seem very daunting to do for an entire month? Then, try the old stand-by Meatless Mondays. Basically, you choose one day a week to go completely vegetarian, have absolutely no meat of any kind. Maybe you can do two days a week! It doesn’t have to be Mondays, it can be any day of the week, just be consistent and commit to it. You could do Simple Saturdays, Trying Tuesdays, We Got This Wednesdays, These Veggies are Good Thursdays, Fun Fridays or Sacred Sundays.
- Semi-vegetarian – Can you do vegetarian part of the time, but you have a health need for some meat in your diet on a daily basis? Try being vegetarian everyday until 6pm! Eat whatever plant-based foods you want during the day along with eggs and dairy. After 6pm (dinner and later), add meat back in.
- Mostly vegetarian – Maybe you can do everything vegetarian without a problem, but you find you still need a little meat protein. How about keeping it minimally by adding some sort of meat broth to your vegetarian day? Bone broth is a popular thing these days. There are recipes everywhere for it, but it is possible to purchase packaged bone broth too. You could sip on bone broth between meals, or add it to your recipes.
- I’m-All-In Vegetarian – Great! Just remember no meat or meat broth products in your diet, and you got this!
Here are a few tips for your vegetarian meals:
- Check your current recipes. Can you drop the meat in any of them and just double the veggies and/or add beans? A lot of soups and stews can be done this way.
- Pinterest is your friend! I have found tons of recipes on Pinterest. Beware, just because you search for vegetarian, doesn’t mean only vegetarian meals will come up. Always double check the recipe!
- When eating out, restaurants will often have a vegetarian option, or can change an entree to be vegetarian. It’s usually a great idea to ask them to double the veggies.
- To meet protein needs, realize that all plant-based food have the building blocks of amino acids that make protein. But if you want to make extra sure, then incorporate beans, grains, nuts and seeds into your diet. Quinoa is actually a powerhouse for protein needs. Of course, dairy and eggs have protein as well.
- It’s helpful to have healthy snacks on hand as you transition your diet. Keep nuts, seeds, veggies sticks, and hummus on hand. If you like boiled eggs as a snack, boil up a batch to make it super easy to get what you need when you need it.
- Just because the package says “vegetarian” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. There are lots of highly processed foods out there that can be labeled vegetarian. It doesn’t mean it’s healthy! Try to stay close to the original form of the food where possible and you will find your body will appreciate it.
- You don’t have to eat eggs, dairy, and honey. It’s just allowed. But, feel free to omit it if you prefer!
Best Tip: Determine how you want to be vegetarian for the month – one day a week, partial days, completely vegetarian, or another creative variation. Once you have a definition that fits you, commit to it! Once you’re committed, plan for it! Get your recipes out, Google them. Plan your meals. Plan your healthy snacks. Stretch to something more, but be realistic. Commit again. Remember, we do this for all sentient beings.
Whether it is making one small change or going full-on vegetarian, it is about virtuous action. Keep your heart and mind present at all times.
Tifany Henderson is a long time member and practitioner at KTC Dallas. An Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Yoga Instructor and Meditation Instructor, Tifany helps her clients find the right nutritional approach for them, along with what is right for their mind, body and spirit. She believes in taking small steps that lead to big lasting changes. To find out more about Tifany and her approach to working with clients, classes and workshops, visit www.yogatif.com.