edamame
Edamame, the wonder food.

Not sure if that’s phrased correctly. Maybe it’s “turning” or “becoming” vegetarian, but that’s not accurate, either, because it sounds like I’m readying myself for initiation to some secret society. Fact is, I’ve been living the vegetarian lifestyle for two weeks now, and it seems to suit me.

Yesterday, though, I had a serious craving for chicken wings. I was driving – picking up and dropping off the kiddies at work and/or college (soon, I hope, we’ll add a third car to the household) – and I found myself thinking of all the great wing joints – KFC (whole wings, only), Bojangles’ (Popeyes elsewhere in the country), the habanera wings at Bahama Breeze and even the wings at the Chinese restaurant down the street. Still, the urge to give in wasn’t strong enough.

Part of the reason was fear of getting sick. On the Less Leslie fan page, one reader wrote that he and his wife gave up meat three months ago. However, they did eat meat while on vacation recently, but got so sick they had to sleep in the upright position. Can you imagine?

I suppose that, if I just ate a great steak, it might make me feel funny inside. Chicken? Maybe not as much. Seafood? Doesn’t seem likely, but that’s probably just wishful thinking because I’m fairly certain I’m going to occasionally have lobster, crab, clams and, my fave, calamari. We eat a lot of shrimp in this house, and that’s why I probably won’t ever miss it. The other stuff, though, will definitely be an issue.

So I likely won’t be a strict vegetarian, but 99 percent of the time, I will. What I need to work harder on is making my meals healthier. I do like white rice, and am working on liking brown rice, but so far I still think it’s yucky. I may do a 50-50 blend. I do like wild rice, and will incorporate that a bit more.

I also need to cut way back on eggs and cheese. I actually bought a frozen pizza for dinner last night. After eating a few slices, I spent the next two hours in gastrointestinal agony until it decided to come back up. It had spinach and portabella mushrooms, but I suspect the mixture of cheeses and whatever else was hiding in there that angered my stomach.

One of the things I’ve learned is that there are so many other, great sources of protein. I made some more trail mix, this time adding sunflower seeds and dried cranberries to the raisins and peanuts. Very high in protein. Also edamame (ed-ah-MAH-may), the wonder food. Edamame is a fancy name for baby soybeans, but they’re tasty little devils and deliver a high amount of protein, iron, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

I’m also learning that being vegetarian is easy; being a healthy veg, not so much. It’s easy because there are only three meals a day that usually involve meat of any kind, and there are plenty of meatless meal options, or meat substitutes, like Boca’s Spicy Chik’n Patties, which are to die for. However, all the foods that get me into trouble are also “vegetarian”: ice cream, movie popcorn, soft pretzels, everything at Starbucks, Keebler’s Fudge Stripes cookies – need I go on?

Of course, if I cut out all dairy egg products, that would eliminate a lot of that, but I’m not ready for that level of commitment. Yet.

What I am ready for are the benefits of a vegetarian diet, even one that includes dairy: a substantially lower risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, gallstones and more.

Pass the edamame.

Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant?  I'm halfway through my fishburger and I realize, Oh my God.  I could be eating a slow learner.  ~  Lynda Montgomery

Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.