Confessions of a reformed pescatarian

Greetings, confidants.

As you know from reading about my juice cleanse epiphanies, I have been thinking about reintroducing meat into my diet. I’ve determined that beef is my gateway drug of choice: my metaphorical gut does not want chicken, and I won’t argue with my gut (and, interestingly, chicken is the meat I gave up first when I started quitting meat back in the day), and my psyche is not ready for pig.

I knew that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right and make sure my beef was from a local, grass-fed, humanely-treated cow, so I visited JM Stock Provisions, a new local/organic/happy meat butcher in town, for an expert recommendation.

The butcher was a font of information about the benefits of eating grass-fed (including that grass-fed beef is the easiest meat for a vegetarian’s system to handle?) and talked me through a few different cuts before recommending a flat iron steak from Timbercreek Organics. I left with a lovely little 2-person steak and very specific cooking instructions to pass on to Mr HP, my trusty steak chef and staunch carnivore, who was not familiar with the cut. I was encouraged to see this article, titled “The Flat Iron Steak: Is it really the best cut of Beef?”

flat iron steak

meat-raw meat-pan

Cooking instructions were:

  • preheat oven to 200 degrees
  • salt and pepper both sides liberally
  • heat oil with a high smoke point (rapeseed oil was recommended; we used butter) in a pan to high heat
  • put meat in the hot pan for 3 minutes
  • flip over and put into the oven for a few minutes
  • remove meat to a plate with a foil tent to rest and reabsorb juices for 10 minutes
  • cut the meat against the grain and eat

meat-cut meat-cooked

I was in charge of the side, and tried a new recipe: Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce. I omitted the tallow/lard–baby steps here, people. It was SO good. Make it.

meat-zoodles meat-meal

The verdict: Steak tastes good. There were some chewy gristly bits–of course–that grossed me out, but the flavor and overall texture were pleasing enough to make me want to continue my beef experiment. I tried to keep tabs on my energy levels and athletic performance over the following couple days, and can’t really say I saw impressive physical effects from the protein punch, but I did feel happy and energized and healthy. I should make a graph.

Happy feelings chart

The above graph represents the increase in happy feelings toward steak, zoodles, and avocados I experienced following this meal. I’ve been making zoodles like mad and adding avocados to EVERYTHING.

Lessons learned: The best meat is local, humanely-treated, hormone- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed, free-range, etc, etc, etc, happy meat; everyone needs a julienne peeler for making zoodles; and avocado makes any dish better.

Protein Powder Wars, Part II

In July, I wondered if, as essentially a non-meat eater, I needed extra protein. I just finished my first 18.6oz container of protein powder, and in the interest of Science, I am starting a comparison chart, below. Thanks to Eating Bird Food for an excellent post on her favorite protein powder, and a discussion of various protein powder uses; and Gabby’s Gluten-Free for educating me with a much more usable chart than the one below. As discussed in my July post, I’m only interested in plant-based, dairy/gluten/soy free, minimally processed, low/no sugar added powders.

Brand Price Protein Source Grams Protein Grams Sugar Comments
LifeTime Life’s Basics $17.43 for 18.6oz (Amazon) Pea, hemp, rice (with chia seeds) 22 2.67 (Vanilla) I ordered this little-discussed-online brand because it was a considerably cheaper intro to protein powder, and it had all three of the important plant protein sources. Also, I wanted something that would taste good when mixed with only water, and comments on Life’s Basics supported that. The flavor was fine–due to the large amount of stevia, no doubt. The consistency was thick from the chia seeds, but I didn’t mind. I think I felt stronger and less sore while recovering with this, but it’s hard to say for sure. I did like the new schedule of protein drink at 7:45, smaller-than-before breakfast at 10.
Sun Warrior $26.07 for 500g (Amazon) Brown rice 16 0 (Vanilla) Just purchased. This one is very popular on the internets.

Thoughts on protein powders

I’m a pescatarian athlete. Being competitive, I want to be faster and stronger than my friends. Some of them swear by their post-workout protein drinks, and I was curious: do protein supplements improve athletic performance? As a pescatarian, do I need a protein supplement anyway, since I don’t eat many animal products? (I do eat a lot of eggs.) If I do need one, what are some options that are minimally processed, and based on protein from plants or humanely-treated animals?

First question: do protein supplements improve athletic performance?

Maybe: The idea is that ingesting protein within a half hour or so of a strenuous workout promotes muscle recovery. Protein drinks are a convenient way to get the protein quickly into your system. I usually eat a handful of almonds directly after a workout, followed by an egg-and-veggie breakfast a couple hours later. suggests almonds are not the best choice for post-workout protein intake. Shoot.

Maybe not: Robb Wolf posits that unless you’re a competitive (I think meaning elite) athlete, you don’t need to worry about a post-workout meal at all. (See comments on this article; the permalink to the specific comment is broken.) Wolf’s site also says because liquid is absorbed faster than food, a protein drink could spike your insulin levels in a way that protein-rich food would not. Here are some real-food post-workout snack alternatives to liquids.

Answer: Unclear, leaning toward yes.

Second question: as a pescatarian, do I need a protein supplement?

Maybe: Precision Nutrition prescribes protein supplements and branched chain amino acids to vegetarian athletes.

Maybe not: According to this article, vegetarians who eat lots of dairy and soy probably get enough protein. I don’t eat much of either, but I do eat a lot of eggs. Precision Nutrition does not support heavy reliance on dairy for protein intake because lactose intolerance and milk protein allergies are so common.

Answer: Unclear, leaning toward no.

Third question: what are some protein supplement options that are minimally processed, and based on protein from plants or humanely-treated animals?

Many protein powders have some weird stuff in them—additives and fillers to make them palatable. Powders are, by definition, processed foods, so if you try to avoid processed foods, well, there you go. If you’re gluten-free, read the fine print as some protein powders contain glutamine peptides as a cheaper filler protein.

Protein powders generally come in two types: plant-based protein powders, and whey protein powder.

The most common plant-based proteins used in supplements are:

  • Hemp protein
  • Brown rice protein
  • Yellow pea protein

This article gives an overview of the three types above. In it, the author, who is a vegan, gives advice to an active reader curious about protein powders. She seems to rank them hemp, brown rice, yellow pea, from favorite to least, saying hemp protein powder has more fiber than the others, and brown rice protein is hypoallergenic.

Recommended (by people on the internets, not me) plant-based protein powders:

Whey is a byproduct of cheesemaking. If purchasing whey protein supplements, ensure the whey is from grass-fed cows. I read a comment on one site that said Mark Sisson’s Primal Fuel is grass-fed whey, but I could not find evidence of that anywhere on the Primal Fuel site, so I’m guessing it’s not true. A Google search came back with a bunch of grass-fed whey options.

Recommended (by people on the internets, not me) whey protein powder:

So I don’t have a solid answer: do I need a protein supplement or not? This calls for Science! I just ordered a powder and will report back.

Avoiding beef vs. enjoying leather

Leather is a by-product of the beef industry, right? It comes from cows that have already been slaughtered for meat, doesn’t it?

Or maybe not. Action For Our Planet says the big cattle factory farms and slaughterhouses make up to half their profits from leather, so when you buy leather goods, you are supporting companies that practice inhumane treatment. Care2 Causes tells that more and more leather goods sold in the US are made from leather produced in China and India, where animal welfare laws are non-existent or unenforced. In Defense of Animals has a similar argument.

What’s a responsible consumer to do? Fortunately there are many synthetic leather-like materials on the market today, which are generally easier to care for than leather.

Here are a few good sites for vegan shoe, bag, and accessory shopping:

Alternative Outfitters: mens’ and womens’ shoes; bags; accessories

Moo Shoes: mens’ and womens’ shoes; bags; belts; wallets

Zappos Vegan: vegan shoes for the family, and other eco-friendly products (some of which contain leather, so be careful if you’re trying to avoid it completely)

Happy humane shopping!

Integral Yoga Natural Foods

On Sunday I needed to restock my produce bin with a week’s worth of local veggies, and since Relay Foods has bumped their minimum order up to $50 (sigh), I headed up the street to Integral Yoga Natural Foods. They have a wide range of local produce, tofu, bread, and other products, except for meat–it’s a vegetarian store. The vegetarian cheese counter puts Whole Foods’ to shame.

I tried to take a picture of the cheese display, but it didn’t turn out. If you want non-standard cheese varieties made using vegetarian rennet, go to IY.

When I got home, I cooked up a few days’ worth of roasted local squash, zucchini, onion, and sweet potato.

Buy local produce!

Pumping iron supplements

As an active female pescatarian of child-bearing age, I possess several attributes that could put me at risk for iron deficiency. Looking for a explanation for recent low energy levels, I did some reading on iron supplements. Iron deficiency can cause fatigue, and an increasing iron intake may seem like an easy fix, but iron supplementing can be tricky: excess amounts of iron can cause gastrointestinal distress and even become toxic. It’s safest to get blood work and recommendations from your doctor, and take a daily multivitamin.


If you want to do some dietary tinkering of your own, though, there are good resources on the Interwebs. I found this National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements article and this Vegetarian Times article to give simple, basic overviews.

Non-meat eaters may consume the daily recommended amount of iron, but the iron is a type, called nonheme, that isn’t as readily absorbed by the body as iron from meat, called heme (as in, comes from hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells in animals). Nonheme iron isn’t as available for absorption by the digestive tract, and the NIH suggests that vegetarians consider consuming twice the recommended daily amount of iron in order for their bodies to store the appropriate amount. The Vegetarian Resource Group recommends an iron RDA of 14mg for vegetarian men and post-menopausal women, and 33mg for pre-menopausal women (the official RDA for those groups is 8mg and 18mg, respectively).

Iron supplements contain either ferric or ferrous salts, with ferrous being more easily absorbed. Look for ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, or ferrous gluconate in your multivitamin. Mine gives me 18mg of iron from ferrous fumarate, which on top of the iron I get from a vegetable-rich diet, should be plenty.


The bottom line is that those who eat fewer animal products can keep iron stores up by eating plenty of greens and whole grains, and taking a daily multivitamin. It’s probably best not to take iron supplements without the oversight of a physician.

Good sources of nonheme iron:

  • iron-fortified cereals
  • beans
  • dark, leafy greens
  • soy (tofu, tempeh)
  • quinoa
  • blackstrap molasses (mentioned all over the place, but not a very versatile ingredient!)

Suggestions for improving absorption of nonheme iron:

  • Eat iron-rich food with vitamin C-rich foods (fruits and vegetables)
  • Avoid combining iron-rich foods with iron absorption blockers such as coffee, tea, cocoa, calcium, and fiber

The Omnivore’s Dilemma QotD

From The Ethics of Eating Animals, p. 326-7

To give up eating animals is to give up on these places as human habitat, unless of course we are willing to make complete our dependence on a highly industrialized national food chain. That food chain would be in turn even more dependent than it already is on fossil fuels and chemical fertilizer, since food would need to travel even farther and fertility–in the form of manures–would be in short supply. Indeed, it is doubtful you can build a genuinely sustainable agriculture without animals to cycle nutrients and support local food production. If our concern is for the health of nature–rather than, say, the internal consistency of our moral code or the condition of our souls–then eating animals may sometimes be the most ethical thing to do.

Since the utilitarian is concerned exclusively with the sum of happiness and suffering, and the slaughter of an animal with no comprehension of death need not entail suffering, the Good Farm adds to the total of animal happiness, provided you replace the slaughtered animal with a new one. However, this line of thinking does not obviate the wrongness of killing an animal that “has a sense of its own existence over time, and can have preferences about its own future.” In other words, it might be okay to eat the chicken or the cow, but perhaps not the (more intelligent) pig.

The Carnist Viewpoint

An interesting read from a “carnist”:,8599,2077750,00.html

The author admits he is a meat lover, but stresses the importance of choosing humanely-treated meat and animal products.

We skimmed through some of the comments… most of the commenters were fired up: either “how dare you tell me not to eat meat!” or “how dare you take livestock abuse so lightly!” Obviously not everyone is as motivated as Haute Pasture readers to seek out humane products; the average American probably doesn’t think about the animals at all as he or she is ordering a burger from the drive-thru. We view an article like this as a positive thing, that may get the average Joe to wake up and start taking baby steps toward being a more responsible consumer.

Humans need to eat less meat

Mark Bittman writes in the New York Times’ Opinionator column today:

In limited quantities, meat is just fine, especially sustainably raised meat (and wild game), locally and ethically produced dairy and eggs, the remaining wild or decently cultivated fish.

No matter where we live, if we focused on those — none of which are in abundant supply, which is exactly the point — and used them to augment the kind of diet we’re made to eat, one based on plants as a staple, with these other things as treats, we’d all be better off. We can’t afford to wait to evolve.

Interesting, quick read about the global trend towards eating more and more factory-farmed meat and non-local produce:

Is your cheese vegetarian?

Haute Pasture recently received a lesson on rennet, and we were surprised that we, as supposed educated consumers, did not realize that all cheeses are not necessarily vegetarian. Rennet is a mix of enzymes found in a calf’s stomach that is used in nature to help the calf digest its mother’s milk, but is used in traditional cheese making to coagulate milk into cheese.

Milk-source-specific rennet can also be used; so, a lamb’s stomach could be used for rennet for sheep’s milk, and a kid’s stomach for goat’s milk. The argument against slaughtering baby animals for meat is for another post; one could make the point here that stomachs are a byproduct of veal/lamb/baby goat meat production, and it’s good that they can be used for something. This post will not dispute that, but rather discuss the alternative ways to produce cheese that do not involve the use of animal organs.

Vegetarian cheese can be made using vegetable rennet, microbial rennet, genetically-engineered rennet, or acid coagulation.

Vegetable and microbial rennets are enzymes or acids produced from plants and molds. These rennets can be difficult to obtain and may impart unwanted side-effects on the cheeses, so most cheeses in the U.S. are made using genetically engineered rennet. This rennet is produced by bacteria, fungi, or yeasts that were modified with cow genes to produce one of the enzymes in natural rennet. Vegetarian cheeses can also be made using acid coagulation, which is how cream cheese and paneer are made.

So, read the label before you purchase cheese. Whole Foods, for one, prints on cheese labels whether the cheese is vegetarian. Harris Teeter, on the other hand, lists the ingredient “enzymes” on their in-house cheese label, which could be animal-based. If in doubt, ask at the cheese counter. Or better yet, purchase your cheese from a local farmer’s market, where you can not only ask the vendor about rennet in the cheese, but also about the treatment of the livestock on the farm.