You probably recall a voice from your childhood telling you to “eat your veggies,” and maybe one telling you to “eat your veggies or you’re not leaving this table.” Those were the days. School nights where Mom dished out a meat, a starch, and a side of frozen veggies, cooked in butter and salt. Like many other children before and after me, I did anything I could to weasel my way out of eating those semi-healthy morsels, turned off by their grotesque, green hue. (I didn’t so much mind the other colors.)

Caprese saladThankfully, with the invention of Pinterest and other such sites, mealtimes and vegetable side dishes have since become infinitely more interesting. And although I eventually came to appreciate my mother’s cooking, I have since discovered other spices beyond since table salt and pepper.

My view of vegetables has morphed even in the last year when I attended a health seminar on switching to a plant-based diet. How? Well, I had tried multiple diets in the past, each with the same result: two or three weeks on the diet and then back to my comfortable, unhealthy ways. But at this seminar, something clicked. The speaker addressed the very basic purpose of why we eat food.

Fuel. Food was fuel, and different foods have different properties to fuel different functions in our bodies.

I mean, duh, but I had never thought about it the way that she said it. Rather than pushing yet another diet that would inevitably fail, she encouraged participants to simply begin incorporating more plants into their current lifestyle.

So I did. Researching the nutritional properties of Vegetables in a bowlfruits and vegetables became a game to me, and cooking became a creative exercise. I usually stock up on my fruits and veggies during the weekend, and throughout the week figure out where I can add an extra one here or there, perhaps substituting it for something less healthy.

For me personally, vegetarian status has not quite been achieved (I still have regular cravings for chicken and bacon), but I’ve been going steady for almost five months now on my way to an eventual plant-based lifestyle, seeing positive results in both my health and my weight, and have no intention of stopping now.

Roasted vegetablesThis year, I’m celebrating National Vegetarian Week, not as a vegetarian myself, but as someone who no longer scoffs at the vegetarian way of life. I’m celebrating the fact that eating vegetables no longer means colorful, frozen cubes whose only taste comes from the salt that’s added to them. I’m celebrating that vegetables help empower me to do the things I’ve always wanted and live the life I’ve always dreamed – one where I can run, swim, dance, or even climb a mountain if I wanted to.

As I finish the last of my avocado-spinach pesto pizza on naan, covered in spinach, mushrooms, pineapple, dates, black olives, and Parmesan, drizzled with a lovely mango balsamic, I say to you, Happy National Vegetarian Week, and bon appetit!

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