Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Being Primarily Herbivore

Several people have asked me in the past few months about our family's transition to eating vegetarian and I finally have a quiet moment to talk about it. The quiet moment is thanks to my husband and brother taking four of the kids to the park while the baby naps. Sweet bliss!
Early this spring our pediatrician recommended that I read a book called The China Study. It is an amazing book about a scientist's career long study of nutrition, particularly animal protein and it's link to various diseases and overall health. If you are a food and nutrition nerd like I am, you will find this book fascinating. The author details how his study led his family to eat a vegetarian and eventually vegan diet. Like him, I never imagined my family would go in that direction, it seemed pretty extreme. However, after reading this book I can't continue to eat and feed my family the same.
Some disclaimers, we have eaten several vegetarian meals a week for budget reasons for years so the idea of building a meal around something besides a piece of meat wasn't a huge stretch for me. Also, I have the most willing husband in the world when it comes to trying new foods and new ways of eating. I think it comes from being single and starving for a decade before we met and were married. If you have subsisted on ketchup and pickles for years, lentils look pretty tasty. Actually, I couldn't have found a better man for trying new things on, he's game for anything as long as it tastes good. Our kids are young and we have worked hard training them to eat what they are served so there isn't any problem there. I cook one meal and everyone eats it. If there is a particular thing that I know they don't love then I will serve them a smaller portion and eventually they get used to it or find that it's not yucky. We have always eaten lots of vegetables and salads and they have enjoyed them since they started eating regular food. When the younger ones see their siblings and parents enjoying broccoli and squash they want to get in on the action.
Another thing is that we are eating meat about once a week, usually when we eat at a restaurant or with someone else. Joe loves grilling burgers so we have done that a few times. I'm not planning any meat into my menus but if we have company he will stop by and pick up some meat. When we do, I try to have lots of vegetables and salad to go with it so I can mainly eat that. On occasions where we are eating at someone else's home I will eat more vegetables and keep the meat dish as the smallest part of my meal. The kids are free to eat as they like from what is offered to them but I have noticed they focus on the vegetables too.
Dairy has proved to be the most difficult thing to eliminate. I have only been at this for a few months but the dairy substitutes are quite a transition for me. So I am still buying and using cheese and butter but the amount I use is probably a quarter of what it was before. Exploring vegan eating is going to be an ongoing process for me and one that I am excited about. In my cooking I try to avoid any animal products but don't get too strict with it.
As far as the benefits of vegetarian eating, I am amazed. I have not gained as much weight this pregnancy and don't have as much trouble with heart burn issues. Dairy is the big one for me in that respect. Ice cream doesn't taste quite so good when you know you won't be able to sleep later. The biggest change though has been in the total stop of low blood sugar spells. For years I have had hypoglycemia and since I stopped eating animal products it has gone away completely. I never realized that my diet was creating an imbalance that resulted in my body making excess insulin, I just thought I needed to eat more. Now that I have a healthier diet that isn't a problem at all. Joe has lost weight and we all have more energy. Overall it's been a great change and new way of living for us. I can't see us going back to our old diet anytime soon but for now we are taking it slowly and trying not to be too rigid.
Coming soon will be some of our weekly menus with recipes if you are interested in trying some good family friendly vegetarian meals with your family. Hopefully you will enjoy them as much as we have.


Audra said...

I've been told that there is a problem with posting comments here. If anyone has a suggestion, please let me know!

Laurel said...

My dad has been vegan for over 30 years, and I grew up primarily vegetarian. We now eat plenty of meat but I do see the health benefits from my very good health (I'm sure all those veggies helped my immune system and such) and my dad's EXCELLENT health. He is a VERY strong, active, healthy 62 year old man. Keep it up!

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