You were born in an interesting age, to interesting parents, who happened to be part of the rapidly growing minority of Americans who choose to live a lifestyle in which animal products are shunned for the sake of strict veganism (like me) or strict vegetarianism (like Mommy.)
As for you, you’re the kid caught in the middle of it, not realizing that we are making an important decision for you; at least for now. (What an appropriate shirt for you to be wearing today: Pizza vs. Broccoli.)
It used to be that vegans and vegetarians were perceived as predictable stereotypes; hippies who didn’t bathe. Not to mention, they looked down on anyone who didn’t share the same lifestyle and beliefs as they did.
I think of those animal rights ads that use shock value to get the attention of carnivores, often using images of nearly nude women or the slaughter of animals.
That’s not me or what I stand for.
The truth is, I don’t want everyone to go vegan, like me. Just as important, I don’t think everyone should be vegan. It’s not for everybody.
I don’t believe in forcing or pressuring my beliefs upon anyone for any reason. If someone is influenced by a conversation of mine, then so be it- that happens everyday to everybody.
Part of the process of becoming an individual is by (ironically?) collecting the ideas of other people you respect. That process, which included several pivotal documentaries on Netflix, led me to my extreme (yet not-that-weird-anymore) lifestyle.
Really, though, the main reason I don’t want everyone to become a vegan is because it seems like that would drive up the demand for organic foods, causing a shortage in supply, causing a hike in the prices of our groceries.
I’m not convinced there’s enough organic kale and chia seeds for even half of America to live this way.
So I best stop talking about how happy I am to have found this lifestyle and the positive health benefits (as well as, peace of mind) it brings our family.
It’s funny to think how 5 years ago, no one could have paid me enough money to go vegan for the rest of my life. Now, I’m trying to think how much money would be enough for me to go back to my former lifestyle, permanently.
I best stop trying to make our family seem relatively normal and decent.
However, to not share helpful and relevant information to curious people; well, that just seems selfish.
Hmm… the classic vegan dilemma.
I’m stressing out a little bit now. I need some vegan chocolate cookies…
When you officially go vegetarian, the #1 response you will get from most people is, “Well, just make sure you’re getting enough protein.” I feel like it’s subconsciously assumed that vegetarians are just a few steps away from having an eating disorder.
Prepare for me to rock your world. (As if I don’t always.) The reasons people eat meat are because they like it and it’s convenient. People do not eat meat because their bodies need the protein. For any person with access to a grocery store or market that sells veggies and beans, meat is nutritionally unnecessary.
After all, I accidentally became a vegetarian. Throughout the years, as I learned more and more how to eat properly by cutting out foods with the word “high-fructose corn syrup” in them and started eating fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains in every meal, I finally woke up and realized, “Hey, I don’t want even want meat. Why am I eating this?”
According to the fascinating documentary, Forks Over Knives, which features people who reversed their cancer and Diabetes by switching to a plant-based diet, even the vegetable with the least amount of a protein, the potato, still provides the minimal amount of necessary protein.
Twenty years ago from this very minute, I was probably at Burger King with my family, who was impressed that a skinny little 10 year-old boy like me could so easy down a Double Whopper combo meal. My catch-phrase back then was, “Meat. I gotta have more meat.”
How ironic that two decades later A) I’m a vegetarian and B) I’m never hungry after eating meatless meals.
Forks Over Knives also explains how 500 calories of vegetarian food triggers the mind and body that a person is full, both quicker and longer, than 500 calories of animal based food. Therefore, the more animal-based and processed a meal is, the more necessary it becomes to overeat in order to feel full.
Vegetarianism is considered an alternative lifestyle. But the way I see it, eating meat is the actual alternative lifestyle.
Take a fun look back to the book of Genesis in the Bible. It starts out with God telling people to eat plants and herbs. From Adam until Noah, 20 generations later, there is no mention of anyone eating animals. Then after the Flood wrecked the Earth, God allows people to start eating certain animals (not pork or shellfish.) Why? Out of necessity.
In this new version of Earth where it rained now, where Pangea had been torn apart, where peoples’ lifetimes shortened from centuries to less than a century, for many people it would become necessary, at times, for them to survive off the protein of slaughtered animals. It was scientifically a new environment; they had to adapt.
But here we are now in 2012. It’s never been easier to have access to fresh produce and whole grains. We don’t have to rely on the alternative lifestyle of eating meat.
Instead, we eat meat because it’s easy, familiar, and fun. We like it. But we don’t need it, nutritionally if we get our protein from the right places to begin with.
It’s simply a myth that vegetarians don’t get enough protein. Pretty weird, huh?
If you would like to personally ask me any questions about converting to vegetarianism, feel free to email me at nickshell1983@hotmail. Or simply check out this article I wrote a few weeks ago: Healthy Parents: 5 Steps to Planning Vegetarian Meals. Trust me, if you’re attempting to go vegetarian but aren’t “feeling full,” it means you’re doing it wrong. I’ll help.
What is the proper size portion of meat to eat in a meal? In the documentary Super Size Me, Lisa Young, PhD, RD, CDN and the Professor of Nutrition at New York University explains that the federal government defines 3 ounces of meat as a sensible portion.
I knew a guy who got an app on his iPhone that kept up with exactly how many calories he ate each day, as he wanted to only consume the appropriate amount for his age, weight, and height.
Despite being very careful about his food choices, he reported back to me after a week that he was coming up too high on his sodium count each day. I suggested he only eat meat in one of his daily meals, and that he make sure the portion was no larger than a deck of cards.
He did, and that was the only way for him to consume the proper amount of sodium.
To be clear, I am suggesting that eating meat for more than one meal a day (and/or consuming more than a deck-of-cards-sized portion of meat in that one meal) is adding too much meat (and sodium) into one’s diet. So for those who are crazy enough to follow my logic on this and actually believe that information is true and relevant, I want to explain how vegetarians plan their meals; at least how my wife and I do it.
So for the meals you don’t eat meat, you can remember what you learned here today to build a satisfying and fulfilling meal, sans the meat.
1) Half-veggie, half-whole grains, seasoned with cheese. That is the formula for how we plan our meals. No vegetarian should ever finish eating a meal and still be hungry. That’s why whole grain pasta, bread, and rice (along with beans) are crucial for making a hearty vegetarian meal. Don’t even bother with “white bread,” which leaves you longing for more substance unless you pair it with meat. It’s like eating a Kleenex; virtually no nutrition.
2) Think of your favorite meals that do contain meat, but remove the meat. My wife and I both love lasagna, pasta, and pizza. So we make the healthy version of these foods with whole grain pasta and whole wheat dough. We pack these meals full of veggies, like spinach and zucchini, held together with a little bit of cheese. What’s interesting is that when you use whole grain instead of white noodles or dough, you get fuller quicker on less food.
3) Put together a list of your “heavy rotation” vegetables to serve as your staples. Our list is basically this: spinach, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, cucumbers, avocados, romaine lettuce, green beans, green peppers, celery, okra, and basil (which is actually an herb.) We keep all these veggies stocked every week in our fridge to serve as the “flavor” of our meals, whereas the whole grains are the “substance.” Cheese is the “fun part.”
4) Make a distinction between your main dish and your side dish(es). Much of the time, our side dish is a salad consisting of romaine lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and Italian dressing (full of good fats from oils.) Sometimes it’s sauteed spinach with garlic and a little bit of butter. (As you can see, we’re not opposed to a bit of dairy to make things interesting.) Meanwhile, the main dish may be veggie lasagna or bean and rice burritos stuffed with veggies and avocados in a whole wheat wrap.
5) Make sure your meal has some fat in it. If you end up making a meal that doesn’t have cheese in it, make sure you throw in a whole avocado or at least some almonds. At least for me, I got to have some fat in my meal to be full. Again, vegetarian meals shouldn’t leave you hungry. Otherwise, you’re doing something wrong.
In my mind, taking a one year-old little boy grocery shopping is supposed to be a nightmare. Maybe that comes later. Because as for now, Jack sure doesn’t mind accompanying us in part of our Sunday-after-church ritual: buying groceries at Publix.
More importantly, he’s not at all annoying while we are there. Instead, he is always easily entertained. That makes me happy.
Here recently, the event became more fun than ever, for the whole family, as Jack is now age and size appropriate for the cool “kids” grocery cart.
One of my rules as a dad is to over-stimulate him as much as possible to keep him engaged (and to get him tired enough to take regular naps) without relying on electronic devices to catch his attention to do it.
I want him to be awed by the beauty of nature. Or at least a big grocery store; equipped with high ceilings, bright lights, healthy food, and plenty of random people to stare at.
When Jack is cruisin’ in his hot rod shopping cart, it’s like he thinks he’s a famous local celebrity in a hometown parade.
Of course, I admit, it won’t be that long before he can talk. And I know what that means:
“I want that!”
Yeah, I don’t want to think about that right now. I’ll just let him keep thinking he’s the head of the parade.
Dining out just isn’t the same when you have a nine month old who either needs a nap or is itching to crawl around on the floor the entire time.
Needless to say, I’m going through somewhat of an annoying time right now because I am a “good food” connoisseur. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a quiet, dinner at a classy Italian restaurant of my choice- like Carabba’s. Or even my favorite place in downtown Nashville: The Flying Saucer.
It’s dang near impossible to enjoy a nice meal out at a restaurant with my son, especially around lunch time as he is nearing his naptime. And it’s not his fault- he’s a baby. What business does he have in a restaurant where Chuck E. Cheese is nowhere to be found? The last time I was at a restaurant with him I became so frustrated that I decided I am over eating out with him until he is older.
Because either my wife or I has to let our food get cold as we walk him around the restaurant to keep him from getting upset. After all, he truly is obsessed with crawling around and seeing different scenery. I can’t fault him for that. But at this point, I’d rather just eat at home.
For me, it’s simply just not worth the frustration. I recognize my lack of patience and my blood pressure’s habit of spiking when I have good food in front of me, that I am paying restaurant pricing for, but I can only sneak quick bites of it before Jack either A) gets upset or B) I do.
Fortunately, I am blessed in that my wife shares my same love of good food and drink. She is a wonderful cook whose menus cater to our health freak-conscious, kosher, Mediterranean food pyramid-themed dietary needs. So much of the time, I tell her I’d rather have her food than what we could get at a nice restaurant anyway. And it’s true, without a doubt.
Not to mention, we have adopted the Millionaire Mindset. It’s hard to enjoy a $16 plate of pasta with chicken when you can make it yourself for less than four dollars and still have leftovers. Eventually the day will come when I can enjoy a nice meal out again. Until then, here’s to fine dining in our own kitchen.