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.
In South Korea, people really do eat dogs. If you need a visual, check out my personal Facebook page and look in my photo album called “Uncensored Korean Files” to see a dog deli I photographed while I was teaching there.
Here in America we eat pigs, which are just as cuddly as dogs and arguably more intelligent, but we’re okay with that because for whatever cultural reasons, we Americans know that it’s somehow uncivilized and morally wrong to kill and eat a dog, but not a pig.
Similarly, we as individual family units live by our own quirky food limitations. A few weeks ago on Facebook, I posted this as my status for my 871 friends to respond:
“Alright parents, I have a very personal question to ask you for something I’m writing for Parents.com. Where do you cross the line on what you will and will not allow your kid to eat? For example, how much fast food is too much? Any particular foods you just don’t want them eating? What about when you’re not around, like if your kid is at a friend’s sleep-over?”
Out of the 24 comments I received in a 24 hour period, the overall consensus was “everything in moderation.” However, the variable I noticed in their comments is what we all consider to be normal in our everyday eating habits. And that’s sort of the whole point of what I was asking.
For example, for some, it was no fast food. For others, it was no meat that isn’t organic. Or no caffeine or no sodas. And then there’s me, the hard-core vegetarian of the group who didn’t bother to mention the long list of things I won’t allow my own kid to eat.
We all know that cancer, Diabetes, and obesity rates are radically higher than they were a 150 years ago before we as humans we introduced to highly processed foods and began eating them in the majority of our meals. So now we as parents want to protect our kids by making deliberate dietary decisions for them.
So here’s what I say: Let us all be weird in our own weird ways when it comes to what “unhealthy” foods we won’t allow our kids to eat.
I’m past the point of worrying that I might hurt someone’s feelings when they try to feed my son something that isn’t on “Dad’s list” of approved foods.
Maybe I err a bit on the radical side, but so what? My kid’s not going to starve nor be malnourished if I have a say in it. He just may be a bit deprived as an American kid who doesn’t get to experience the joy of chicken nuggets like all the normal kids. He’ll be okay.
It’s not that we all as parents are necessarily judging each other for what the other does or does not let their kid eat. Well heck, if I’m judging anyone for that reason, it would be me. I’m more than willing to label myself as the wacko dad here.
But hey, we all draw the line somewhere when it comes to what we won’t let our kid eat.
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.
I guess, honestly, I’ve known this about myself for nearly three years now. But it took this long to work up the courage to come out of the closet. Plus, I didn’t want to deal with the label of it and the usual assumptions based on stereotypes.
However, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to deny who I am as a person based on my own preconceived ideas of people who are just like me.
So here at the very end of 2011, I am ready to show the world my true colors. For the most part, they’re green:
I am a practicing vegetarian.
This is 7 Steps to This Dad Becoming a Vegetarian, not 7 Reasons Why You Should Become a Vegetarian. This is simply the story of my journey to “meatlessness.” By all means, this has been a slippery slope of a process. Perhaps an alternative title to this should be 7 Things Not to Do If You Want to Continue Eating Meat for the Rest of Your Life.
Here’s how it happened:
1. I watched the documentary Super Size Me. It didn’t make me immediately stop eating fast food, but it did cause me to question the quality of food I was putting in my body and realize the connection of America’s obesity and our Western eating habits.
2. I married a health nut. My wife, who is from northern California, hadn’t eaten fast food since 1999 when she got an ice cream cone from the drive-thru at McDonald’s. Call it love or call it intimidation, but I stopped regularly eating fast food. It helped that she was making us healthy meals which I could have the next day for lunch instead of going to Subway or Wendy’s like I had been.
3. I stopped eating processed foods. The reason for this is that I developed eczema on my hands. My skin disease got to the point where I could barely type, which is unthinkable for a blogger! I learned that whenever there is “no medical cure” for something, it means to change your diet. So I stopped eating processed foods; anything in which sugar is added. I even stopped drinking fruit juice; and for the first time in my life, actually started eating real fruit instead on a daily basis.
4. I watched the documentary Food Inc. Though I knew that meat came from living animals, I never considered the actual process of slaughter or even worse, factory farming.
5. I went kosher. Many people thought I converted to Judaism when I cut out pork and shellfish from my diet; but a kosher diet, along with cutting out processed foods with added sugar, caused my my eczema to finally disappear!
6. I stopped buying meat to cook with. By the time my wife and I had gotten used to the no pork and shellfish thing, not to mention only eating whole grain pasta and bread (no more “white”), our bodies didn’t crave meat as much. So we only ate meat when we went out to eat over the weekend. In essence, we were “weekday vegetarians” by this point. After about a month of this routine, the only meat I even wanted anymore was fish.
7. I read the book Eating Animals. During my very first book giveaway here on The Dadabase, one of the winners was a cool guy named Mike Mitchell. I’m not exactly sure why, but he went through the trouble of mailing me a copy of Eating Animals. It is my opinion that reading this entire book is the point of no return. By the time I was halfway through, I had already made up my mind.
Will I ever eat meat again? Sure. If I it were my only source of nutrition and there was no other option in order to survive, yes I would. I would even eat a pig, which isn’t kosher.
If I was stranded from a plane crash in the Andes Mountains and had to eat the corpses of fallen human beings, I would, if it meant I stayed alive to see my family again. (This is a reference to the actual events portrayed in the 1993 movie, Alive.)
I guess the real question is whether, like a lot of vegetarians, I eventually will become vegan.
But an even more important question is how my wife and I will raise our son, concerning the consumption of meat. As for now, he doesn’t like meat anyway. I seriously wonder though, if I will let the pressure of social expectations cause us to allow our son to eat meat when we won’t eat it ourselves.
I’m still sorting that part out right now. I don’t want to be labeled as the wacko guy on Parents.com who deprives his kid of hormone-injected, factory farmed meat from animals who are so physically weak and unnatural that they can’t even reproduce sexually. (Further explained in this clip below.)
Fun Bonus Thought!
If nothing else, becoming a vegetarian this year has answered one of my life-long questions: What are Vienna sausages made out of?
After learning that most pigs are castrated because Americans don’t like the taste of pork with that much testosterone, I know of at least one ingredientnot found in Vienna sausages.
If/when marijuana becomes legalized, how will that affect parenting in our nation? Will America go to pot? Or are the overworked, stressed-out, anxiety-ridden parents better off filling the void with prescription anti-depressants?
I consider myself an evangelical Christian, a self-admitted health nut, and a law-abiding citizen. Here’s the twist: I am a proud cannabis activist. In other words, I openly support the full legalization of marijuana. Yet I’ve never in my life actually consumed the stuff.
If you’ve simply been reading the story headlines on MSN.com within the past couple of years, you may have noticed the growing number of articles talking about the further legalization of marijuana; especially as more and more states having been approving its use for medical reasons- like for cancer sufferers, for example.
The issue of legitimate marijuana use is a slippery slope, thanks to the fact that the plant happens to have plenty of undeniable medical purposes.
Having grown in up the Eighties during the prime time of “Just Say No” and the D.A.R.E. program, I believed that marijuana was a dangerous drug that wrecked peoples’ lives.
But after struggling with the knowledge that marijuana has been used by human civilization for over 5000 years and there has never been one documented overdose, yet thousands die every year in America from prescription drugs, even aspirin, I figured something might be fishy about the stigma of pot.
Another thing that bothered me is that we all can easily think of 5 people we personally know who have a DUI for alcohol, but none of us can name just one person who has a DUI for marijuana alone.
So I spent a couple of months researching to find out why marijuana is actually illegal. I posted my findings on my personal blog, NickShell.com, which also hosts ”Dad from Day One,” the blog that spun off to become The Dadabase.
Marijuana possession may land you a life sentence in prison, whereas murder or rape often does not; yet the mysterious cannabis plant is quite intriguing to us, especially on the Internet where people can read about it privately.
We laughed at the pot brownies scene in Transformers 2, yet condemned Michael Phelps when he celebrated his Olympic victory with a bong hit. Americans have a weird relationship with marijuana. We know in our hearts it’s just a medicinal plant, but we continue to allow good (non-famous) people to be arrested over it; and force cancer sufferers to live without it, in many of our states.
That just doesn’t sound very Christian to me.
Based on how much actual knowledge we know about marijuana now, as compared to even 20 years ago, I am convinced it’s only a matter of time (maybe 10 years?) before it’s legal again. (It was legal from the beginning of time… until 1937.)
A lot of it comes down to a changing public perception, especially within recent years as the taboo of it has tremendously faded. Obviously, I don’t fear writing about my pro-marijuana stance here on Parents.com. It’s not something I felt the need to clear by my editors first. But a decade ago, it might have been different.
Honestly, is this even a controversial topic or am I simply preaching to the choir? I don’t know; but I do at least want to initiate the conversation.
So let’s imagine a world where anyone 21 or older can go to the store and buy a box of joints or just grow the stuff in their backyard.
Does that mean parents start abusing or abandoning their kids? Does the entire country become violent and/or unmotivated? Or is it scarier to think about the fact that an estimated 2 million Americans smoke marijuana every day? Obviously a good number of them are parents.
As a parent, I refuse to be involved in illegal activity. After all, marijuana is dangerous… because it’s illegal to obtain. But if it wasn’t illegal, then it’d be… a safe, natural relaxer that has been never proven to give anyone cancer; much less kill them or even cause someone to get a DUI.
Pour yourself a glass of wine and think about that one.