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.
After being the only odd man out in yet another fast food burger sack lunch feast in my department at the office; and hearing my other male coworkers complain about how hard it is to keep from gaining weight after turning 30; and becoming a dad, one of the guys turned to me and insincerely asked, “How do you do it, Nick?”
I’m not the kind of person to push my lifestyle onto others- they have to truly want to know. Because just like when a person asks how you are doing, they don’t always care to actually know the answer.
But the next day, that coworker privately asked me the same thing. As a 30 year-old dad of four sons and coming to work to sit behind a desk for forty hours a week, he had gained a bit of weight and had finally gotten to the point where he wanted to reverse his damning habits.
So I told him, “If you want to do this thing for real, then you must start by getting breakfast right on a daily basis- everything else will fall into place much easier.” And at that point, I introduced him to “Nick Shell’s Swiss Oatmeal.”
In a breakfast world of sugary coffees, frosted pastries, and greasy meat-centric breakfast sandwiches served on white bread, it’s hard to find breakfast food that is both delicious and nutritious. But while on a business trip to Dallas a couple of years ago, I was introduced to Swiss oatmeal at The Corner Bakery Cafe near my hotel. Here’s my version of it:
Nick Shell’s Swiss Oatmeal
1/2 cup of quick cook, plain oats (the kind you get for $1.29 in a canister)
This perfect breakfast is packed full of fiber (oats, banana, raisins), good fats (whole milk, almonds) and natural sugar (banana, raisins, honey, whole milk). Pair it with some black coffee mixed with whole milk and a dash of honey to further keep you full until lunch time.
My coworker went during his lunch break and bought the necessary ingredients and has now converted to “Nick Shell’s Swiss Oatmeal” for breakfast. Predictably, he was skeptical of eating cold oatmeal. But once he tried it, he realized the coldness is part of the Swiss charm- plus, it’s less hassle because it doesn’t require an extra step of having to heat it up.
Switching to a healthy breakfast isn’t easy in our culture. As for me, I just had to do it “cold” turkey.
Passing the Mic:
Do you have a healthy breakfast idea to share with me?
Here at Parents.com, the motto is “Healthy Kids, Happy Families.” As the daddy blogger, I want to extend the “healthy” part to parents, too. Because our kids learn their dietary habits from us, the parents.
Two years ago, I was 25 pounds heavier, but I have drastically changed my lifestylesince then to get to where I am now. So for those who are interested in heading down the straight and narrow with me as a parent, with this post I am debuting the first post of my “Healthy Parents” series.
We live in a consumer culture where it is acceptable (yet not ironic) for junk foods to come labeled in packaging telling us they are donating a portion of the proceeds to cancer research. Granted, I’m not against the occasional sandwich cookie or chocolate candy, nor am I against finding a cure for cancer or other diseases.
But am I the only one who thinks there’s something obviously illegitimate about an organization doing an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast benefiting research for Diabetes? (I actually saw that on Jay Leno’s “Headlines” one time.)
I am willing to go so far as to say that we are all fighting cancer in some way. For some of us, our parents or grandparents have been diagnosed by this serious disease and are actively fighting it.
For the rest of us who are younger, the risk may be further down the road. I want to help lead the fight through a lifestyle of prevention, alongside outspoken role models like Dr. Oz and celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver.
Why don’t brands of fresh produce (fruits and veggies) feel obligated to give a portion of the proceeds to help the fight against cancer? Interestingly, those are the foods that actually fight cancer in our bodies.
I feel in our culture, it’s taboo to address the issue that collectively we are gung ho about donating money for and raising awareness of, but don’t spend nearly the same effort to prevent those diseases as individuals by our own lifestyles.
But instead of complaining about that paradox, I’m simply going to write about ways we can focus some energy on having healthy families.
Ultimately, it’s about balance; that’s the message I’m trying to convey. It reminds me of what James, the half-brother of Jesus, said about religion: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
No one deserves to get cancer or any disease. But we all deserve to know how to prevent our lives from being further affected by it.
We should fight, we should hope, we should pray. We should also use our awareness of cancer (and other diseases) for being deliberate about what we feed our families; whether or not the proceeds of our groceries go to cancer research.
Passing the Mic:
Does our culture suffer a double standard of not focusing enough on healthy eating and living an active lifestyle, while over-emphasizing on researching for a cure?