Monday, January 13th, 2014
Is it possible for a mom to go vegetarian without taking her chicken nugget- and bologna-eating kids along for the ride? Author Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN, believes this feat can be accomplished. She is a New York-based nutrition writer, educator, counselor and author of the brand new book The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian. The book is geared to teens, but Rachel has advice for all ages.
As a part-time vegetarian–I’d be full-time if the whole family just would get on board and pepperoni would stop existing–I find Rachel’s advice super helpful. Check out her advice below including her list 6 Ways to Go Vegetarian Right Now.
“Whether it’s for health reasons, environmentalism or changing tastebuds, you may be among the roughly 30 percent of adults say they’d like to eat less meat in the future. But if you’re a mom, you’re already juggling a long list of dietary wants, needs and quirks as you try to get dinner on the table—and it may feel like you have a choice between your food preferences and your sanity.
As a registered dietitian nutritionist who has worked with lots of families with differing tastes, a longtime vegetarian who totally gets the draw of going meatless and a busy mom who is resistant to anything that may make my life a little more complicated, I say: You can most definitely eat the way you want without losing your mind (or becoming a short order cook).
6 Ways to Go Vegetarian Right Now
1. Be a Share-er
Chances are, if you say, “Look, kids, Tofu Surprise!,” you will hear groans from your family. Instead, introduce your children to new vegetarian foods like black bean burgers or grilled tempeh by putting them on your plate (try this at a restaurant or a friend’s house to minimize your workload in the kitchen). Don’t be surprised when your curious kiddos want a sample—and actually like a food they otherwise may have rejected.
2. Do Meatless Monday
This public health campaign aims to get people to begin each week with a meat-free day is a favorite among celebrities. Chef Mario Batali has jumped on board, as have Jessica Simpson and Oprah. Many schools are now participating in the campaign as well. Visit www.meatlessmonday.com for great recipes and information on the benefits of being a part-time vegetarian and have a discussion with your kids to help them get excited about joining in. Once you find meatless recipes your kids love, they won’t blink if you add them to the dinnertime rotation later in the week.
3. Go Gradually
Becoming a vegetarian doesn’t have to be an overnight decision. It takes many veg-hopefuls years to find the diet that best fits them. For moms, it may make sense to ease into vegetarianism by giving up just red meat at first. Kids (and spouses!) may feel rejected if mom says she’s no longer eating the same foods as them—doing it little by little helps maintain some sense of normalcy around the dinner table and gives everyone the opportunity to grow comfortable with your change.
4. Talk, Talk, Talk
Make sure your family knows the reasons for your decision, whatever they are—and that you becoming a vegetarian does not mean you expect them to do the same. Reassure your children that their food choices are theirs to make and give them the same respect that you hope for them to give you. The more they understand, they less they’ll feel threatened. And while we’re on the topic of communication—be sure your kids are aware that you are being careful to replace meat with other nutritious foods (like beans, for instance). Parents set the stage for children to have a healthy relationship with food, and it is crucial that your kids see and hear you taking this decision seriously.
5. Make Malleable Meals
I encourage the “blended families” I work with (you know, omnivores and vegetarians) to favor meals where they can “pop out the protein” and add in a new one to minimize the extra work for the chef. It’s hard to take the meat out of, say, meatloaf. Instead, make your family something like a tofu/chicken vegetable stir-fry with rice. While the veggies and rice are cooking, stir-fry some tofu for you. Set it aside, and then use the same pan to stir-fry chicken for everyone else. Top the veggies with each family member’s protein of choice, and everyone gets to share (virtually) the same meal.
6. Have Some Mom Go-Tos
There may be days when your family simply will not do without burgers or chicken cutlets. Stock your kitchen with ingredients for super simple yet delicious vegetarian meals like black bean burritos (shopping list: tortillas, black beans, cheese, salsa, avocado) that you can throw together in minutes. Because there are few things sadder than spending an hour cooking and eating cereal for dinner.”
Are you a vegetarian with a meat-eating family? How do you keep the peace?
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