I ended March with the declaration that my kids and I would attempt to go vegetarian for one month. As is usually the case with best intentions, there were a few stumbles along the way; however, I think some interesting things came about because of our challenge.
- My kids are not as picky as I thought. I knew that about my son, but I did not know that about my daughter. Normally she eats about four things: spaghetti, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, and macaroni & cheese. Because of the approach we took to eating this month, and the casual way I treated it, I got her to try tofu in various forms, quinoia, soy meat, and a number of vegetables. I was prepared to send peanut butter and jelly in her lunches. It was a pleasant surprise when she requested soy ham and cheese, quinoia salad, tofu pudding, and mac & cheese with peas instead.
- Shopping vegetarian is easier than I thought. It became clear early on that we would be leaving behind the life of fast food we have lived. One of my concerns was having to run to the grocery store every other day to buy expensive ingredients and/or those ingredients going bad quickly. By doing a little homework before I went shopping the first time, I was able to smart shop, getting primarily frozen and pantry items with minimal fresh items. It was less expensive this way and I was then able to budget for organic, quality fresh items.
- Cooking is not a plot to make me crazy. Some people, like my mother, find cooking relaxing; I find it nerve wracking. I don’t have natural instincts that just tell me when to add flour to fix whatever is wrong with my potatoes. Additionally, I can’t just see ingredients and know how to put them together (which is weird because I am a great orderer–I can usually tell what flavors on the menu will be the best combination). Recipes stress me out because I am afraid of messing them up. However, as I mentioned previously, eating out was not going to be a daily choice, so I had to get over myself. This was accomplished by my sticking to relatively simple recipes in the beginning and trying more difficult things as the month went on. There were certainly some failures, but there were more successes and I now have a feel for some basics. For example, I was over at my mom’s the other night and my newly diagnosed diabetic step-father wanted something to eat but didn’t feel like going out. I threw some stuff in their pantry together and made a healthy vegetarian meal that pleased my mom, step-father, and kids. No recipe needed.
- It’s about choice . . . to a point. My mother is not a fan of my kids being vegetarians. She has made this clear on several occasions. One argument was that our pediatrician required kids to eat red meat once a week. I found later she left out the part that ended with “or take a vitamin with iron.” (She let that slip accidentally.) She then started in that I was forcing my beliefs on my children. I am wise enough that I did not point out that most parents do–it’s called raising your child. However, my husband is remaining a meat-eater and had a stronger argument: he didn’t want the kids to exclude anything but instead to make their own choices. That makes more sense to me. Saturday night, for example, my daughter wanted a cheeseburger at the restaurant and we ordered her a slider . . . with a side of broccoli. It marked the first time she’d had red meat in over a month (I know she’s had chicken once or twice). She enjoyed it, but she also enjoyed the broccoli. And this morning she asked me to make her quinoia for her lunch this week. It is my choice to abstain from meat, but my children can make up their own minds. That being said, I’m not keeping or cooking meat at home, in part because I have never liked to deal with raw meat, and in part because I think there are much better alternatives.
- The internet is both friend and foe. I found a number of great websites on vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, many focused on kids and families. There are a number of great recipes that I have tried and loved from those sites. But I also made the mistake of visiting and requesting information from PETA. To call their information graphic is an understatement. It truly made me sick to my stomach (as I’m sure was the idea). While I recognize they are going to present worst-case scenario propaganda, another thought occurred to me: if I can’t read or look at the process by which animals become food, I have no business eating it. My husband has actually fished and prepared the fish he caught–he can handle that kind of stuff. I can’t. So while I had been consuming fish, I think I have ended that part of my life as well. After thinking it over for several days, I went to get some fish one day at lunch and found I couldn’t stomach it.
This month has been pretty fantastic overall–we’ve tried some new things, learned some new things, and I lost 10 pounds without doing anything other than not eating meat.
I encourage all of my readers to try something new this month, be it giving up caffeine or taking a walk everyday. Think about your own wish fulfillment and how it would feel to try one of those wishes on for size.
PS. I am currently posting my successfully tested recipes on my tumblr account, aka Moi. You can also receive them by following me on Twitter @AKellyAnderson.