Transistion to Vegetarianism

When I was about 12 or 13, I spent a lot of time at the library reading magazines. I would go to the library at least once a week, and my routine never varied. First I'd stop off at the young adult fiction shelf and grab four or five books. Then I'd look at the new books shelf to see if anything looked good. After that I'd browse my favorite areas of non-fiction: marine biology, art history, paranormal phenomena, or cookbooks. Finally I'd sit in the back and read a few magazines. For some reason one day I was reading a parenting magazine and there was an article about teenagers becoming vegetarians. I'm easily persuaded, so I decided to become a vegetarian. My desire only lasted a few weeks; I do remember checking this book out from the library and feeling really lost by all of the technical jargon.

I've never really considering being a vegetarian since that point. I did grow up in a house where we ate meat somewhat sparingly and ate lots of fresh vegetables, whole grains, and unprocessed foods. I was grateful when I met Mr. Fob to find out that he was used to a similar diet; neither of us likes soda and we try and eat pretty healthily. We do share a common love of sweets, and while I rarely buy cookies, I bake frequently. Lately we've both been talking about a new phase in our lives: transitioning to minimal, environmentally-conscious meat consumption. After reading stuff like this, or this, or this we both don't want to eat meat anymore unless it's been organically and humanely raised. Plus it seems like an optimal diet actually includes very little meat. We probably won't go completely vegetarian; we like meat, and I'd rather eat a clean, organic hamburger than some sort of heavily-processed fake meat substitute. I'm trying to cook with fewer processed foods, less high-fructose corn syrup, and more organics. We buy organic milk and recently started a home delivery service that brings organic produce to our home twice a month (we could do it once a week, but really can't afford it).

I hate the fact that eating has become so politicized. I feel defensive even writing this; someone won't understand why we don't like meat; someone will think that dairy is evil and unnatural; other people think that I'm silly for buying into food fads. I feel like we're making a decision that's best for our family based on our health needs and our food preferences. And I'm still trying to figure out all the details. I don't want to turn into the sort of people who show up at family gatherings and refuse to eat the food or the parents who picket the school cafeteria (although I am appalled by most school lunch menus and will strongly encourage my kids to bring their lunch). I'm not sure how we'll do vacations and road trips, since in the past we've relied heavily on fast food during those times. The truth is that this will probably be a long transition and that, like most other things we do, it won't be black-and-white or all-or-nothing. We're just not like that.


Anonymous said…
You should see "Organic Milk Myth" at Organic milk has been proved to be much worse for health compared to regular pasteurized milk.
bawb said…
Or this.

Yeah, I need to eat less, too.
Gina said…
I'm right there with you. Those books are pretty persuasive. Here's my problem, and it ties into your kid eating post. My almost-five year old has turned into an *incredibly* picky eater, complaining about every single vegetable we eat. He could eat an entire roast or chicken on his own, however. Meat, cheese, and raisins are practically the only things he'll happily eat. There are a few bean dishes he'll eat if there are chips involved, I guess. Anyway, it's been a little frustrating. We really can't afford to buy massive amounts of meat I feel great about. Ah, kids.
FoxyJ said…
Bawb--Thanks for the link. That article was actually the catalyst to our latest discussion of the issue, but I totally forgot about it for some reason.

Anon/Peter--I'm assuming you won't be back here, but I admit to being skeptical. Especially since you won't give me any information for free. And I don't understand why organic and UHT milk are being equated in the way they are. Organic milk refers to milk that comes from cows given organic feed and no growth hormones. It refers to a way to produce milk. UHT milk is a treatment process for milk that is already produced. It could be organic or not. I just don't get it. I guess I'll never know since I'm too cheap to find out.

I guess I should have said upfront that I'm kind of a skeptic when it comes to alternative sources. I tend to trust people with degrees from universities and scientific or medical training. I guess I'm also somewhat defensive about milk since I'm a descendent of dairy farmers and come from a long line of extremely healthy people who consume mass quantities of dairy products.

And Gina, I have sympathy for you. I live in fear that some day one of my children will become super picky. Part of the reason I got on big bean kick was because S-Boogie has never liked meat at all. Only in the last year has she really started trying it, and she usually prefers beans or cheese. I thought it was mostly due to the fact that that was what I offered her as a baby, but Little Dude definitely has a stronger preference for meat than she did.
JB said…
I've been trying to eat less meat for similar reasons. And because the vegetarian options often have a lot fewer calories. I highly recommend MorningStar brand black bean burgers, corn dogs, and chicken patties. The first few times I made them for Lunkwill, he was completely surprised there was no meat in the chicken patties or the corn dogs.
Jenny said…
I'm glad you posted about this. I was listening to the slaughter house in CA that was being inhumane to the cows this week on the radio and it was so gross.

I really liked your links, especially the Cornell one. I wish my family would eat more beans- other than refried, they all freak out about the texture. So lame.
ambrosia ananas said…
I hate the fact that eating has become so politicized.

Yes. Very yes.

I feel like we're making a decision that's best for our family based on our health needs and our food preferences. . . . [I]t won't be black-and-white or all-or-nothing.

I admire your reasoning and your sensible approach.
Mary said…
I am a vegan - just to be up front about it. I eat meat and dairy very, very sparingly. It has been a long process for me. When my children were young, back in the 80's, I did some reading on cow's milk and wanted to eliminate it, but was not as comitted then. I always offered my children their choice of milk or water at dinner. My mom grew up on a dairy farm too and I got a lot of flack just for that small concession. My family berated me for not seeing that my kids had milk at every meal and tried to make me feel like a bad parent. You should read The China Study by Campbell. Dr. Campbell spent many years at Cornell and also grew up on a dairy farm. His research persuaded him of the benefits of a plant-based diet. You can read the intro online. Also see "Why Don't You Drink Milk?" by Dr McDougall. If you scroll down and look at his footnotes, you will see his documentation.

I have been blessed with healthy kids - no asthma, allergies or other chronic problems - but I still wish I had made the switch to a plant based diet when they were young. When they come home or when we have the Elders over to dinner, I will usually prepare a meat dish for them, But I also have enough grain or legume and veggie dishes to satisfy myself and my husband without eating the meat.
I so appreciate the sensible and balance approach you are taking to this. Though, I shouldn't be surprised. The more I know you, the more I am convinced that you are a very careful thinker.

My first teaching job was AP environmental science: interesting mix of kids. Half of them were either vegan or vegetarian and VERY committed to a green lifestyle. The other half were just kids racking up another AP class. I learned a lot from the group.

At one point we studied world food supplies (being vegetarian is the only sensible thing to do from an ecological perspective, in terms of energy use and consumption), and I challenged the kids to take it to the next level for a couple of weeks and keep a journal. In other words, if you are a vegan, eat more healthy and a bigger variety (many of them had complained that peanut butter with celery dipped into it was their staple); if vegetarian, try going vegan. If you were a regular carnivore, try being a vegetarian. I had to be very careful because of some issues at the school with some near straight-edgers the year before: I had to make our experiment scientific and not poliitcal, in other words.

Still, it was interesting and all the kids who participated really enjoyed it. They also gained some appreciation for one another (to me, this is one of the most important lessons of public education).

My family hasn't made the jump yet. We'll go through phases where we try to eat vegetarian two or three times weekly. My husband usually is hungry, though he doesn't complain. And, now and then, I must admit, I crave copious amounts of red meat. Um . . . protein. But we have tried to buy more local products both fresh and otherwise, and I'm trying to make a committment to eat more humanely raised meat. The problem with feeding a family of five is almost always money, though.

There are also some very real Word of Wisdom implications here. I have often thought we'd probably be surprised at how little meat the apostles eat, and have heard a few comments to that affect. Interesting "food" for thought. Keep us posted on how it goes.
Th. said…

We're moving in that direction too, but we're lucky (first we: me'n'LS; second we: we and you two)---we live in areas where it is economically reasonable to be reasonable. It's absurd that more processing means less cost, but there we are.

The good news is this is changing rapidly.
Maggie said…
I agree that the food that you chose to eat shouldn't be a political statement. I also agree that we should eat less meat. I STRONGLY agree. I thought that having upwards of four vegetable side dishes for dinner growing up was completely normal. You fill up on veggies and eat less meat per meal. Then I married my husband. He thinks it's totally weird (he's the grandson of a cattle rancher). I tried to make my normal amount of veggie side dishes for the whole first year of marriage, but they went bad before I could ever eat them. Turns out for us it is cost effective to buy meat. That way the major eater of the family will eat the food before it gets thrown away. You are very lucky that you and your husband are on the same page with this one.
I would love to do a year of vegetarian living but my kids refuse to eat beans or tofu without throwing up.

Oh, and I found the perfect way to persuade my kids to pack a lunch for school. If they want a cafeteria lunch they have to buy it with their own money. My daughter did this about 3 times and then she told me it was a waste of her money =)

P.S. I live/lived in the Seattle area. Now I'm wondering if we might know each other?

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