Are Plants the Enemy??
Very few things are as strange these days as explaining my new eating lifestyle to people. My mom is convinced that I’m trying to force a strange new way on my children, and only feeding them tree moss and potpourri. My five year old son has staged a full revolt. He says he’s NEVER giving up his meat! (Not that I’ve asked him to) Heck, even I found it very strange that some of my Thanksgiving decorations - various winter squashes - became meals the following week. I called it “repurposing the centerpieces”.
The best term to describe my way of eating is reducetarianism. On the website, reducetarian.org, the description is as follows:
“It is composed of individuals who are committed to eating less meat - red meat, poultry, and seafood - as well as less dairy and fewer eggs, regardless of the degree or motivation. This concept is appealing because not everyone is willing to follow an ‘all-or-nothing’ diet. However, reducetarianism is still inclusive of vegans, vegetarians, and anyone else who reduces the amount of animal products in their diet.”
I like to call myself a Special Occasion Omnivore. What that means is that on certain occasions, like Christmas, Thanksgiving, my birthday, or a family reunion, I might eat meat, or meat byproducts. The rest of the time, my diet is mainly plant-based. No fleshy meat or fat. I might consume animal products, like eggs or dairy, rarely (less and less). I also avoid sugar, msg and flour as much as possible.
This is an evolution in progress. After this past Thanksgiving, there is a good chance that a fully plant-based life is in my future. Digesting dinner should not cause pain, and take over 24 hours to recover!, I found that the worst of my pain was caused by dairy. (Ohhh... mac n cheese!!) That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering that most of us are lactose intolerant. According to an article published in USA Today, in 2009,
“Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans. Sweden has one of the world's highest percentages of lactose intolerant people".
What that tells me is that most of us just aren’t designed to digest dairy. However, to each his own. This is MY journey, and it’s not for everyone, I suppose.
Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, compares to the journey I’m having with my family and friends over my decision to change my lifestyle. This started for me about 8 weeks ago, when a friend challenged me to participate in The Daniel Fast with him for 30 days. I felt so good, about 3 or 4 days in, I decided it was the way to go for life.
Actually, I’d tried it once before after reading a book called Skinny Bitch, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, a few years ago. Then watching four or five documentaries on Netflix about factory farming, and how meat consumption affects our health and the environment.. It simply didn’t stick the first time I tried though. My guess would be that it was due to my still consuming too much sugar and msg. Both cause food cravings. This time around, it’s a lot easier. For me. Not so much for the people around me. My decision, though, right? MY choice!!! Well, not so fast….
I have two small children. My daughter is a year and a half, and as I mentioned before, my son is five. My daughter is an eating machine. Period. She’ll eat whatever I put on her plate. And my plate… And her brother’s plate…. And if I’m too slow about sweeping the floor after dinner, she’ll eat what’s down there too. Everything from green smoothies to black bean burgers, she’s all in. The only issue with her is that she’s not yet potty trained. So all this extra fiber and cleansing have produced some very interesting diapers. Additionally, an already energetic toddler, now has the power of plant-based eating on her side. “There is no deep-couch sitting”...
My son is a bit more of a challenge. He told me that Grandma will send him all the hamburgers and chicken strips he wants. He’s right! Whenever I take my son to my mom’s house, she disregards me, and makes a beeline for my son:
“Are you hungry? What do you want to eat? Do you want some meat? WHAT HAS YOUR MOTHER BEEN FEEDING YOU???!!”
When my mom speaks to my son on the phone, I can overhear her questioning him about his meals. I tell her all the time, “Mom… Plants are not the enemy. They are our friends. Veggies, good. Hunks of meat three times a day, not so much..
Now in truth, as much as I would like to see my children to become plant-based eaters, I will allow them to make their own choices. However I push the vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts in place of meat often. They’ll get plenty of meat from school and relatives’ homes – especially Grandma’s. I’ve been able to make a bit of progress with my son. He enjoys mushroom and tofu spaghetti. I used extra firm tofu, and marinated the tofu in some seasonings that I’d normally use for chicken and a couple of splashes of liquid smoke. We’re getting there with the black bean burgers. He’ll eat a burger that is comprised of about 25% ground turkey, and 75% black beans. He won’t even question spaghetti squash, with sautéed veggies. Loves it!!
This leads me to what I like to refer to as The Village Male Voice. The men in my life – brothers – who think they should have a vote on everything from my son’s haircuts to his clothing; and now his food choices.
One of my brothers told me that, if my son doesn’t have meat with every meal, he won’t have enough energy to play, or stay awake in school. I asked him how he feels after his favorite steak dinner, as opposed to having a salad. He just mumbled something about my son falling down all the time. I guess the extra collard greens are going to cause my child to trip over his shoelaces…
Then there’s my poor friend, who said that he refuses to eat tofu, because he doesn’t need the estrogen from the soy used to make tofu. That is especially interesting, considering that animal fat and flesh is full of hormones. ANIMAL hormones!! Most processed foods have soy, or soy derivatives. And soy has phytoestrogen – the same found in beans, nuts, hops (Miller Time!), rice, wheat germ, lentils, etc, etc. I assured him if he hadn’t grown breasts by now, he wasn’t likely to if he ate a tofu scramble. I think that was an actual disappointment to him. He was looking forward to the entertainment. Lone entertainment. Behind closed doors entertainment with his new double Ds.
I am finding my way. The unknown doesn’t frighten me. What does frighten me, however, is heart disease, diabetes and cancer. I simply have a better chance of avoiding such ailments following a plant-based diet. Also, being 43 with the two small children (no they are not grandchildren!), being around and healthy, for as long as possible, is very important to me. Right now, I’d love just be able to keep up with those two. Plus - and perhaps this is shallow - I’m already going to be “old mom”, I don’t want to be “fat mom” too!
I have dropped 20 pounds in the last 8 weeks. As I incorporate regular exercise, I expect there will be more weight loss. I can’t believe how clear my skin is becoming. I might be able to delay my anti-aging, wrinkle ironing, cream routine by another decade or so. The energy boost alone is worth it.
I am finding that there are highly rated vegan restaurants in my area. I am looking forward to trying them, and exposing the kids to new cuisine as well. A trip to the fruit and vegetable store is a fun treat now. On each visit, my new goal is to purchase something I’ve never cooked or eaten. Just the other week, I bought a rutabaga and had to call my mom, so she could tell me what to do with it! .This is going to be a great way of life for me. I’m looking forward to better health, and just more fun in general.
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Butternut Squash Chili - It used to be a centerpiece.
Butternut squash, diced tomatoes, black beans, chili beans, onions, green peppers, and garlic. Toasted tortillas on the side.