According to Psychology Today, roughly 75% of vegetarians eventually return to eating meat. The most oft cited reason is declining health. I have been an on and off vegetarian and careful observer of culture and trends in the food and health world for over 25 years. I have joined that 75%, but not with reckless abandon. Read on….
I grew up in a unique household that I credit for my early interest in food and health. My parents were….well, I guess you could say they were “hippies”. I fondly remember felt posters all around the house emblazoned with the sayings of Kahil Gibran. My dad rode his bike to work before it was fashionable to go green. I initially hesitated to say the word “hippies” because it carries so many stereotypes with it and my parents did not fit all of the stereotypes that come to mind. But my mom was before her time. We were not allowed any sugar sweetened cereals and did not regularly have soda in our home. Being of Italian descent, I ate lentil soup, chicken soup and vegetables and beans ALL the time. My sandwiches were on whole wheat bread. While most of the readers of this blog might think, “so what, whole wheat bread”, I assure you that was a big deal in the 1970’s. Cooking was undertaken with love. Even to this day, my mom can cook anything from traditional Italian specialties to healthy, delicious whole food meals. Case in point: at the last family dinner, she made stuffed artichokes with quinoa instead of the typical bread crumb stuffing, which is devoid of any nutrition. We also never did margarine, which is one of the biggest nutrition hoaxes and harmful foods foisted upon an unknowing public. It has been butter all the way and I have never suffered from high blood pressure, overweight issues or high cholesterol like the “nutrition authorities” said I would. Ofcourse, portion size is key! I did not rebel against this early healthy lifestyle, because it was one of balance. My upbringing was not strict and I could consume sweets and other junk food at parties and on rare occasions. I am extremely grateful for this upbringing, as it makes me who I am today.
I am almost certain that it was the environment which I grew up in that made me very interested in healthy eating and vegetarianism. Coupled with the fact that I do not like meat. Never did and probably never will. It always amazes me the number of Americans who worship at the altar of the sirloin steak. If I never had another steak for my whole life, I would not miss it.
So, why do I want to stop being a vegetarian? As I mentioned before, I have been a keen observer of food and health trends for as long as I can remember and sadly, I would have to say that the overwhelming majority of vegetarians that I know are overweight, depressed, suffer from chronic colds, crave sugar like crazy and are just plain unhealthy . Most of those vegetarians are not really vegetable vegetarians, but they are pasta-tarians, bread-a-tarians, diet soda-and-dessert-a-tarians.
Vegetarians who don’t want to incorporate small amounts of animal products in their diets should be extremely mindful of the fact that they may not be getting key trace minerals and other nutrients in their diets. The body is an amazing, adaptive organism that will compensate in other ways in order to keep you alive. While, though, you may be living, you are probably not enjoying a better quality of life because of what you are not getting in your diet. Vegetarians and even more importantly vegans, if they are going to remain so, absolutely must take high quality supplements. There are just certain things that our bodies don’t manufacture that we must get from food. Another potential problem with being a vegetarian is the lack of healthy fat in one’s diet. Fat, the right type, is critical for healthy cell functioning. Low fat, high carb vegetarian diets that are NOT high in essential fatty acids will absolutely lead to disease later in life. It is just a matter of time.
Of interest to me lately and playing a role in my conversion to non-vegetarian, is the Weston Price foundation. Someone who is considering leaving their vegetarian lifestyle because they are not doing well or feeling good ought to read the fascinating work of Dr. Weston A. Price and his groundbreaking book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Dr. Price traveled the world in the 1930′s and studied all the indigenous cultures that had not yet been affected by what he called “the displacing foods of modern commerce”. The cultures he studied included the Eskimos from Alaska, the Aborigines in Australia and every group that he could find in between. Dr. Price carefully examined and took pictures of these healthy people who were free of chronic disease, had happy, optimistic outlooks on life, and perfectly straight teeth virtually free of cavities. The traditional foods that each of these cultures consumed all contained animal foods. None were vegetarian. In fact, Dr. Price was unable to find an indigenous population of vegetarians that exhibited the health and vitality of the meat-eating cultures.
Another life-changing book that I have read and keep as a reference is The Truth About Beauty by Kat James. From the title, one might think that it is just a book about skin care and makeup. It is NOT that at all. In fact, I would say that the title is misleading and that the author’s editors made a bad choice in the naming of it. Still, it attracted me and what I found was a wealth of information on how beauty starts on the inside with what you eat. I would guess that many readers of this blog would agree that what you put into your body really does count, but this author explains it in great detail. Better than any sidebar in magazines do. The author details the need for a very low sugar, very low-processed food diet and does a great job of explaining why we need healthy fats. While I don’t agree with 100% of the things in the book, it is a gem of a find which I bought extra copies of to give to friends and family.
So, I will continue to do mostly what I have been doing, which I call a “high greens-low grains” lifestyle but I will be adding small (and I do mean small) amounts of chicken, maybe a meatball here and there and definitely some fatty fish into my diet. One of the “roadblocks” that is in place to ensure that I don’t eat too much animal food is that I will only buy organic, pastured meat and chicken. This is not an easy thing to do. While most supermarkets have organic meats, whether or not they are pastured is hard to determine. I have an Amish farmer that I buy from twice a month and know of his commitment to organic, sustainable and pastured livestock. I will continue to be 80% vegetarian because I truly LOVE vegetables and salads. I don’t know too many people who crave vegetables like I do. A swoon-worthy vegetable dish I created is sautéed red cabbage and kale with roasted bits of butternut squash. It is at once creamy, sweet, salty, crunchy and completely satisfying. I make it at least once a week and eat copious amounts of it for lunch or dinner.
SAUTE OF KALE, CABBAGE AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH
(Some might complain that this recipe is a little time-consuming. And it is, because of the chopping, washing and the fact that it is three components that you make separately. But you can make a huge amount of it and have it in your fridge for a few days. The way I see it, you can either take time for healthy food now and all that it requires by way of time and expense or you can take time and money for sickness and disease later. It’s your choice!)
This is a really easy, though slightly time consuming recipe; more of a concept than a recipe, thus the scant emphasis on measurements:
½ of a butternut squash-cut in ¼” dice and tossed with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Roast at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes. Turn once halfway through cooking. Set aside.
Half a bunch of kale-drop into boiling water for 30-60 seconds, just to blanch it. Drain, squeeze water out ad chop into small pieces. Set aside.
½ of a large red cabbage. Remove a few of the outer leaves. Remove white core. Chop into thin slices.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a sautee pan: The cabbage will take the longest to sautee….at least 10 minutes to break it down. It turns a shade of purple. Sprinkle on some sea salt and toss with a wooden spoon. After about 10-15 minutes, toss in your blanched kale just to heat up. At this point, I like to add a clove or two of minced garlic. I add it at this point because it would certainly burn if I did it at start of recipe. After kale is heated and garlic is cooked, toss in roasted butternut squash, just to warm up. That is it! This is a favorite winter recipe. It is so very satisfying. Please give feedback if you try it.
Please contact me via reply to this blog, check out www.livewellfromtheinsideout.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more about healthy eating. Even if you disagree, I still welcome your comments. Thank you for reading.