I feel it’s time to explain why we have converted to a flexitarian diet. For anyone who has not heard of flexitarianism, that means we eat a mostly vegetarian diet (in our case, a mostly vegan diet, really) but we are flexible about it. We are not anti ever having meat but only have it on those occasions where we eat at someone elses home or go out to eat and there are no vegetarian/vegan friendly options. We do not beat ourselves up over having meat now and then because the occasional meat product is built into our defined dietary lifestyle. If you go to our home, though, we are vegetarians 99.9% of the time here.
So why? First, I have seen myself moving in this direction for years but just was not willing to cross the line and accept it. We are very concerned about the hormones in food. Yes, I know Tyson claims that their chickens are hormone free. They’re lying. They do not administer it directly to the chicken so they are able to say that but it is in the chickens food. Plus, if you have ever seen how these chicken are raised, you would know they aren’t healthy animals. Free range my booty. They aren’t smashed into individual cages, they are free to roam a shelter that they are crammed into so tightly together that it’s rare for one to make it to the entrance of the little outdoor area they are given. Many of these chickens are so overweight they cannot even walk. We eat morbidly obese chickens and then wonder why we have an issue with obesity. Trying to buy all truly organic, healthy chicken is no easy challenge where I live. The one corner that they keep the organic meat in may or may not have any and if they do it costs an arm, a leg and your first born child to eat it more than a few times per month. It just was not practical to be an every day meat eater who avoided growth hormones in the meats.
I went on to read all about Dr. Joel Fuhrman and his “nutritarian” lifestyle (he’s pretty much a vegan). He is pretty cool and has awesome information. I learned a lot about nutrition from him and just how much protein we get from sources not meat. I learned about making the majority of our diets out of nutritionally dense foods. In his book “Live to Eat” he acts like he’s all chill. He puts out the challenge, specifically for weight loss, that you only have to go 6 weeks without meat. He knows a 6 week commitment is a lot easier for people than a lifetime commitment. He also knows that the person following his plan will get pretty used to eating meatless during that 6 weeks. It’s amazing how little you miss meat once you break that barrier of going weeks without it! In his book he eases you in but when you get deeper into his lifestyle, the man is not nearly as chillaxed about foods. He believes just one unhealthy meal could kill you (and he is probably right) and he is not a fan of ever veering from this strict diet. While I love him and his teachings, I’m a bit too human to commit to them 100% of the time. He is great for getting started, though. He did a fantastic job giving me the tools I needed to want to eat healthy and feed my family healthy. I also really love his book on getting kids to eat healthy too. He gives fantastic tips and it has helped me work with my ultra picky eater so much.
Then I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives. This was a total mind blow for me. They go into detail on cancer study’s with meat and the results were insane. Whether eating organic or non organic meat, meat always lead to growth in cancer cells in the body and the removal of meat from a diet REVERSED the effects and shrunk the cancer cells. This study was repeated and performed several times amongst different groups (and mice) and it was always the same. More meat meant more cancer. That wasn’t all they had but the only way to fully grasp the awesome revelation of this documentary is to watch it. It’s on Netflix and free on Amazon’s instant demand thing if you have amazon prime (not sure for those without prime memberships but i’m guessing it’s still cheap). It’s worth the watch!
After all of this, we decided it was best to cut it. It was hard at first. We had to relearn how to eat and even change our expectations of what a meal looks like. We started with committing to “meatless Mondays” just to get a grasp on the entire meatless concept. It quickly grew into doing most our week meatless to most of the month meatless to us going months without having meat in the home. We get plenty of protein through broccoli (my kids favorite), peas, kale, spinach, beans, lentils, occasionally some tofu- though I’m not big on “replacement meats” because we expect them to be like meat too much. You have to learn to eat foods for what they are and not expect a bean burger to taste like a meat burger. My kids love to drink Silk almond milk, which is B12 fortified, as well as full of calcium and protein and tons of other vitamins. While we do a lot of dairy replacements instead of having cows milk products- my kids still get organic yogurt and cheeses and the very occasional pack of organic chicken nuggets or organic bacon to go with a breakfast.
And there is no guilt about having meat when we do. As a flexitarian its built into my acceptable diet to have meat sometimes. I desire to be healthy and raise kids to love healthy eating but we also only live once. So that is our so far story. We’ve been on this road for about 8 months now and still really happy with it. I rarely crave a meat product and when I do.. I eat it. It usually leaves me feeling like it wasn’t worth it and its a good while before I crave it again.