One of my former colleagues — a yoga instructor and vegan blogger — leads an exemplary lifestyle. The few times we’ve met in person I found myself rambling on about how I’d go vegetarian in a heartbeat if my family would only get on board. And furthermore, how I had no intention of becoming a short-order cook. Excuses. That’s essentially what I fed her. Over the years she’s probably heard tons of people mutter the same (predictable) lines. If I could go back and roll my eyes at my younger self, I would.
I’ve since come to realize that change doesn’t come overnight; rather, it happens in the teeniest of baby steps. Nor need it be ‘all or nothing’ to be worthwhile. And that’s exactly the point of the #MeatlessMonday challenge. Omitting ground beef from a chilli or lasagne every now and then won’t kill anyone and the world won’t suddenly stop turning. Or will it? My husband isn’t convinced. Irish-born, he was raised on a solid meat-and-potatoes diet. Could a meal that doesn’t feature some slaughtered farm animal even be called a meal?
I knew that change — if it was to visit my home at all — would have to start with me. As Head Chef and Chief Grocery Shopper, surely I had some say in what landed on our plates every evening. Didn’t that make it my responsibility to ensure I was serving my family the most nutritious meals? It was for their own good, I reasoned, whether they liked it or not.
That said, making the shift to eating less meat would not be for the faint-hearted. I had to be strong in my resolve. After all, there is ample evidence in support of ditching meat to back me up. Aside from animal welfare concerns, eating red meat increases the chance of developing heart disease, various cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes — to name just a few of the health risks.
Raising livestock costs the environment in a big way, too. According to an article in The Guardian, “[beef] requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water and results in five times more climate-warming emissions. When compared to staples like potatoes, wheat, and rice, the impact of beef per calorie is even more extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases.”
I was convinced, so I made the executive decision to serve less meat — A LOT less meat. Once I was committed, there was no turning back. The real test, though, was selling a meatless menu to a pair of tricky customers: a bacon-loving father and son. So I set out trawling the internet for stews, curries, and pasta so delectable my carnivorous crew wouldn’t know what they were missing.
Rather than get too radical, initially I opted to stick to sustainable chicken and fish, with the occasional striploin as a “treat” shared between us. God forbid I tried to pass off tofu on their poor unsuspecting souls!
My first attempts at vegetarian-ish cuisine fell somewhat flat. While hubby gobbled up the bean salad, my 9-year-old wouldn’t touch it. But neither seemed overly bothered that the tacos swapped out the beef for chicken.
So, my hunt for THE vegetarian dish that will convert my reluctant meat-lovers continues… If you happen to have one you know will be a hit, please send it my way!
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