When Paul and I first began our quest towards a plant based lifestyle, one of the hardest things for both of us, but especially me, was dispelling the notion that we needed to have an animal protein on our plates. And it’s an idea that we get asked about a lot. “How can you make a meal without meat?” “Where do you get your protein?” “I just can’t imagine a family dinner without meat so how do you make it special?”
We’ve been indoctrinated over the course of our lives to think that a meal isn’t a meal unless there’s a slab of beef, chicken or pork on our plates. Think about the food pyramid, that staple of food education, from just a few years ago. The USDA’s original food pyramid from 1992 included 2-3 servings from the Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Group along with 2-3 servings of the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs & Nuts Group each day. That’s a lot of cholesterol per day and part of the reason it was finally revised; it could lead to heart disease.
The other reason we think we need meat is because we’re the product of our various families’ eating habits along with cultural influences. They’re kind of hard to kick for many people.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need animal protein on your plate everyday. You don’t need it to live and you don’t need it to practice sound nutrition. We eat meat because, like the picture above, it’s plentiful and cheap. There’s also a “manly” notion element to it, the whole grilling around the BBQ with beer weekend thing. There’s a reason sausages are shaped that way–you know what I’m talking about.
And we consume meat because it tastes good, on top of being led to believe that if we don’t, our bodies won’t function properly. This simply isn’t the case.
Here’s what I’ve found out.
1. I can get all the protein I need from plant and plant based products, soy, legumes, etc.
2. Vegetables aren’t boring and no, they don’t all taste alike nor do they taste bad. Many of you, I have found out, have never even eaten fresh vegetables but have been brought up on frozen or canned veg. The difference in taste is like night and day. Don’t shy away from the fresh produce section of your market, your good health lies therein.
3. We don’t eat the same things all the time because of the amazing choices we have, in fact, we have many more choices available to us than when we relied on meat for the centerpiece of our meals. Think about it, you may have a piece of chicken a few times a week and a couple of sides. We have at least 25 different vegetables each week, along with herbs, grains, pasta and legumes–all prepared in different ways.
4. Helping you along with your transition are many meat-free, meat replacement options. There are so many choices now than just a couple of years ago that I am astounded every time I walk into any market, including mainstream grocers. Some of my absolute favorites are from the Field Roast company. They make grain “meats” that are phenomenal (and sausages too) and will help you move away from animal proteins. It’s not just about tofu anymore.
5. I feel better than I have in years. And as you know if you read this site regularly, so does my husband. His health has flourished. The clarity of my mind (and skin) along with weight loss and low cholesterol has been amazing. I have a boost of energy that I haven’t had since I was 40–and for that I am most thankful.
Even if you aren’t going vegan but want to adapt a vegetarian lifestyle or just reduce the amount of meat you eat, go read Vegan For Life. All your nutrition answers are there. I read it, Paul read it and it’s an excellent resource.