As part of my ‘40 before 40 goal list’, our family has decided to cut back on meat.
We have three families in our life that are good examples on how to cut back on meat from our diets. It may be a coincidence that all three are thirty-something couples who raise their children with health in mind. It doesn’t seem odd to me that they all live in France yet none are French. Among them, one family is strict Vegan. Emmay says, ‘Vegetarian is good, but the real fun starts when you go Vegan. Then you get really creative when it comes to variety at mealtime.’
The other two families, the moms are vegetarian and the children and husbands are not. For them it was a choice made early on and both ladies have no problem serving ethically raised meats at their table.
They teach me that healthy choices can feel good even if you are not always strict. When I decide to eat KFC take out on a craving, I shouldn’t feel bad. Some people take more steps when reaching their goal. No need to beat myself up when I slip up, as long as I stay focussed on the overall picture.
Defining Vegetarian Terms:
A pescatarian is a person who doesn’t eat animal flesh with the exception of fish. Most people go from eating meat to pescatarian as a middle step towards Lacto-Ovo vegetarian.
A Lacto-Ovo vegetarian eats no meat but will eat milk products and eggs, which may be a step towards vegan.
Vegans don’t eat dairy, eggs or anything that may contain animal bi products, even in the processing stages like sugar. The theory is the human body does not need animal or animal bi-products to sustain life.
From there you have Raw Food and Macrobiotic diets that have a strong emphasis on how the food is prepared and consuming them in their natural whole state.
Our ‘Flexitarian’ family, a phrase coined for a mostly vegetarian diet, is flexiable about choices when time comes. It really is not a vegetarian at all. When Daniel feels the need to eat a giant burger, I am not going to make him sustain because of a label I placed on him. In addition, if the children want to enjoy gummy bears at a birthday party when I know they are made from gelatin, it would be more damaging to exclude them from the party fun. We want to be good examples for them, but at the ages of seven & nine, we practice free will. The more I read about all the unnecessary meat products contained in our foods, the more I realize we can only do our best. It would take a lifetime to actively fight against big business to get them out of our food products, time that could be used on bigger endeavours, like starting at home with our two kids, teaching them what’s healthy and not.
To experience our first year in France to the fullest, we did not feel that cutting back on meat was necessary. In fact, we got in to the habit of eating meat at each meal. Moreover, we didn’t feel bad about it. France has ethical standards, mostly traditionally raising animals as their grandparents have done for generations. When in Rome!
Trying to improve myself as I age, I recently learned that we eat far too much meat as a society. The emission level meat production causes and the animals that are raised unethically is enough for most carnivores to cut back. “My favorite statistic is this: According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. See how easy it is to make an impact?” Kathy Freston writes in the article, The Breathtaking Effects of Cutting Back on Meat.
Children naturally have an aversion to meat, and when ours do eat meat, it is in small quantities. Alfonz is not keen on red meat and prefers many vegetarian dishes. When Alfonz and I started dating back in spring 2002, I was going through a typical Kitsilano, Vancouver ‘granola phase’, of eating no meat, tofu instead and calling myself a vegetarian. I even took up yoga and meditation. Of course, back then at 120 lb. at 5’6” tall a thin size zero, I was close to anemic from doing it all wrong and managed to get pretty sick after two years vegan and threw off my electrolytes.
Today, pushing forty, I see my body aging yet other than vanity, I have two more important reasons for doing my part…Daniel and Angelina. I want to teach my children to be symbiotic with our world. If every child learns the negative impact meat production has on the Earth, they may grow up to be the revolutionary change needed to save our planet.
I am not saying that everyone should be vegetarian, however why not ensure organic food is on our plate. Why not demand ethical farming practices? Why not insist on GMO free throughout the world? When I think of antibiotics and pesticides going into our food stream, it scares me. We don’t know the long-term effect that mass production may have on our children.
In a perfect world everyone grows their own food. These gardens are full of a variety of vegetables and fruits, a few chickens producing eggs and maybe a goat for milk. If we supplied our own families with the nutrients they need, then no need to wonder what is not on the label and still going in them. And yes, eating these animals would make perfect sense as well. It would be sad to think of them as our pets and then eat them. But maybe that’s the problem. We have a complete disconnect between animals and meat. It may be taboo to talk about, yet I wonder how many people have any idea what processed meat is really made from.
I thought it would be hard to live in France without giant portions of beef, pork and chicken. I was wrong. Currently we eat fish from the local docks a few times a week and have added: beans, lentils, nuts, eggs and a greater variety of vegetables and fruits than ever before.
Cheese and yogurt are still staples in our fridge purchased from local farms. We cut back on them as well and buying organic makes me feel good about it.
I take care of what I put into my family’s mouths, thinking: organic, fresh and healthy every meal.