My family and I are cutting back on our consumption of animal products. We’re doing this even though we have never been big meat eaters.
We talk about our food choices a lot. When the kids were little, we spent a lot of time talking about healthy food choices versus treats like candy and sweets. We spent dinner time modeling good food choices and encouraging our kids to eat their veggies and try the new food that we’d introduced.
Over the years, to save money and to be health conscious, we ate meat only a few days a week and we used beans, legumes and lentils in our meals the rest of the time.
Several years ago, after my daughter saw a full lamb hanging in the freezer at Costco, she wouldn’t eat meat because she made the connection between an animal’s life and our food choices. We had talked about these issues with our kids, but sometimes it takes a visual to drive the point home. So, she and I converted to a vegetarian diet. She lasted several months until the welcome back barbecue at school where they were serving hot dogs (her weakness). I carried on for another year with the vegetarian diet. It was tough because now I was the only vegetarian in our family. Eventually, I reached meal planning and prep exhaustion, trying to accommodate the two different diets, and I gave in to the majority in my household. I kept my meat consumption low, though, never having been a big meat eater.
Over the years, I’ve gotten better at just putting vegetarian dishes on the table a few times a week and leaving space in our weekly meal plan for my husband to cook whatever meat he wants when it’s his turn to prepare dinner.
Our tough spot, though, has always been animal products in general. Giving up milk, butter, eggs, cheese and yogurt is our struggle.
I recently read We are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. It has raised the question around our dinner table again of how our choices affect the world around us. And how can we do better?
I like the idea from the book about cutting out animal products at breakfast and lunch but still eating animal products at dinner. Dinner can be a difficult time, I think, to assert your beliefs about food choices. It’s so often a social meal. It seems like a simpler approach for my kids than asking them if they could go all in on a vegan diet. And it keeps the conversation going.
And my kids amazed me. They were so intent on learning about what I had read in the book, and they had so many suggestions on how we could make those ideas work for our family. It was a great discussion, one that we’ve kept up and keep coming back to.
So, we decided to cut back on animal products wherever we could. I bake a lot, so cutting eggs, butter and milk out of those recipes was the first step. Then my son realized that because he eats a lot of cereal and yogurt, he was consuming a lot of milk and milk products. Those were his go-to snacks. So, he decided to cut down on cereal and to choose apples and other fruits instead (a healthier choice overall). He also asked that I make our hot cereals at breakfast with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. That was an easy switch.
My daughter, who cooks dinner one night a week, is looking at her list of go-to dinner recipes for ways she can veganize them. This has sparked many conversations.
We are deeply grateful for the earth we have and for everything that lives on our planet. We’re learning to work from that place of gratitude to get better at making the right choices for ourselves, for our planet and for animals, and to fix, bit by bit, the things that we have control over, like choosing to consume fewer animal products.