I am sure you have seen the posts and messages from friends on "What the Health", the new Netflix documentary on the dangers of meat and dairy. Celebrities, and influencers on social media have been taking you on their vegan journey, some deeply inspired by the documentary. I honestly did not feel an instant urge to watch it when one of my girls brought it up on our group chat, mainly because I have watched so many similar documentaries over the years as well as read related books on the matter. Then one evening, after putting my Gracie to sleep, I had a little energy, and sat there watching it while eating a bowl of whole wheat pasta with chicken turkey sausages ( lmao)- spoiler : Processed meat was the first topic on the documentary!
I have been on that "leaning away from meat tip" for a long time. It started when I watched Supersized Me in my early 20s, then I watched Fat Sick and Nearly Dead and bought a Breville Juicer. After watching Supersized Me, I gave up fast food except the few times when my hormones would take my car keys and drive me to get a fudge Sundae. The most influential piece of work that I have read on the topic is actually The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell. What you need to know about ALL these documentaries is that the people giving you guidelines on what to eat, are on the board of the most prominent food companies, oh and doctors are not trained on nutrition as much as you would expect.
I first warmed up to the idea of full vegetarianism while attending a dinner hosted by an Indian coworker in 2001. I ate filling and savory foods and didn't even notice that everything was "vegetarian". Prior to that experience, my idea of being vegetarian was that I would have to eat cold, bland and raw leaves everyday. I am Haitian, food and savory go hand in hand and I just couldn't see that happening for me. I told myself that if I learn to make complete, and tasteful vegetarian meals I would not "miss meat". By 2009, I had given up red meat and pork. I still ate fish and poultry. This gradual process has allowed me to learn to make meatless meals, and to research what's considered a complete meal when the "all important" meat protein is not present. I have also become hip to the fact that there are more questions to ask about your food beyond "where's the protein". I ask myself things like where's my fiber, and essential vitamins, is my plate colorful enough, do I have antioxidants to help my body fight daily toxins? Am I taking enough raw greens? Am I suppressing any precancerous cells with my food intake? Yes, when you eat meat, noone will ask you those questions, not even your doctor, but as soon as you say you are plant-based everyone is concerned about your protein intake!! God forbid...yeah Ok. I see you food industry. The "where do you get your protein" crowd make it sound like if you don't have some form of animal protein at every meal, you will somehow wither away and die.
I also want to address the fact that most people turn away from meatless meals because they feel hungry more often. Who says a meal is supposed to weigh you down to the point that you do not feel hungry for 4 hours? break out of that mindset and know that with a plant based diet, you will feel hungry within 2 hours, that's when you snack on some nuts, or fruits and drink water to keep you until the next meal.
Sometimes we have to choose health over convenience and this is one of them.
I won't really waste any time going into the protein scam as you can read about this on many a think pieces, spoiler alert: You don't need that much protein, and certainly not at every meal. What I am here to tell you is that if you have spent all your life planning your meals around meat, why would you expect to switch to now shopping, planning and cooking delicious vegetarian or vegan meals overnight? If you have been eating one way all your life, why would you expect that your palate adjust to a complete set of taste and textures overnight? I know many of these documentaries push for you to go vegan cold turkey. Their message is mostly shock and awe and there's also a lot of hyperbole. Giving up meat is a decision, but being a vegetarian is a process, being vegan another level of commitment. You have to crawl before you can walk. Forget about these 30 day vegan plans, they are like diets, they don't work. Try planning 1 vegetarian meal a week and experiment, get cookbooks, try different recipes, and slowly educate yourself on making that switch. Relearn your tastebuds. You wonder why the "veggie" meat market is so huge? it's because people make the switch by replacing their meat with high salt and preservative laced concoction because they did not take the time to retrain their tastebuds to eat vegetables. You can eat fake meat or have a hearty edamame stew over brown rice. I also strongly believe it's hard for your to give up meat if you don't know or learn how to cook. Unless you can afford a chef to prepare and ship your meals to you, learning how to cook is a must. Vegan or vegetarian restaurants are not the mainstream while fried chicken is in every corner.
Meat and cheeses are addictive. Overtime, once you start being satisfied with a meatless meal, your taste buds will stop craving it, your body will know how it feels to have a meat heavy meal versus a vegetarian one. it will no longer feel like a challenge but it will feel natural. Set yourself up for success. No need for grandstanding on social media about going vegan for the next 30 days, start the process to adopt a plant-based diet and if your destination is full vegan so be it.
As for me, over the years I have worked towards emulating how my grandparents ate in the country side of Haiti as much as possible. Meat was a luxury so most meal were plant-based and a household consumed meat once or twice a week. When they did eat meat, it wasn't full of toxins and antibiotics, they raised and slaughtered the animal themselves. I still consume occasional poultry or fish ( I love cod) but I am very conscious to make it a once or twice a week occurrence. Lately, I don't crave poultry as much, but still want my occasional sauteed cod and plaintains. I also try my hardest to stay away from processed foods. I won't tell you "where I get my protein", you will have to find out yourself, because doing the work is the ENTIRE point of this post...
In Health, Love and Presence of Mind