You don’t have to remind this kid to eat his vegetables
My good friends, the Streetmans, are vegetarians with three beautiful boys 3 and under. The title of this post is from one of their sons, Tyler. I have to admit I’m impressed with how easy they make vegetarianism look. Personally, I abstained from red meat (beef and pork) from age 12 to 27, for ‘save the world’ reasons. I also helped the environment by wearing a very trendy ‘Save the World’ pendant around my neck, it was huge, and instead of the words ‘world’, there was a small globe. Gah – what a nerd! One chilly, fall night while mountain biking with a good friend, I caved when I smelled a delicious cheeseburger. Forget saving the world, I wanted some beef. I may be selfish, but at least I’m honest about it. So kudos to the Streetmans, who are my heroes for making this choice and sticking with it, and raising some pretty darn cute vegetarians in the meantime.
Interview with Colleen Streetman
Question: What made you decide to make the switch to being a vegetarian?
Answer: My husband, Dan, was a vegetarian when I met him and had been for several years. We talked about his reasons – health first and foremost, and humanitarian reasons, too. I soon became the primary “chef” in our relationship, and there wasn’t much point in cooking meat for one, so I always made vegetarian meals for us at home, then ate meat when we went out. I began experimenting more with foods I hadn’t eaten much of before. The more we talked about the conditions of the animals raised for food, the more documentaries we watched, the more I read, the more I started becoming disgusted by meat. Then – 5 years ago – I had a few bad experiences with gross meat meals and watched a few more documentaries, and that was it. I was done.
Question: What specifically do you eat, what is an example of a typical day for you guys? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks.
Answer: Breakfast in our house consists mainly of grains and fruits, maybe some cheese or yogurt. Dan has a bagel and sometimes a banana. I usually feed the boys similar breakfasts, just enough to get them going, because they are going to eat snack and lunch soon at preschool. They all have bananas and my son, Tyler, loves bagels. The twins, Casey and Tyler, both like cereal, especially with banana bites in it. In the winter they love oatmeal, mixed with applesauce, “so it’s not so lumpy.”
Those spinach-ricotta bites are gone in a flash
Lunch usually consists of some kind of sandwich – egg salad (we are not vegan, and I try to be very cautious about buying “farm-friendly” eggs), cheese and veggie sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly or honey, or cucumber and cream cheese. We also do pita and hummus quite often. I do the occasional veggie hot dog and mac and cheese. I make sure to include fruit with their lunches, too. Some other things we like to make – potato salad, pasta salad, broccoli salad, coleslaw.
I cook breakfast for dinner a lot – pancakes, french toast, eggs (family favorite is scrambled with spinach and feta), some kind of potatoes, and fruit. Of course, we do lots of pasta dishes – there are so many different ways to do yummy pastas. We love chili – I love to use beans – black beans in particular – in chili, Mexican dishes, etc. I have several soup and quiche recipes that pack a lot of veggies and protein in them. We use a lot of tofu and tempeh in stir-fry dishes. I’ve branched out into international recipes since becoming vegetarian – I love Indian food. I always loved Mexican food. And we really enjoy Mediterranean food – chick peas are a favorite of mine – you can do so much with them: use them in salads, hummus, roast them, make burgers out of them.
I think I am pretty good about balancing the meals overall – making sure the kids eat some veggies (whether it’s in the main dish or not). They actually like to have their own little “salad” with dinner, which is basically a few spinach leaves, a couple of carrots and broccoli, and some dressing to dip it in. While I don’t force my kids to eat all of their meals, they don’t get dessert unless they eat most/all the good-for-you stuff.
Snacks are pretty much just fruit and crackers and cheese. I’m pretty strict about junk. I just don’t feed it to them. There’s no point. And if you don’t keep it in the house, no one asks for it. I also forgot to mention muffins. Breakfast, lunch, snack, on the go … the boys love anything in muffin form, and there are tons of variations!
I am probably the pickiest vegetarian you will ever meet. There are a lot of vegetables and fruits that I don’t like. But the ones I do like, I eat a lot. My biggest struggle so far is trying to broaden the kids’ palettes so they aren’t as picky as me. It’s hard to cook with foods you don’t like yourself. But I’m really trying.
These happy kids LOVE bananas
Question: What was the result of your switch to vegetarianism, if any?
Answer: Honestly, I felt better almost immediately. My weight didn’t really change all that much – before babies I was always pretty skinny and in shape. My skin actually did improve, but the biggest difference was my GI system. I had far less stomach troubles in general.
Question: Tell me the pros and cons of doing this, in your opinion. Did you feel like it was a huge amount of extra work?
Answer: The biggest pro to me is that I don’t support horrible animal cruelty practices. There is really no way to know where your meat is coming from, unless you’re buying 100% of it straight from a farmer that you know practices ethically. Which, let’s face it, is extremely hard to do, not to mention expensive. The only way I could be sure I didn’t support the awful treatment of animals, was to completely stop buying and eating it. I didn’t find it to be a huge amount of work, but I also eased into it. We never really bought meat or cooked it at the house when I did eat meat. I gradually learned to broaden my palette before I quit completely. It’s super easy to feed your kids a vegetarian diet.
The thing I hear most from meat-eaters, “Where do you get protein if you don’t eat meat?” There are a bazillion non-meat foods that pack a fierce amount of protein. We eat tofu and tempeh and other soy meat substitutes, which contain a good amount of protein. We also eat different kinds of beans like edamame, black beans, and chick peas. We eat eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, whole grains, nuts, peanut butter, etc. If you eat a good variety of all of those things, you’ll get plenty of protein.
Question: What do you do when you go out – like traveling, or to parties, or restaurants, do you have to take your own food, or do you feel there are enough options that you don’t have to worry about it?
Answer: There’s always something we can eat. Restaurants are getting better about providing vegetarian options. We have been to parties/restaurants and not had much selection, so we just eat more when we get home. I’m really excited about this new all vegetarian restaurant opening soon in Raleigh – the Fiction Kitchen. Our favorite Indian restaurant, Udupi, is also all vegetarian.
Thanks to Colleen Streetman for all this great information. If you feel the urge to try vegetarianism, Colleen suggests that you start small – don’t use meat when you cook at home, or try ‘Meatless Mondays’. Several restaurants in the Triangle offer this option. That is true with most new things, whether it be running, becoming a vegetarian, trying to make your household more natural – you should start small, and grow your knowledge incrementally. Personally, I would like to cut down on our meat consumption, and make it a top priority to know where our meat is coming from. I have to find a farmer nearby who raises cows – that will be my next goal. Does anyone have any local suggestions?