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Milk and Meat

Last week I watched Forks Over Knives, with a new appreciation for the vegan lifestyle. I completely understand how a whole food, plant based diet would be ideal for our bodies. It’s disturbing to be reminded of the abundance of processed food around us and how it becomes an addition. The negative impact on our bodies and the planet from consuming animal products is legit. Still, I can’t imagine living without dairy or meat. Like the strangers interviewed, I grew up thinking “I need milk for calcium” and “I need meat for protein.” It’s one thing to incorporate healthier alternatives as I educate myself, but removing them completely? Probably not going to happen.

When Leia was a year old I planned to wean her from breast milk to cows milk. I assumed all kids drank milk. The only people who drank “those other milks” were vegan hippies or lactose intolerant. It turned out Leia doesn’t like (non breast) milk. I offered her whole milk, low fat milk, soy/coconut/rice/almond “milks” – technically it’s not milk if it’s not from a mammary gland right? She’ll eat cheese (sometimes), yogurt (every morning), and ice cream (duh) so I just shrugged it off assuming she’d get calcium others ways. Then I got on a smoothie kick and started buying unsweetened almond milk because the calories were lower than my nonfat cow milk. Several months later I haven’t gone back to cow milk. After talking to a few nutrition savvy friends and doing research online I realized milk isn’t quite the “super food” were taught growing up. Cow milk is for baby cows. Even with hormone-free organic milk, you’re doing little more than ingesting a multivitamin. The calcium in milk is not easily absorbed by our bodies. Countries with the lowest consumption of dairy have the least hip fractures and vice versa. Shocking right?

I’m open to trying dairy free alternatives, like those tasty soy ice cream sandwiches from Trader Joes. I sometimes substitute coconut oil for butter, depending on the recipe. I bought soy coffee creamer. That said, I’m hardly running for the non dairy hills. In my heart I know I’ll never give it up completely. I love cheese, and it would ruin my life not to eat it. I also love ice cream. I eat yogurt several days a week.

We eat a lot of chicken. I’d love to say I only buy organic and free range, but I don’t. Maybe by eating less meat I can afford the price difference. Despite all the meals from scratch made in my kitchen, pre-cooked chicken nuggets are a staple in my freezer.

I feel less guilty about the chicken nuggets I usually get because I splurge on the “healthier” options. She loves them, and sometimes it’s just easy to heat something up for lunch. For meatballs, tacos, burgers I use turkey. We don’t eat red meat very often. Occasionally we’ll have beef ribs with my mom and uncle, or every few months I’ll make a roast in the crock pot. But a well prepared steak will always make me salivate.

I’ll never completely give up meat but we’re going to eat less of it. Harm reduction, right? I want to cook more with lentils. I think they’d make a great filler in ground meat recipes. I might even cook with tofu on occasion – if I can get the recipe for the only tofu I’ve enjoyed from the JPeds. I’ve been keeping an eye out for tasty vegetarian ideas when I scan Pinterest. Today was an unofficial Meatless Monday: Breakfast was peanut butter on a whole grain waffle, banana, coffee with soy creamer. Lunch was a sandwich with cheese, veggies and a big scoop of avocado hummus. Dinner was half a bell pepper stuffed with quinoa, zucchini and sweet potato. Snacks were an apple and a pumpkin muffin. I didn’t feel deprived at all.

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