Has your family made the switch yet?

The switch to vegetarianism....

A colleague of mine mentioned that her 8 year old daughter wanted to become a vegetarian, upon learning how animals were killed for her consumption.  I was happy to see that she did not immediately dismiss her daughter's curiosity, and sought to gain other perspectives, including my own. 

Here is how I explained my journey:

I have abstained from meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc) since 2007.  I abstained from fish from 2007 to 2010.  I started eating fish when I lived in Spain with a host family, as they spiked every dish with tuna fish and I was too shy to request dishes without fish. 

To this day, I still don’t buy fish to prepare in my own house, and only eat fish once in awhile at restaurants when there are no other vegetarian options, or its cost-ineffective to order a salad (i.e. $12 for a salad consisting of iceberg lettuce vs. a plate of fish for $12). This happens maybe 5 times per year.

After abstaining from meat for 7 years, I can say I feel very healthy and happy.  I am proud to have control over my food, and practice what I preach.  In practical terms,  I also get more creative in my cooking/dietary preferences.  In the States, it was easier to stick to a very strict diet (with supermarkets like Trader Joes and/or Whole Foods offering a great variety of choices), and explain my food preferences in restaurants.  Here in China, I make concessions on a more frequent basis (like chicken broth base in the soup versus vegetable broth), but I really appreciate shopping at the wet market and discovering new fruits/vegetables and new ways to prepare said food.

In order to promote a vegetarian lifestyle in your family, I would recommend a few things.

One, don’t try to drop meat “cold turkey” (pun intended!).   Meatless Mondays has becoming more popular on social media boards, especially Pinterest.  Try to abstain from meat once or twice a week, and increase as necessary.  You might find yourself missing meat less once you discover the many wonderful dishes you’ve been missing out on!

Two, involve your children in food prep/food choices.  Allow for exploration at the market, let them help you chop up fruits and veggies, and let them help you stir, mix and blend ingredients. 

Three, try different recipes from different cultures and regions of the world.  Play music, put on a costume and/or watch a video to promote interest in new foods. 

Four, do it together as a family, and don’t single children out for their food choices.  To eat meat or not to eat meat is a cultural/social decision.  I just finished reading a WONDERFUL book called “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows”.  The book explains in great detail why most of us eat meat; hint: it’s not because we love meat.  It’s because we have been conditioned to eat this way, and practice speciesism only as a cultural byproduct.  We can learn how to take responsibility for our food choices, and learn how to support local farmers vs. the industrial profit-motivated meat industry. 

Five, consider abstinence from meat a form of witnessing Christian faith.  It is a powerful way to become free from habits that are harmful to ourselves and others, in order to become healthier people, in body and in spirit.  Thou shall not kill is not only directed at human killing.  Humans murder over 10 billion animals a year, not to mention the animals that are killed illegally.  I have made the choice not to support mass slaughter of animals.  

That being said, to always come from a place of peace is my intention.  Living a vegetarian lifestyle will make you aware of your choices in all aspects of life, and help you vote more responsibly with your dollars.  You can choose to support brands, stores and food that add positive energy to the world, and keep people’s health at the forefront of their mission.  It’s a rewarding and more emotionally involved way to sustain and nurture yourself, and your family.

Therefore, I offer you some specific nutrition tips regarding a vegetarian lifestyle.

1.   Think high fiber, low-fat.  Yes, macaroni and cheese is “vegetarian”, but it’s also a meal of empty calories and high fat.  Carb-loading is common in the early days of adopting vegetarianism.  Lean towards whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, etc.

 2.   Most people are concerned about my protein intake when I tell them I don’t eat meat.  That is the last thing people should be worrying about, given the amount of fake protein additives that are in processed foods (i.e. MSG).  Instead, the concern should be focused on vitamin B12, as it is an essential vitamin that is difficult to get from plant-based sources.  However, almond milk, rice milk and soy milk are commonly fortified with this vitamin.

3.   Don’t want to buy fresh fruits and veggies because you might end up throwing them out as they don’t last as long as processed foods?  Buy frozen!  Works just as well (generally speaking).


Food is more than just something we buy.  It connects our families, reminds us of happy times, warm memories, and used in celebrations of all kinds.  Making the transition to vegetarianism should be an exciting exploration, not a daunting undertaking.  Embrace the change, and give thanks that you have the ability to make healthier choices for you and your family.

Resources to check out:

General info:

For Moms while food shopping:

Kid friendly:

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