I like to say that my kids eat a balanced diet...between the two of them. One eats all the fruits and vegetables, the other eats all the meat and starch. So when our meat and potatoes girl announced in July that she wanted to be a vegetarian, we were a little skeptical, but supportive.
Her reason was sound -- she didn't like the idea of animals losing their lives so she could eat. There are so many vegetarian options nowadays, we decided to support her 100% in her effort to be animal-free in her eating.
Only problem was, she didn't really change her diet, except for not eating meat.
We bought "chicken" patties made of vegetable product. We tried tofu. Tempeh. "Beyond Meat" brand chicken products (which I highly recommend, by the way). All of which Wayne and I embraced and ate. Our youngest kept to her same diet of vegetables, fruit and the occasional meat, pasta or rice.
And the vegetarian?
Well, she would say it was good, but at the end of each meal the items left on her plate were the proteins and vegetabled-based products that we had bought and prepared specifically for her chosen diet. This left her with a meal of starches only, because, of course, any vegetables we prepared weren't eaten, just as they weren't eaten before this diet change.
She was excited to prepare quinoa, but wouldn't eat it. She picked the black beans out of vegetarian enchiladas and only ate the rice and tortilla. She never liked peanut butter before and never developed a taste for it for her school lunches. She couldn't wait for the vegetable medley from fresh-from-the-farmer's-market vegetables, but come meal time, wouldn't touch them.
And Lindsey began to feel the way anyone would when they only ever ate white starches. Lethargic. Low on energy. Bloated. Irregular. And constant, constant stomach aches.
Finally, one night Wayne had a conversation with her about her diet, and it started like this, "Your mom and I have been talking, and we're concerned about your nutrition and health." This after a Saturday of energy ups and down, mostly downs, and stomach aches throughout the day.
Because it's hard to be a vegetarian when you won't eat vegetables and you won't get protein from other sources.
So she agreed to mix meat back into her meals, but not a lot of meat. We celebrated the following morning by taking the family out to breakfast at Perkins. Lindsey ordered scrambled eggs with toast and a sausage patty on the side, most of which she ate. And she had good energy that day and no stomach aches.
Since then she's been mixing up her diet more, usually with meat as a side dish and not the main dish, which, honestly, is how Americans should be eating our meat anyways. She has taken to eating turkey and ham sandwiches, and on a recent trip to Tracy insisted on packing her own lunch of a ham sandwich with carrots and sliced apples on the side, so she could eat healthy on the road.
She is still getting an occasional stomach ache, but they aren't as frequent, and her energy is more even.
In the meantime, we've got a freezer full of vegetarian options that I'm sure we'll be mixing in here and there. I'm really, really glad this experiment is over.