Meatless Dinners… Every Other Day

A few nights ago we had a vegetarian dinner: roasted potatoes, pea puree with avocado and Trader Joe’s Organic Succotash (frozen mix of corn, edamame and red peppers).  I thought this would be a good time to break the news to the girls that we were going to eat meat free dinners every other day. You may have guessed that the kids (particularly Haleigh) were less than thrilled. Maybe I should let her watch an episode of “Kill It, Cook It, Eat It.” She’s an animal lover, but still a child who can’t resist things that taste good, no matter how it got on her plate or how it might negatively affect her health. Then there’s the the fact that eating less meat means she will have to eat more vegetables…

Brian is okay with it, but said he’d draw the line at vegan. Good. Because I do too. So we’ll see how it goes. I myself am going to try and avoid meat altogether on those days, but won’t try to persuade the kids and Brian to the same. My breakfasts and lunches are fairly meat free already, so it won’t really be that difficult for me.

I’m not going to be a stickler about it either. I mean if something comes up and plans change (we’re not eating at home or I have to make a last minute change) I’m not going to make things difficult for myself. And I don’t plan on avoiding all animal products (like dairy, eggs, lard, etc.). The main reason for this decision is that while it’s great that we’re eating pastured and grass fed meat, we’re still eating too much of it, in my opinion.

I’ve been studying a diet known as the WAP diet, which is based on the research of Dr. Weston A. Price. He was a dentist and during the 1930’s he studied nutrition to find answers to problems such as dental deformities and tooth decay. A lot of his research is still used for general nutrition today. There is even a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing his nutritional findings, the Weston A. Price Foundation.

He found that eating the things our ancestors ate leads to a healthy life (and nicer teeth) and eating a more modern diet of processed foods was not. (I know. Duh, right?)

The diet endorses the consumption of large quantities of nutrient dense meat, fat and bone broths – and to tell you the truth, a lot of the evidence is pretty compelling and has led to even more research and evidence. You probably already know that I don’t believe natural fat is a bad thing. Fats like olive oil, coconut oil (watch this clip from the Dr. Oz Show), lard, tallow and butter are good, real fats. However, I do avoid overly processed and genetically modified oils like Canola oil, vegetable oil, shortening and margarine. I won’t go into why America has the good fats and the bad fats mixed up, but you can read this long, but informative article from Men’s Health or do your own research. There’s plenty of information and evidence refuting this misconception, but people tend to overlook it because it is ingrained in our brains that fat is bad. It’s not.

Real fat is good for us and I don’t avoid it at all. As a matter of fact, I try to make sure there is some fat in every meal. If I’m not eating meat which already contains good fat, then I’ll add a little real butter, cream or milk, coconut oil, lard, tallow or olive oil. Fat lubricates organs (especially the brain, heart and skin). The brain especially needs fat to be healthy. The good fats help with nutrient absorption (which is why I add oil or butter to veggies), digestion, weight loss (it’s true – it satisfying and it takes longer to digest, so you eat less) and lowers LDL (bad cholesterol).   I think America’s fear of fat is a bit unreasonable.

There are some good things in the WAP diet. It basically suggests eating food the way our ancestors did – natural and whole. Some good advice from the diet includes regularly consuming nutrient dense broths. They are nourishing, and I’m trying to do this as often as possible. For centuries traditional meals have included a soup or broth course at the start of a meal. Everyone’s probably heard by now that drinking a glass of water before a meal helps fill you up so you eat less. I think broth does the same thing, but has the bonus of added nutrients. Fermented foods are also recommended in the WAP diet. They provide us with probiotics which are important for proper digestive function, a cornerstone of good health.

That said, my problem with this philosophy (or at least with what the proponents seem to be suggesting) is that it focuses so heavily on consuming meat and fat that the importance of fruits and vegetables feels lost to me. I believe there should still be a nutritional balance, which includes more vegetables than meat. So just like all the other diets I’ve studied (veganism, vegetarianism, low carb, high protein, etc.), it offers some good advice, but again – no balance. I’m no expert, but I’ve learned a lot, including to trust my gut when it comes to food. We eat a little meat, fat and carbs, a moderate amount of dairy and seafood and lots of fruits and vegetables.

So forget “meatless Mondays”. We’ll be eating meatless dinners about every other day. More beans. More veggies and fruits. More uncommon foods like quinoa and tofu. Mostly homemade whole wheat pastas and breads to keep our carb count low. (Pasta and breads are processed foods, and when you are the one “processing” them you really learn to appreciate the work that goes into making them and probably won’t over indulge. Same goes with snack foods and desserts. Vowing to only consume what you are willing to make from scratch yourself will virtually end over consumption. Slow food, as opposed to “fast food”.) Wish me luck…