Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Is a vegetarian diet healthy for a teenager?

Thank you for visiting my site; I was touched by your comments.

How would I have responded if my child had told me that they wanted to "go vegetarian"? I might have reacted with reluctance for the following reasons:

  1. l did not know how to prepare a meatless meal.
  2. I thought preparing vegetarian meals would take too much time.
  3. I thought vegetarian foods were hard to find and cost more.
  4. I thought I would not get enough protein and calcium.
Over the years though, all of these concerns have been addressed. I can prepare quick, simple, inexpensive meatless meals. There are many foods on the market suitable for vegetarians and vegans, no more expensive than buying a cut of meat. Most importantly, I think I get more vitamins and minerals now because I do eat more fruits and vegetables.

It seems to me that you are a very courageous young person with an extremely good heart. To walk a different path then everyone else requires strength and faith in your own heart's stirring. I congratulate you! (Recently, I read about a study compiled by English researchers. The study found that people who had test results indicating high IQ's as children, were more likely to become vegetarians as adults!) Strong, kind and intelligent - hey, this world needs more people just like you!! (By the way, you sense that some of your friends find your interest in vegetarianism weird...try not to worry too much about that. Personally, I find the "weird" people quite cool!)

But I digress..... Your timing in asking about the nutritional benefits is perfect. Health Canada has recently unveiled the new Canada's Food Guide. This revised food guide includes many suggestions for non-animal sources of protein and calcium.Try to get a copy to stick on your refrigerator door. Your whole family will see that it is possible, to eat nutritiously, without animal products, utilizing a variety of foods. Our new food guide reflects this as Canada has so many people from different cultures, some who eat very little or no meat at all.

In a nutshell here is what is recommended for teens 14-18:

  • (girls) 7 servings vegetables/fruit, 6 servings grain products, 3-4 servings milk and alternatives, 2 servings meat and alternatives;

  • (boys) 8 servings vegetables/fruit, 7 servings grain products, 3-4 servings milk and alternatives, 3 servings meat and alternatives.

  • (It's those alternatives* that feature prominently in the rainbow and are all vegetarian!)
*Beans, lentils and tofu are all good sources of protein and alternatives for meat, poultry and fish.

Calcium fortified soya beverages and calcium fortified orange juice are good sources of non-dairy calcium.

Maybe you are already eating some vegetarian meals now (beans and toast, scrambled eggs, pasta and meatless sauce with a salad) - this is exactly how I started many years ago. A few times a week, I would prepare meatless meals. It is certainly OK to start slowly and progress over time.

Have you considered seeking out kids at your school who might be interested in vegetarianism? There are many vegetarian cookbooks out there aimed at teens now - your library might carry some. Could you put an ad in your school newspaper "Interested in starting up a vegetarian club? - meeting at 3:30 in room such and such" or something to that effect. It is really helpful and supportive to be with people who are interested in the same subjects as you are.

Do you like to cook? Maybe you could offer to prepare a meal; your mother would be most appreciative, I can almost guarantee that! And when you're the cook, you get to choose the menu. If you get The Spectator, keep your eyes open for meatless recipes. I have found some excellent recipes that are easy to follow, fast to prepare and with ingredients that I actually have in my cupboards!

Keep on doing what you are doing little by little - you are an inspiration!! I'm cheering you on! Let me know how you are making out - if I can be of further assistance, I am only to happy to do so.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

You have just dined; and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in a graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.

This quotation from the American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, came to mind this week, when I read the "In Memoriam" for a Mr. Virgil Butler ( Satya published excerpts from Mr. Butler's blog - he was a employee at a poultry processing plant - I was touched and reminded of the big picture in the issue of factory farming.

The animals are not the only ones suffering, the people who have chosen to work under these conditions are suffering as well. I agree with Emerson's words - there is complicity. We buy the meat, we are therefore part of this wheel of suffering. Full stop. The only ones who might be innocent in all of this are our young children, who are unaware of the picture and it's gruesome details.

A couple of years back, I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. In Chpater 8: The Most Dangerous Job, Schlosser describes the conditions in a slaughterhouse. I have never walked in these people's shoes and cannot imagine what it must be like to have to work in this industry. The workers perform incredibly dangerous work, often incurring serious injuries, under incredible pressure to work faster and faster and all without any real job security or adequate health/injury insurance. I think this might have been the picture for Virgil Butler; he talked about his own self-realization of no feelings and that the deadening of this sense had been necessary for him to keep doing his job. Of course it was necessary - he like any of us, needed a job and this was the one he was faced with. But something changed in his life... "After a number of years, all the things I had seen and been a part of started to haunt me." He began a journey of speaking his truth moving from (his own words) "a dangerous criminal" to a place where he felt "dammed peaceful" after years of being a part of the suffering involved in killing the birds night after night.

Virgil Butler was a young man when he died (41) - I had never even heard of him until this past week. He has made an impact on me.

You can visit his blog at or read the interview from February 2006 in Satya's website.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Energy Orbs with Dates & Walnuts

Or as I like to call them "Bucky balls" (my husband reads a lot about physics, sometimes aloud, this is one of my favourite descriptions, of which I do not have a clue.) I digress...back to the recipe, which is from Student's Go Vegan Cookbook by Carole Raymond (published by Three Rivers Press, New York). The author provided this recipe as a "melt-in-your-mouth alternative to commercial bars". Just try to eat only is darn near impossible as I have found out this weekend!

1 1/2 c pitted dates, 1 1/2 c toasted walnuts (see below for instructions), 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (optional...but not in my kitchen!), about 1/2 to 3/4 cup unsweetened (I used sweetened) finely shredded coconut (optional).

Toasting walnuts: preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Place walnuts on dry baking sheet and toast in oven for 5-6 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove nuts immediately from pan to stop cooking process and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Soak the pitted dates in hot water for about 10 minutes. Drain well.
In a food processor, grind the toasted nuts until the consistency of a coarse grain (almost a powder). Add the dates, vanilla and cocoa powder. Puree well; the mixture should be the consistence of a thick cookie dough.

Scrape the dough into a medium bowl. Put the coconut into a shallow bowl. Scoop tsp sized chunks of the puree and roll between your palms into 1/2 "orbs" (mine were more golf- ball sized) and roll the balls in the coconut to coat. This recipe yields 30 - 1/2 inch balls, my golf-sized bucky balls yielded about 26. They will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, if you are a disciplined, mindful eater!!

P.S. Thanks to my husband for the nice picture - I hope it entices you to try the recipe!

Eat Locally

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Mushroom Stroganoff (Serves 4-5)


  • 2 (heaping, if you like garlic!) tsp minced garlic & 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 pkg slightly thawed frozen spinach or 1-16 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 pkg frozen soy meatballs
  • 1 cup vegan sour cream (Tofutti's is the one I use - very tasty!)
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pkg rice noodles cooked (cook according to pkg instructions)

In frying pan, heat oil on medium high. Add garlic and onions, frying until golden or 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except for the sour cream and noodles. Cover and cook for approx. 10 minutes over medium heat.
Add the sour cream and prepared noodles; continue to heat over medium heat, stirring and adding small amount of water to prevent sticking and to thin sauce if it thickens too much. Heat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.

Comments: The inspiration for this recipe came from today's issue of the online Vegetarian Times Newsletter which I "veganized" and modified by adding mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce and substituting vegan sour cream and rice noodles.
The preparation time was fast and the end result enjoyed by all! Next time I might try seitan chunks instead of the soya meatballs.
If you are interested in trying the Tofutti's sour cream (and other Tofutti products) as well as the seitan, both are available at Goodness Me stores here in Hamilton.