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My secret to successful vegetarianism: quorn and making it up as we go along

Shaan and Dhillon Johal tuck into their wraps Shaan and Dhillon Johal tuck into their wraps

Monday, May 19, 2014
2:32 PM

It is National Vegetarian Week this week from May 19-May 25 and while there are those who will take up the challenge to go meat free for the week, for Chief Reporter Kay Atwal it has become a way of life.

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My children enjoyed refried beans, quorn pieces and a colourful salad, followed by strawberriesMy children enjoyed refried beans, quorn pieces and a colourful salad, followed by strawberries

In the early days, when I gave up meat as a teenager, I also tried to do without eggs and diary products but found it too difficult. Now, several decades later and as the mother of two, I make sure our diet is not only meat-free but also nutritionally balanced. My children, Shaan, aged 11 and Dhillon, aged seven, regularly roll up their eyes when they hear my mantra of “protein, carbohydrates, a tiny bit of fat and loads of fruit and veg”.

In fact, I think becoming a mum has made me a healthier person: long gone are the days of peanut butter and scrambled eggs on toast for dinner. I cook more often and make sure there is enough protein in our meals.

Eggs and cheese are a staple but what makes life easier nowadays, compared to say the 80s or the 90s, is the availability of meat alternatives: quorn, soya-based products as well as vegetarian versions of most dishes.

I would be lost without my quorn burgers, hot dogs and pepperoni for the children’s school lunches. They also come in handy for preparing wraps with fajita strips, a big favourite with both of them, to which I can add salad, hummus or their choice of dips.

Dhillon piled his wrap up with his favourite things: refried beans, salad and hummusDhillon piled his wrap up with his favourite things: refried beans, salad and hummus

The real key to success for us as vegetarians is experimenting, making things up as we go along and having what we fancy. There are days when no-one wants a cooked meal, so we sit around the table with a selection of breads, cheeses, chopped carrots, cucumbers and home made hummus.

A recent addition to our vegetarian lifestyle has been the purchase of a smoothie maker into which we throw all our favourite fruits, greens and nuts or seeds.

The beauty of it is that it is all fresh, we know exactly what is in the finished product and there are no additives or E numbers. Plus my children love making smoothies - I’m sure I have cracked the secret of getting youngsters to eat their five-a-day.

That’s the how, now to the why. I like animals, just not on my plate and my daughter Shaan, aged about seven at the time, summed it up for me when she told a meat eating friend: “I don’t want my stomach to be a graveyard for dead animals.”

My son Dhillon has tried meat and spat it out, saying he didn’t like the taste.

While I have never been able to reconcile the perceived need for meat consumption when there is a huge variety of other things to eat, I have also never felt the need to lecture meat eaters or to encourage them to give up meat. Indeed my husband is not a vegetarian and we manage to co-exist without any conflict about the matter.

It is my choice not to eat meat and he respects that just as I respect his choice to enjoy chicken, ham, or bacon.

I know from personal experience that I feel healthier as a vegetarian and that is how I am bringing up my children. As a mother how could I do otherwise?

I realise they may decide to eat meat when they are older and if and when that day comes I will respect their right to make their own choice, as my parents gave me the freedom to make mine.

To find out more about national vegetarian week, go to nationalvegetarianweek.org.

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