My secret to successful vegetarianism: quorn and making it up as we go along
- Credit: Archant
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.
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.
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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.
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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.