Eating less meat is better for the planet. Could my family go vegan for a month? I could? – Advice Eating

One of my son’s favorite recipes is “Dinner en papillote” – it sounds fancy, but it’s just sausage, potatoes, onions and mushrooms, wrapped in aluminum foil and baked for an hour.

Voila – dinner is served!

I expected the vegan version to be a hit. The soy chorizo ​​looked just like regular chorizo ​​and everything else was the same. I served it up with a flourish, pleased with myself. Hugh, 12, looked at the sausage and sighed, poked at it gloomily and then took a bite.

“It tastes kind of weird,” he said.

My other son Finn, 14 years old, was more direct: “It’s not chorizo, and I know chorizo,” he said. “Why are we doing this?”

“It’s just better,” I said. “For you, us – the planet.”

“You think This is better for the planet?” he asked, pointing to the wrong meat. “Probably not.”

And to be honest, I was beginning to wonder.

I had done the Vegan January as a research. I’m an environmental reporter at WBUR and I worked on a project on sustainable eating in New England. Everything I had read said that a vegan diet was better for the planet: lower greenhouse gas emissions, less water use, and obviously more animal-friendly than the standard American diet.

The first week was a steep learning curve. Or maybe it was a learning cliff? Because I got into some kind of vegan beginner’s hell.

And look, I know that climate change isn’t your fault, and it’s not up to you to fix it. But last summer, when the United Nations released its latest report on climate change, I spent a day reading and then spent an hour staring out the window in awe. The world has until 2050 to reach net-zero carbon emissions, and we’re not even close to it. But there is still a small glimmer of hope that if we all do what we can, we could avoid the worst effects of climate change.

And study after study says we can eat less meat.

But going vegan seemed difficult, potentially expensive, and also, as my son put it, “kinda weird”. So I thought I’d try it myself – “Gonzo journalism but with lenses!” said a friend. If nothing else, I would learn a few new recipes and finally figure out tofu. And it would be a family adventure!

My kids didn’t see it that way. They’re in middle school and happily unconcerned about planetary crises, so the climate benefits of a vegan diet weren’t a big selling point. When I gave them the idea, Finn stormed out of the room and Hugh sat on the couch looking sad. “But I like meat,” he said in a shaky voice. “I like to eat animal products.”

Some of the author’s vegan dishes. (Courtesy of Barbara Moran)

The boy really likes meat – he wrote an ode to Shake Shack for his poetry unit at school.

“Only for a month!” I said. “It will be fun!”

Shopping was fun anyway. I’ve bought all sorts of vegan stuff: nutritional yeast that supposedly tastes like parmesan cheese; flax seeds, which you can use in place of eggs; liquid amino acids, not exactly sure what those are for; and coffee creamer made from coconut, seaweed and mushrooms.

The first week was a steep learning curve. Or maybe it was a learning cliff? Because I got into some kind of vegan beginner’s hell. I made red curry noodles with broccoli and tofu, which looked amazing but were greasy and sticky. I’ve made vegan cheese tacos that Finn said tasted like “rubber scraps coated in Cheeto dust.” I made vegetable stew and the kids cast shadows. “It tastes like chicken soup, but someone else got all the chicken and we have the veggies,” Hugh said.

The author's son, Finn, shows his "Peanut Butter Cup Taco." (Courtesy of Barbara Moran)
The author’s son, Finn, shows off his “peanut butter cup taco.” (Courtesy of Barbara Moran)

Finn retaliated by making herself a “peanut butter cup taco” for lunch: pita bread topped with peanut butter and Nutella, then folded in half. With potato chips. “Look, I’m vegan!” he said happily.

I woke up hungry every morning with a pounding headache.

During the first weekend I could no longer bear the complaints of my sons. I made her stop being vegan and started my own business.

With the kids off my back, I found some balance. I introduced protein shakes and the headaches went away. But I didn’t feel good about chugging super processed protein powder, or vegan food in general. Much of it was high-calorie, expensive, and ultra-processed, with dubious nutritional value. One day I looked longingly at a can of tuna in the cupboard. Twenty-seven grams of protein in such a small container! So cheap and easy!

I bought some “Toona” made from pea protein. It smelled like rancid cat food.

This wasn’t my first odd food rodeo. About 15 years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease and had to stop eating wheat. This was before “gluten-free” became popular, and there were few products I could buy, mostly high-sugar, high-calorie, and super-processed. Eventually I stopped eating this stuff and stuck to things that weren’t naturally wheat-rice, corn, potatoes, lentils, fruits and vegetables. You know, Food.

That finally worked for me in Vegan Land. real food. I dropped the “chick’n” and “toona” and made polenta, quinoa salad, and bean soup. I ate avocado salad. I hugged chickpeas. I’ve roasted them, learned how to make falafel, and discovered the wonder of aquafaba — the gummy chickpea water that whips up like egg whites. I made a chocolate mousse out of it and the kids gulped it down.

When I started cooking real food, vegan food became pretty cheap and easy. And I didn’t miss meat at all.

That finally worked for me in Vegan Land. real food.

But I really missed fish and real cheese.

At the end of January I stopped being vegan. But the experiment changed my eating habits. I haven’t eaten much beef or pork since – I’ve lost the taste for it. Polenta, falafel, and quinoa have stayed on the menu, and I’ve become a chickpea evangelist.

The nutritional yeast and liquid amino acids remain unopened.

The other day my husband asked if he could throw them away. I almost said yes, but then I held back. My search for sustainable nutrition is not over yet. I’m still working on how I should eat to do my part for the planet while having fun with food and peace at home. So I said: Don’t throw them away just yet. I don’t think I’m done.

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