My Husband May Be Turning Into a Vegan Activist

Well, *there’s* a sentence I never thought I’d write…

So, technically my husband is not actually a vegan (he has yet to give up butter or the occasional pizza), and perhaps activist is a bit hyperbolic (although his co-workers might disagree) …

But before I explain what’s happened with my husband, I think a little background is in order:

Our 19 year-old daughter has been a vegetarian — off and on — for about eight years now. She declared her vegetarianism — without preamble, without any hint of a warning — just before her twelfth birthday. We were camping and my husband had just set a barbecued pork chop onto her plate when she suddenly pushed the plate away and said, “I don’t want to eat this; I want to be a vegetarian.”

So, of course — as any parents would do — my husband and I questioned her on it. Isn’t this rather out of the blue? we asked.

But no, apparently not. Apparently, it was something she had been thinking of for quite some time*, and because of that it didn’t even occur to us that it was something we could, or should, be talking her out of.

(I do confess that when, a few short months later, our daughter’s politically- and socially-active social studies teacher showed her class the documentary Food, Inc (much to the chagrin of many parents) and one of her best friends went home and told her parents that she too wanted to become a vegetarian, and her parents simply said, Oh no, you’re NOT! … I felt slightly duped. Did YOU know, I asked my husband, that we could simply have said “No”?!?!)

Has this last paragraph left you with the impression that I was less-than-happy with her supposedly well-thought-out stance?

Yes, I admit to a fair amount of grumbling:

What’s she going to eat when we have chicken?! What about the pasta sauce?! And why am I the one now stuck cooking (cough*heating*cough) TWO meals?!

But, ah … the beauty that occasionally comes with hindsight … ! Looking back on it now, I’m extraordinarily glad that we didn’t talk her out of it, because although our daughter’s position was tempered by a short period during which she acquiesced slightly and ate organic, free-range meat and chicken, her vegetarianism has meant several things to our family:

  • It forced me to become a better cook (although I confess to a fair amount of *heating* until the year I gave up processed food):http://greengreyandgezellig.com/?p=483
  • Her stance influenced her younger brother, who also turned vegetarian for a time, and who, to this day, remains very thoughtful about the food he eats.
  • Our youngest son has — from a very young age — been exposed to (and eats!) a wide variety of foods which he claims his friends’ parents would never dream of setting on the table**.
  • It further heightened my already-strong interest in reading about nutrition and health, which has resulted in a healthier and more varied diet than we would have had otherwise, and we have all slowly moved along with her to what has become, in the last couple of years, a nearly-completely vegetarian diet.
  • It has likely halted what we’ve always imagined to be my husband’s genetic “fate”: a predisposition that would lead inexorably towards weight gain and chronic disease.

And this is where we return to my husband and the whole vegan-esque activist thing …

My husband has recently done two things (and by that, I mean he has done them independently; he has not just watched me do them and then listened to my take on things):

  1. He’s read How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease, by Dr. Michael Greger, the medical doctor who runs the website nutritionfacts.org. This is a two-part book which deals with both the scientific evidence which lies behind the top fifteen causes of death in the U.S., as well as the foods*** which have been shown to prevent these diseases. It’s well-written and very accessible; my husband, who has a strong technical background, but is completely unversed in biological matters, has found it to be a fascinating read.
  2. He’s watched the documentary Cowspiracy. This is an eye-opening movie which does two things: firstly, it illustrates the enormous and wide-ranging effects animal agriculture has on the Earth, from deforestation to toxic run-off to dead zones in oceans to methane production to the mis-use of antibiotics to climate change; and secondly, it highlights the failure of environmental organizations to acknowledge the elephant in the room that is agribusiness.

Now, although my husband has compelling personal reasons to be galvanized by what he’s read and watched, it’s struck me that this book and this film provide a powerful wake-up call even to those without those compelling personal reasons; that if ever there were reasons to experiment with Meatless Mondays, to become a weekday vegetarian, or to *gasp* go whole hog (pun intended) and do one’s darnedest to become a vegan, well, these two things in concert would be IT, because the evidence is powerful: what’s good for our health is also good for the planet’s health.


*“…quite some time…” Ha! Our daughter recently confessed that it actually wasn’t something she had thought about prior to that fateful supper; she just figured we would be less likely to talk her out of it if we felt it was a decision she had conscientiously arrived at. What a stinker….

**Does it sound like our ten year-old son is ecstatic about this arrangement? He’s not. If he had his way I would be serving Kraft Dinner (macaroni and cheese) every. single. meal. But hey, we’re not zealots! He had a hot dog just last week when we went to a hockey game.

***Greger’s book promotes a whole food plant-based diet: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds, with little to no ultra-processed foods.

15 thoughts on “My Husband May Be Turning Into a Vegan Activist

  1. Dang it, Marian. I watched The True Cost last summer and now I can’t shop for clothing the same way. I know if I read/watch your recommendations here, it’s going to make food difficult, too. And food is already difficult. I think I’m just waiting for the kids to go away to school. At this stage of the game, the idea of trying to change things for two almost (next week) 18-year-olds who are perfectly fine with eating meat and processed foods is unmanageable to me. But change needs to happen. Nudging is not very comfortable, but I appreciate it.

    Like

    1. Oh Rita, does it mean I’m a terrible person if your “Dang it, Marian” made me laugh?

      So … hmmm … I don’t know if this will make you feel any better, but I have to confess that I am purposefully NOT watching The True Cost. What food is to you, clothing is to me 😦 .

      I completely understand the inherent difficulty of trying to change entrenched habits in late teenagers, and I’m not sure I would be willing and/or able to do it either. And I do know you aren’t all that interested in food either … so I should ‘fess up and say that I may be guilty of stirring the pot just a little bit with this post … because remember when you said you were looking forward to dinners of grilled cheese when your kids move out? (I can’t remember the exact post now…). Well, when I read that, I did kinda sorta wince and say to myself, Oh, Rita! Legumes! And add some veggies! And a salad…or some kale 😉 ; they’re so good for you! (And YES … total buttinski thinking on my part, but totally because I care about you!) (And yup, I do now deserve for you to get back at me by doing a post on clothing 😉 ).

      Like

      1. You are not a terrible person! If you couldn’t laugh at that, we couldn’t actually be friends. 🙂 When I have grilled cheese, I do often have a salad or some other vegetables. Usually.

        What I think is that when the kids aren’t living here, food will be easier AND I will have some time to finally learn/experiment more. That food has become what it has with them makes me just kinda sad. I started them out so well. I made all their baby food–not once did they eat processed baby food, even when we traveled. (We were crazy people who carted a cooler of food on an airplane–along with two babies, two car seats, etc.–because I didn’t want them to eat Gerber’s.) When they were babies/toddlers, they had a varied, healthy diet. (Although I confess: I used to take them to McDonald’s after going to the library. That was the only time we’d go, and I purposely did that so they’d associate library with treats. Maybe our food issues is some kind of cosmic punishment for manipulative parenting. But both kids do love to read…)

        Anyway. Yes, I think some payback is due. 😉 Might have to get to work on the clothing post that’s been banging around in my head for quite some time.

        Like

      2. Ah, Rita, you’re not alone … I think there are many situations that we, as parents, find ourselves in for which the question arises, HOW did we get here?! And how on earth are we going to get out of this now?. I’ve been in a few myself with my kids — food-related and otherwise…and they all seem to start out so small (“just one” or “just this time”) and then the withholding of whatever it is seems to take an inordinate amount of effort and to completely buck the trend of what “everyone else is doing”. It’s just not easy, is it, to go against the flow of everything that’s out there! I do have to say I’ve never been above the occasional treat or bribe either — we too went to McDonald’s on occasion, and I admit that my way to get them to eat a bowl of carrot sticks when they were young was to turn on The Magic School Bus 🙂 . I will say that I do believe a complete reversal (of whatever) is actually possible…but that it’s most easily done when the kids are young. I’ve done this several times over the years, for various things/reasons, most recently with our 10 year-old and technology … but I know for a fact that if I tried to institute the same technology rules with my 17 year-old it would not fly at all.

        I’m glad to hear you’re eating your veggies. Usually. 🙂 I do think you’re right about the fact that things will be easier, food-wise, when your kids move out next fall. And perhaps if you re-invent yourself in that area I will be inspired to re-invent myself, clothing-wise (as in, buying responsibly, as well as with regards to style). It IS something I’ve thought about many times before but have always managed to shy away from; maybe the fall before I turn 50 would be a good time for that 🙂 .

        Like

      3. The healthy start may yet pay off! My mom was a stickler for healthy, homemade food when my brother and I were little. When we were around 6 and 9, she began itching to do other things and wanted us to make our own breakfasts and lunches and snacks, so she started buying more convenience foods. The one hard line I can recall is that we didn’t have soda in the house except for birthday parties and New Year’s Eve. My brother and I enjoyed the junkier foods, and both of us when we went away to college drank soda daily for a while. But during our twenties we each, separately, went back to healthier eating. Because it just feels right! Our healthy start likely has something to do with that.

        Like

      4. I’m so glad you chimed in, ‘Becca 🙂 . I’m finding that my 17 year-old is now eating a lot more processed and junkier foods, because now that he’s more mobile (he takes the vehicle fairly often to see friends) he’s choosing to buy them for himself. He’s already said that when he gets into second year university (first year being in a dorm with a meal plan so no cooking required) he’s going to subsist on Kraft Dinner 😦 . Your comment has given me hope that perhaps he actually WON’T, or at the very least that he’ll tire of it sooner rather than later and return to his healthy roots.

        Like

  2. Its funny, I too became a better cook because of my child’s (unstated) food requirements. If not for Henry’s multiple allergies, we would have been eating nightly at the Wegman’s prepared food section for the past ten years. Even though I detest cooking, I’ve gotten much better at it.

    I would like for us for to be MUCH MUCH less meat intensive. Not even vegetarian, but wayyyyy less meat–I eat meat maybe once a week, even though I’m preparing it every night. Sadly, absolutely no one in my family wants to eat any less meat. My husband is very supportive of 99% of my ideas, but when I said, lets eat less meat! he said “slow your roll, sister.” I have tried to make up for this by serving at least two veggies and a fruit at every meal. I eat a lot of leftover veggies for lunch.

    I think its nice that your whole family has come to a similar view on food (if not exactly the same). I have five wildly disparate food needs and views in my family. (I hesitate to enumerate all of the health issues on the internets.) I just keep plugging away with the vegetables. 😉

    Like

    1. I often reflect on the fact that I am a much “better” person because of my children 🙂 .

      Oh, I hear you on the stubbornness/unwillingness of husbands and children! Our youngest has been the toughest sell in all of this; his complaining seemed to go on for WAY too long, but he’s finally to the point where he simply eats what’s set in front of him. My husband, surprisingly, was not a roadblock in any of this, despite the fact that he grew up in a meat-centric household, and particularly loved barbecued chicken/ribs/pork chops. Working in my favour is the fact that he’s very adaptable and easy-going, and as “50s marriage” as this sounds, he’s just inordinately happy to see a meal on the table when he comes home from work — meaning I could pretty much set anything in front of him and he wouldn’t complain! My one BIL, on the other hand, has been a “where’s the meat” kind of guy, just like your husband, although that MAY be changing now. My FIL had bypass surgery this fall, and I feel like this is perhaps finally the “cautionary tale” his three sons needed to see. My SIL has read Greger’s book, at my recommendation, and is hugely motivated to make some changes to their diet, even if they don’t go all the way and get rid of meat altogether, and she says her husband is willing to go along with her.

      I do think that your “making up for the meat” by serving extra veggies and fruits is a good plan. There are important health benefits to the veggies regardless of the rest of the diet, and I can’t help but think that if you’re serving a lot of veggies that there might be a chance that your family may actually be eating a bit less meat at every meal than they otherwise would have? And I have to take my hat off to you with regards to the FIVE disparate food needs that you’re dealing with on a day-in and day-out meal-to-meal basis … that’s such a difficult situation to be in …

      Like

  3. Isn’t it nice when people come around to the right way of thinking all on their own? 😉

    I really enjoy your stories about your kids, they come across as a mix of individual, thoughtful, and mischievous. It sounds like everyone in your family has done some fairly deep thinking about how to eat, I think that’s great even if they don’t net out to exactly the same place you do.

    As you know we are a vegetarian household (I am actually the least-strict of the three of us) but one can always do better. We definitely eat our fair share of dairy. Mostly, I would really like to eat less processed soy. My kid eats a lot of processed foods in general. I think her pickiness is partly a sensory thing, and partly it’s just really tough to get kids to eat whole, unprocessed foods in this era of hyperpalatability. Similar to what you and Rita described above, I started out making baby food from scratch and then at some point all she would eat was cereal bars and Kraft dinner, and I am honestly not sure how that happened. (She does eat more widely than that now, although I know she will moan about tonight’s lentil-barley stew, despite it being on her list of acceptable dinners.)

    Along those lines I would love to know more about your technology rules for your 10-year-old. We’ve cracked down (A LOT) recently and honestly it’s been a good thing all around — but it’s always good to get a gut check from others. I think screens, especially Internet-connected ones, are the activity/pastime equivalent of hyperpalatability in the food system.

    Like

    1. I have to admit I’ve been very pleasantly surprised that my husband actually, willingly, with NO prodding on my part, read the book on his own! He’s been so amenable to all of this, for all these years, but I have always felt somewhat like the teacher … it’s much nicer to know he’s now figured it out for himself! (If at times disconcerting — he has NO background in biology, so some of the words/concepts he’s now throwing around take me somewhat by surprise 😉 ).

      Thank you for your kind words about the stories I tell about my kids 🙂 . They are an incredibly thoughtful bunch, and (ahem, mostly) good-humoured (and oftentimes humorous and/or witty as well) — I’m incredibly lucky!

      I knew you ate a LOT of vegetarian fare, Sarah, but I didn’t actually know you were a “vegetarian household”. I can’t help myself — I’m going to have to say great minds think alike even though I’m not overly fond of that phrase 😉 .

      We used to eat more processed soy than we do now, but I know the reason I’ve been able to cut back on that is because I simply have more time to cook than you do (as per our discussion on my processed food post). Lately, I’ve been making an effort to cut back on tofu, and in some of the recipes in which I’ve previously used grated tofu (or in which my daughter, cooking for herself at university, might use TVP) I’ve been using lentils. So in my sweet potato chili, for example, I’ve been simmering black beluga lentils along with the sweet potatoes, before adding in the rest of the beans/tomatoes etc.

      Ah, the hyperpalatability thing — that’s a huge problem! A few years ago, I read Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss and oh my gosh, what an eye-opener … home cooking is truly up against a colossus with processed foods 😦 . My ten year old still moans; his name for the lentil-potato soup I often cook is “rabbit poop stew” … but thank goodness, he will now simply eat it rather than putting his head on the table and crying.

      In a nutshell, there is now NO technology on weekdays for our 10 year old … which, just as you say, has been a good thing all around! (I am in COMPLETE agreement that the internet connected screens are the equivalent of hyperpalatability in the food system!). I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a post on this subject — I have a LOT to say on it, but I’ve been hesitant because I sometimes feel talk of screen time/video games can be taken as a reflection on parenting (in other words, I neither wish to be criticized, nor do I wish to be perceived as doing the criticizing, which might be a tough balance to write!). However, I will see what I can come up with, because I do think it’s an important subject!

      Like

      1. Many thanks for linking to the homemade veggie burgers…the “nutshroom” burgers look especially good to me 🙂 .

        Like

  4. My husband’s family owns a food distribution company and he’s amazingly well-versed in the “heat and serve” dinner options. Even the mashed potatoes at their family Thanksgiving come out of a box. (How hard is it to boil and mash potatoes?!?)

    My parents were the exact opposite. My sister and I were laughing about how they were so ahead of their time because our bread was always the dense seeded and sprouted and whole grain variety (white bread….ewwww) and the most processed thing we really ever had was white rice with the veggie stir fry.

    Basically, all that background to say – when Christians talk about “not being unequally yoked in marriage” – I think the religion hurdle is easier to get over than the food preferences. Because I am not kidding – the parenting disagreement we have the most often revolves around food and what he’s willing to put in our kids bodies.

    Maybe I should recommend the above to him…as for me, I’ll pass. I read “The Ethics of What We Eat” when I was pregnant with Violet and it still haunts me.

    Like

    1. Oh Kate, you’re up against quite a bit — I can totally see how food would be a big issue in your house 😦 . I was raised somewhat like your husband (although not as extreme: my mom did manage to cook mashed potatoes 😉 ), while my husband was raised by “cooks”, albeit rather unhealthy cooks! I can still remember how absolutely horrified my then-boyfriend/now-husband was when he came to my parents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner and the fare was Kentucky Fried Chicken. We might have gone the way you and your husband did (unequal yoking, I mean) had it not been for the fact that I really wanted to make a change and start eating healthier (although I didn’t really know what that meant, and didn’t have the time or ability, and really, my husband didn’t either, so we actually didn’t make great strides there, unfortunately). Your talk of bread made me smile … both my husband and I were raised on white bread, and when we got married we bought 60% whole wheat which I thought was a REALLY BIG DEAL, haha 🙂 .

      Just FYI (as in, I’m truly not trying to pressure you at all, but just feel I should clarify) — the book and the movie really don’t get into the ethics of eating meat from an animal rights perspective. Aside from two scenes in the movie — when they visit a fellow who slaughters one of his backyard ducks, and when a sick cow is forklifted away, there are no gory parts to the movie; it’s really focussed solely on the environment. And the book is solely concerned with human health and doesn’t mention animal welfare. The book does talk about — ahem — men’s issues, shall we say? which I’m sure might cause ANY man reading it to take a closer look at their diet 😉 .

      Like

This thinker would love to know what you think ... thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s