Question: I was a vegetarian, but gave it up. I would like to begin again. Can you help me? Also, what kind of food should I feed a child?
There are a number of reasons why – despite good intentions – you may not be able to give up eating meat. Let’s go through them one by one:
If meat is the only available food source, but this only really applies in places of extreme climate, such as very cold places like the Arctic regions, or very hot and desert-like areas. So, for example, the Inuit people of the Arctic may have to eat meat to survive, but for the majority of us the non-availability of vegetarian food is not an issue.
You may have the impression that by not eating meat you would be lacking in protein, or essential vitamins and minerals. Nutritionally speaking, of course, it’s increasingly well known these days that that just isn’t so. You can get more than enough protein and other essential nutrients by eating a balanced vegetarian diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, dairy products, nuts and seeds. A vegan diet (without dairy products) is also adequate, as long as you eat enough protein-rich whole-grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. In any case, your body will “tell” you what you need to eat. If you have a particular craving for any type of food, it may mean that you need the nutrients that it supplies – so trust the natural signals your body gives to you.
Due to your personal preference, you may like the taste or texture of meat, and/or think vegetarian food is bland or unsubstantial in comparison. If you do feel like this but you still want to go veg, try using soy meat-substitutes like soy chunks, as well as other soy and gluten products that look and taste like meat. For example, mock chicken, duck, pork, etc. In some places they even make it look like meat as well, with drumsticks of “chicken” for example! Learn vegetarian recipes that actually taste good. There are plenty of ways of cooking vegetarian food in a tasty way. For example, spaghetti bolognaise cooked with soy mince instead of real mince is practically indistinguishable from the original.
The yogic system of food excludes onion and garlic (because of their dulling effect on the mind), but you can make up for their taste by using a powder called hing (asafetida), which is made from a root found in India. Just fry it in a bit of cooking oil before throwing in the vegetables. If you fry it with finely chopped cabbage it gives an extra onion-like taste. Of course there are other herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, chili, etc, that you can use in an endless number of creative ways to spice up your meals.
Whether it’s food or anything else, the company you keep is also very important. If you keep the company of thieves you will become a thief. It’s true! So when you want to go veg, it’s important that you eat with other vegetarians. Apart from being able to share recipes and other helpful information, it will keep you inspired to stick to the vegetarian diet and make it more convenient for you to do so. For example, if you live with other vegetarians, you can pool your resources and share the shopping and cooking. So the company you keep is very important.
If you’ve been eating meat for a long time, your digestive system will most probably have become clogged up with all the toxins and other particles of partially digested meat. So it’s a good idea to clean your system before you go vegetarian. That will increase the efficiency of the digestive process, and allow you to absorb all the essential nutrients and vital energy of your food. It also means you’ll feel satisfied on less, without the bloated feeling and indigestion of eating meat. Of course there are many other health benefits to eating vegetarian food, but we won’t go into all of them now. Suffice it to say that a vegetarian diet is better for the mind, body, animals, and the environment!
There are various ways of cleaning your digestive system, including going on a fruit and/or lemon-water fast, but perhaps the best way is to get into the habit of doing a regular one-day fast every two weeks. That will give your organs a well-earned rest as well as cleaning and detoxifying your whole system.
Regarding children, it’s especially important that children are not introduced to meat, at least before the age of five. Up to this age the best food for them is milk, fruits and roots. After five you can introduce sugar, starch and fatty substances into their diet. The emphasis should be on alkaline food (fruits, lightly cooked vegetables, milk, etc) as opposed to acidic, starchy, processed, sugary foods. It’s also good to give children lime-water (mineral lime) on occasions, and of course plenty of fresh air and sunshine.