As I grow older I find myself asking many of the same questions I did as a young child.
Many of the answers I get as an adult sound similar to those I got as a child. “Because I’m the mommy/daddy/responsible adult in charge and I said so, that’s why.”
I find myself asking more and more why we Americans eat the way we do, and insist the rest of the world do the same. The answer usually has something to do with recommendations made by people with more education or status than I have.
Take meat, for example.
I was in the grocery yesterday and saw pounds and pounds of meat. It’s fresh. It’s frozen. It’s canned. Practically every restaurant in the town where I live serves some kind of meat. Most restaurants brand themselves by the meat dishes they serve. Steak house. Barbecue shack. Burger joint.
Now I’m not preaching today on why you shouldn’t eat meat. I’m simply asking why we Americans think we have to have meat at every meal, and why we look upon those who don’t eat meat as weird.
Maybe it’s because our medical professionals told us we need to eat meat for good health.
Because the government told us we need to eat meat to stay healthy.
Because the meat industry advertises and lobbies to get that message out.
Or do we eat it because mommy and daddy said we should?
We believe we need meat, and lots of it, to be healthy, when what we really need are the protein and essential amino acids found in meat, but are also found in other sources.
The average woman needs 45-50 grams of protein per day. A woman who exercises a lot or is pregnant needs more. Consuming 50 grams of protein is roughly the equivalent of eating 6 ounces of roast beef per day. Hell, we Americans think we should eat that much per meal!
Protein is found in many sources, including vegetables. Eating one ounce of chicken gives you 7 grams of protein. Eating one ounce of roasted almonds gives you 6 grams of protein.
A Big Mac has 26 grams of protein; my typical lunch of a peanut butter sandwich on Ezekiel sesame seed bread provides 16 grams. Throw in some fruits and veggies: sugar snap peas have 3 grams per cup, blackberries contain 2 grams per cup, and 3 ounces of raw carrots have 1 gram protein.
Snack time: A Snickers bar has 3 grams protein; the Larabar I typically have for a snack provides 4. Instead have a Kind Madagascar vanilla almond bar and you get 7 grams protein with the added benefit of only 4 grams of sugar.
So you see, a vegan can easily get all the protein he or she needs through careful planning.
Which leads me back to my original question: why do we think we have to have meat at every meal?
Maybe it’s because that’s what we’ve been led to believe is the way things are. Dr. Melanie Joy calls this belief system carnism. Why is it not OK to eat cats and dogs, but it’s perfectly acceptable to eat pigs, cows, and chickens? It’s a belief system.
And where did we get this idea? It’s what we were taught by our parents, our school lunchroom ladies and gents, our doctors. It was reinforced by advertising and by the media. And we never stopped and asked why.
And it was preached to us by nutrition experts. Of course, it was experts who told us fat and not sugar consumption leads to heart disease. And we recently found out they told us so because the sugar industry paid them to. These experts even had their “research” findings published in a respected journal, and it’s still cited by many doctors. Maybe your own.
So perhaps it’s time to start asking yourself why you eat some of the things you do. The answers you discover might surprise you.