a few nights ago *h and i watched the documentary forks over knives (inspired by several blog readers who suggested it- thank you!).

first off, *h’s normal reaction to any documentary is to walk into our room, see i’m watching a documentary, smirk, and promptly plug in his kindle fire and headphones to completely screen out anything i might be watching, lest some wayward information cut into his precious downtime at the end of a long and stressful day.

so imagine my surprise when he not only paused in his blocking manuever, but actually stayed interested and then gave forks over knives his full and undivided attention.

several months ago a good friend of mine watched forks over knives (you know who you are, and i should have listened to you more closely back then…), and she tried to tell me about some of what she had learned. but i was so saturated at that point by a slew of food  documentaries that i just couldn’t process any additional info. i was juggling lots of competing agendas in my head (and i must confess that i still am and i still will be for quite some time, as i try not to be the time to flit casually from one fad to another…), and i was just not “into” the idea of taking on one more dietary modification.

but the more we watched forks over knives, the more we felt like maybe we could at least move in the direction.

the central premise of the movie, as i understood it, is that animal-based foods are really bad for you. it is a misunderstanding that we need animal proteins in order to be healthy, and in fact in many studies they have been shown to be detrimental to our health.several chronic diseases can be linked to diets heavy in animal protein consumption. meat has been shown to be a catalyst for cancers. dairy has not given us the calcium we need, has not inhibited things like osteoporosis, and does not provide protein in any meaningful ways that we can’t get from healthier pant-based sources. at the same time, plant-based diets are rife with health benefits, have no deleterious side effects, and have benefits for the planet (environmental, social, etc.).

now here come the multiple disclaimers:

first off, i don’t necessarily believe that animal proteins are inherently unhealthy for us. i do believe, however, that animal proteins as they are now- meaning as they are commercially produced- are gross and sick and decidedly unhealthy in lots of ways… and i do believe that truly healthy meat and dairy products are either so expensive or so time and land-intensive to raise yourself that it is almost an unrealistic dream that we would honestly be able to commit to using them even majority of the time. so if i am truthful and i tell you that i will continue to feed my family meat and dairy, then i am admitting to you that i am serving them the substandard meat and dairy which if i think about it makes me kind of sick. so we can do better, but we are not going to do well enough. sad but true. enough said on that front.

second, my family has gotten used to a certain way of eating. i am a hardline parent in lots of ways. i am very comfortable with “my way or the highway” when i think it is appropriate. eating is not one of those areas. this means that i am not willing to force my kids “cold turkey” into large pots of lentil soup and seaweed crackers. this also means that they are sadly used to lots of white pasta and lots of cheese. we don’t eat tons of meat, and i make chicken about once a week with enough left over to make one meal during the week when served with a pot of soup and some side dishes. but my kids have a handful of go-to meals that they eat over and over and they don’t readily step outside of that comfort zone. so change is going to be a difficult process for us.

third, we don’t have a ton of wiggle-room in the budget for swapping. so i know that some people say to just substitute what they eat now for healthier equivalents. so switch regular milk for raw milk and regular cheese for organic cheese. but going from $2.49 a gallon milk to $5.99 a gallon milk and $6 a pound cheese to ????? (meaning i can only imagine how horrified i would be if i knew…) cheese is not an option- especially given the quantities we use. and cutting down on the quantities we use isn’t really an option either, since there isn’t anything to use in place of those items. rice milk or almond milk in place of cow’s milk? tried it and the kids would literally rather boycott food and whine about being hungry (yes, we could wait it out, but this is not a policy i am willing to enforce for many many philosophical reasons). plain noodles with no cheese? also no protein, and although the american diet is too protein heavy i am still not a big fan of carb-loading my kids with no balance in their diets…

so… here is your challenge:

i would like you to post some of your favorite plant-based main dish recipes. they need to be filling and not too labor-intensive. i don’t mind some investment of time, since i’m not a high-powered executive who needs a meal in 30 minutes or less, but i can’t spend 7 hours over one meal, either. they have to appeal to people who aren’t used to eating all sorts of funky foods and have ingredients that i can find without going to exotic locations (like, if i have to find a niche Filipino grocery, or a Jamaican vegetable stand, they are out…).

i will make a post with the recipes for everyone to see so we can all enjoy them, and that way we can all benefit. if the response to this all is positive, i don’t mind re-watching the other great food documentaries (food inc., king corn, etc. and posting about them here too- let me know what you think about that idea…)

ok, guys- i turn it over into your very capable hands! i can’t wait for your recipes- i feel healthier already!🙂