Friday, June 11, 2010

Score One For the Veggies

I am a wayward vegetarian. It's a cause and lifestyle that I strongly believe in, though not in the annoying, preachy, self-righteous way of some of my meat-eschewing counterparts. You know, the kind who would throw rocks at me for refusing to give up my Thanksgiving turkey, despite eating vegetarian for the 364 other days of the year (okay, except for the periodical sushi-eating cheating). Case in point - I met a vegan at a party a few years ago, and exclaimed "Hooray! Yeah, vegans!!" She looked at me like I'd suddenly become interesting and asked "Oh, are you vegan?" My response was something along the lines of "No, but I eat vegan Monday-Friday." (Hey, every little bit counts, people!) Her eyes narrowed, she gave a brief, derisive chuckle and looked away. End of conversation. Charmer, huh?

Although I pore over vegan blogs and research vegan recipes (that I most likely will never cook) with a fanatical zeal, I seem to have trouble committing completely these days. Before I became pregnant, I had been a devoted vegetarian for a solid year, and a 90% vegetarian for several years prior. My reasons are primarily environmental - once I started reading about the eco benefits of vegetarianism, there was no turning back. However, I also happen to believe that you do NOT need to give up meat entirely to benefit the planet - according to environmental organizations, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads. In other words, a big benefit for a small sacrifice. Okay, I'm off my soapbox.

I had a meat-free pregnancy until the third trimester, when I developed a wicked, undeniable craving for turkey burgers and vanilla malts, and who was I to deny my fetus its burgers? Since Carter's birth, it's been tough to kick the habit in favor of my old meatless ways, mainly because it takes some meal-planning savvy to be sure I get enough protein as a vegetarian, and I was in no position to meal plan in my chaos of postpartum hormones. However, for the past few months I've finally been getting back in the tofu-tempeh-lentil habit.

So it was with great dismay that at our past two pediatrician appointments, the doctor repeatedly insisted that we start feeding Carter meat. "He needs the iron" he said. Now, this isn't our regular pediatrician - she's out on maternity leave - so automatically I am skeptical. However, I wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, so I did a little research (stats are from Wholesome Baby Food, AKA my bible):

Turkey (200 grams - a bit over 1 cup roasted leg meat)
Vitamin A - 0 mg
Vitamin C - 0
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) - .12 mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) - .48 mg
Niacin - 7.1 mg
Folate - 18 mcg

Potassium - 560 mg
Phosphorus - 398 mg
Magnesium - 46 mg
Calcium - 64 mg
Sodium - 154 mg
Iron - 4.6 mg


LENTILS (one cup - cooked)

Vitamin A - 16 IU
Vitamin C - 3 mg
Niacin - 2 mg
Folate - 358 mcg
Thiamin - .3 mg
Riboflavin - .14 mg

Potassium - 731 mg
Sodium - 12 mg
Calcium - 38 mg
Phosphorus - 356 mg
Magnesium - 71 mg
Iron - 6.5 mg

WOWZA! Look at all that iron in a serving of LENTILS. Far more than in the same approximate serving size of turkey. Perhaps I will print this out for reference at our ten-month visit with the good doctor, because evidently he needs a Nutrition 101 refresher.

Despite my veggie iron triumph, I still decided to give Carter meat last weekend. I don't actually intend to raise a vegetarian child, but prefer instead to serve meat as an occasional supplement to his diet - a treat, per se - not the main course. So I went to good ol' Whole Foods and bought organic dark meat ground turkey (apparently dark meat is higher in fat and iron than white meat, making it good for babies) and sauteed it in organic extra virgin olive oil (in case you hadn't noticed, "organic" is a big keyword for me). Then I pureed it, added it to an organic red lentil/garlic kale puree, mixed it all with melted organic monterey jack cheese and served it to the Roo for dinner that night.

The verdict? It was a hit. And even though I am a wayward, noncommittal vegetarian, I found it surprisingly bittersweet to give my baby meat. But until there comes a day that he decides to abstain from meat on his own, I'll let the boy have his turkey occasionally.

But the lentils reign supreme.


Sanjana said...

Ha!! When Avram's pediatrician told us he needed meat in his diet, my first thought was, "Those BILLIONS of people in India who don't eat meat seem to be doing just fine." =)

HollyLynne said...

This is one I'm going to have to deal with soon too. I'll have been (lacto-ovo) vegetarian for 13 years this August. I was waiting for meat cravings to kick in during my pregnancy, but they never did (although I had a big veggie burger phase in the first trimester).
I'm also not set on raising a veggie child, that'll be his own decision to make someday. I do wonder how we're going to work the meat thing out though because I want very much too cook his food for him and I don't cook meat. The husband could probably cook if he really, really tried but I'm not sure he'd make it a priority, seeing as he eats veg 95% of the time anyhow. I think Rhys will wind up primarily veggie by default, at least in the pureed food state.

HollyLynne said...

Also, no meat and I still managed to crank out a 9lb 13oz baby. Just sayin' :)