The protein question

I’ve written before about my 12-year-old son who decided he’d become a vegetarian when he was 8. You have to hand it to the kid: he’s never wavered. Not for a pepperoni pizza, not for fresh smallmouth bass caught by his dad, not for gummy bears or marshmallows made with gelatin.

Luckily, he’s willing to try new things and genuinely likes beans and most vegetables. He’s even becoming interested in cooking—thanks, in large part, to the fact that his middle school has mandatory classes in cooking and baking, a rarity these days.

Lunch in a bowl: vegetarian soup for all reasons

And his decision has definitely had a huge impact on our family’s eating habits. The rest of us now eat meat only occasionally (maybe once a week), and rarely cook it at home. For the record, I don’t think everyone has to go veg, though, as most people have heard, there is growing evidence showing a plant-based diet is better for your health—not to mention the environment.

But all this growing awareness about eating less meat doesn’t stop everyone (and I mean everyone) from asking us worriedly how we get our growing (and athletic) child to eat enough protein. From now on, I will offer my standard “did you know broccoli is a great protein source?” and send them directly to Michele Simon’s scathing article: Protein propaganda: it’s what’s for dinner in Grist.

Simon points to the powerful meat lobby and its stranglehold on our collective food conscience. She argues: “One way to distract attention away from heart attacks and colon cancer is to conflate the idea of meat with a nutrient that we do in fact need: protein.”

Grist is doing an entire series called Protein Angst trying to break down the rhetoric about this incredibly controversial subject. I’ll definitely be watching it.

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