Thursday, July 16, 2009

Problem switching family to vegetarianism?

Monique; I've tried to switch my family over to vegetarian several times. Gave up and threw out all my vegetarian cookbooks. Looking around for solutions and new diets/cookbooks. Major problem with vegetarian diets that I've seen: they're all based on finding proteins from egg, milk, soy, legumes, or the like. What do you do when the people you are feeding have major food allergies, including all of the above, plus corn, tomatoes, fruit, etc.? (Take in account one of these people is 8 years old and growing -- and who has the worst food allergies. Major allergies to soy, legumes, corn, casein, artificial ingredients, yeast, etc. etc. etc.) Wondering if anyone has an answer, Liz B. Texas

Answer: First of all, you should not try to force other people to convert to a vegetarian lifestyle. Becoming a vegetarian is a personal choice that requires commitment, dedication, education and careful planning. (An understanding of basic nutrition is necessary to ensure good health.) People become resistant and resentful when they are forced to do anything against their will, especially children. Your best bet is to be a good example of healthy eating. If your family sees you enjoying vegetarian eating and benefitting from it, they will be more apt to try it for themselves.

Secondly, since your family has so many allergies, consulting an allergist to find out what foods they absolutely need to avoid would be wise. With this information, you may want to contact a nutritionist or registered dietitian that is familiar with proper vegetarian diets who can guide you and your family. They will be better able to tell you what foods can be substituted for the ones your family is allergic to. If you take certain foods out of your diet, you must substitute them with foods that are nutritionally comparable, otherwise you will become imbalanced. Since your family is allergic to beans, dairy, eggs, yeast, fruit and corn, achieving a balanced vegetarian diet will be difficult for them. Vegetarianism relies on the consumption of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, soy foods, seeds, nuts and nutritional yeast.

Finally, some people outgrow their allergies. So what your children may have been allergic to in the past, may not be the case now. This is why I suggest that you go to an allergist to ensure that your family members are still allergic to the foods you mentioned. Another option is to test these foods yourself, but this would take more time and an awareness of how your family reacts to each of these foods. Have them eat a small amount of these foods to see if their allergies are still a factor. Test each food one at a time. Otherwise, you will not know which food produced a reaction. If they have a negative reaction, avoid this food. If they don't, you may be able to slowly add it to their diet. However, due to the complicated nature of your situation, I recommend that you consult your doctor, allergist, or dietitian/nutritionist before taking matters into your own hands.

For more information, read about...

Vegetanism at

Allergies at

Dietitians at

and "Choosing and Using a Dietitian" at 

For recipes and more information about a healthy vegetarian and vegan diet, read my book
Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook

Other Recommended Books...

Plant Based Nutrition and Health
by Stephen Walsh

The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide To A Healthy Vegetarian Diet
by Vesanto Melina & Brenda Davis

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.

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