John Lindsay and Linda Cartier know some people, including members of their family, consider them a bit eccentric since they stopped eating meat about four years ago. But they don’t care.
Lindsay lost 30 pounds in six months, his blood pressure dropped, and he has stopped taking several heart medications. Cartier maintains her svelte figure; she looks great.
The Sudbury couple, who do not eat red meat, fish, chicken, eggs or dairy products, are vegans.
“We became vegans literally overnight,” after watching a DVD, Save Yourself, Save the Planet, about the food industry and what we eat, says Lindsay.
“After viewing it, we were committed to changing our lifetime of eating habits and to becoming totally vegan,” he explains.
The DVD delivered a health message that Lindsay, who had just had a heart stent implant, found enlightening.
“The message was, ‘We were all brought up to believe what we were fed was good for us and normal. When, in fact, much of what we were eating, especially fast food and convenience food was clogging our arteries and creating environments within our bodies where cancer and heart disease could easily develop’,” the retired civil servant says.
After about two weeks on a vegan diet, Lindsay and Cartier started to feel better and had more energy. While many Canadians choose meatless lifestyles to reduce cholesterol and saturated fats from their diets, others to so for humane or environmental reasons.
In 2004, an Ipsos-Reid report prepared for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada found that one in 10 Canadians call themselves “vegetarian.” That number is increasing thanks to movies about unhealthy and environmentally-harmful agricbusiness practices such as Robert Kenner’s 2008 film Food Inc. and books such as Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.
Lindsay and Cartier are not “zealots” who are trying to convert people. They don’t lecture people who love prime rib and pork chops. Cartier cooks traditional meals such as turkey for family at holiday time. When the couple travelled out East, they enjoyed eating fish and some seafood.
“But the less you eat (previous diet), the less you enjoy it,” says Cartier.
Recently the couple talked about their diet over lunch at Simon’s Gallery Grill. The downtown restaurant has two vegetarian dishes on its lunch menu, in addition to other meatless selections such as salads and soups. Cartier order a linguine and root vegetable dish while Lindsay ordered the vegetarian curry.
They do not feel restricted about their food choices and look forward to trying new recipes. When Lindsay and Cartier go to a dinner event, they inform the organizers ahead about their food preferences. Sometimes they are served pasta and tomato sauce, but more and more, they say they are pleasantly surprised with interesting meatless dishes.
“Buffet tables most always have a good choice of salads, most times a pasta dish or other veggie stuff. When we go to Theatre Cambrian’s dinner theatre, they have an almost entirely veggie buffet with about four different salads and a veggie pasta,” says Lindsay.
Anthony Martin, a Sudbury natural medicine practitioner and author, isn’t a vegetarian. He doesn’t discourage anyone from going meatless, but he knows it is not the only way to lose weight or to stay healthy.
“Fat (from meat) doesn’t make you fat, sugar makes you fat,” he says. But “you are never going to meet a vegetarian with a weight problem.”
Most people who decide to become vegetarians tend to be health-conscious in the first place, aware of healthy eating practices and rarely eat junk food, he says.
Vegetarians get a lot of fibre from fruits and vegetables, but they need to take B12 supplements, he advises.
Vitamin B12, which comes from red meat, helps body cells work normally and is especially important for building healthy red blood cells and creating and preserving a healthy nervous system.
People who don’t have enough B12 suffer from a lack of energy and often feel exhausted, he says.
He is concerned vegans who do not eat dairy products are not getting a valuable source of protein. Vegans might want to try protein shakes, he suggests.
Cartier and Lindsay have done a lot of reading about food and nutrition since they became vegans. One potato provides enough daily protein, says Cartier. She and Lindsay do supplement their diet with Vitamins D and B12.
Lindsay, who used to eat a lot of cheese and loved egg salad sandwiches, is enthusiastic about recipes made with rice, beans, lentils or pastas, as well as “experimenting” with exotic fruits and vegetables that are now available at the supermarket.
Spicy food used to give him indigestion. “My chronic indigestion problem almost completely vanished, and I now enjoy spicy foods late into the evening.”
Cartier uses soya milk on her morning cereal while Lindsay eats his with orange juice. This is something he did before he began a vegan.
“I have done this for years…since Copper Cliff Dairy went on strike way back and I couldn’t possibly drink any other brand of milk…”
Neither would ever consider going back to their meat-eating days. They recommend the website /www.ricedietprogram.com/ for people who are considering changing their eating habits.
The Northern Vegetarian Society also has an informative website: ivu.org/nvs, and the group holds monthly meetings in the city.