Tahlequah Daily Press


August 16, 2012

Restaurant owners tout the joys of vegetarianism

TAHLEQUAH — Eating more vegetables and less meat, taking advantage of seasonal foods and maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle are popular trends for Americans seeking healthier diets.

Incorporating vegetables in a variety of ways was the focus of a mini-seminar on “Demystifying Vegetarianism,” presented by Lisa and Sam Bracken, at the Tahlequah Public Library Tuesday evening. The Brackens are owners of the Canebrake in Wagoner.

According to Sam Bracken, only over the past 150 years or so has meat supplanted vegetables in the U.S. Meat is more accessible, which is why it dominates the American diet.

“Today, you have more availability for the quick intake of meat,” said Sam. “No matter what size city you live in, you pass more eating establishments that serve meat than those that serve vegetables. The trend is now for producing food to support your caloric intake with what you can produce and grow.”

This could eventually bring humans back to the habits of their early history, when they ate small amounts of meat, with the rest of a meal consisting of vegetables.

Sam said access to a vegetarian lifestyle is not as difficult as it has been in the past.

“Supermarkets and the increase of farmers’ markets are making it easier to find produce,” he said.

Lisa and Sam prepare vegetarian meals, although Sam will eat seafood and fish when they dine at a restaurant.

Lisa said she first became a vegetarian when she was in college and remained one after she and Sam got together.

“Back then, I consumed a limited food sources, eating mostly pasta and frozen vegetables,” she said.

Later, when they were living in Colorado and were planning a mountain-climbing trip in Mexico, Lisa discovered she was weak and anemic.

“The doctor told me I needed to get smart about what I ate,” she said.

Lisa returned to consuming meat in her meals and continued doing so until about five to six years ago, after they moved to Oklahoma, when she gave up meat again.

“I’ve been a smart, healthy and active vegetarian since 2003,” she said. “For me, vegetarianism is the best way to eat and support my yoga and spiritual part of life and my health. It makes me tick at an optimal physiological level.”

To stay healthy and nutritionally balanced, Lisa  takes a B-Complex vitamin every day, because B12 can only be found in meat.

Sam’s nutritional lifestyle did not reflect vegetarianism until a visit to a doctor who told him his cholesterol level was high, and he needed to take medication.

Lisa said Sam started eating the vegetarian way, and within 90 days, his cholesterol level lowered, without medication.

“It’s a long journey to get to a vegetarian lifestyle that you embrace,” said Sam. “It takes a fair amount of effort to get some sustenance. It’s all in moderation.”

According to Sam, eating is a cyclical pattern.

“When you eat a burger and fries, for example, you may not feel so well an hour or so later, but the pattern changes. The next day, it is easier to put that same amount of calories away,” he said.

Together, the couple researched foods and analyzed the “fake” meats and cheeses. Lisa said they did this to see what an “Okie,” like Sam, could and would eat.

“I find things that fit our food group needs,” she said. “We do a lot of beans and eat seasonal foods. Once a month or so, we consume fake meat.”

According to Lisa, many meat-eaters will accept soy-based and mushroom-based meat substitutes. She recommends telling the meat-eater what it is.

Sam suggests miso and tofu products that are meatless, because they have the “feel” of meat without actually eating it. “You have to ease your way into it,” he said.

Both said education is the best way to start a food lifestyle change.


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