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KIWI's Healthy Family ChallengeThe challenge: Eat meat-free

 Cara and Judd Citrowske of Prior Lake, Minnesota, and Cam, 2

Why they did it

Cara was already committed to eating healthy with a semi-vegetarian diet, but she really wanted Judd, a committed meat-lover who doesn’t like eating fruits and vegetables, to lower his consumption of animal products in favor of more nutritious, plant-based fare.

In the beginning…

Knowing her husband would miss his favorites—like burgers and steak—Cara stocked up on meat-free meals he already liked, such as ravioli and frozen burritos. Even so, it was a rocky start. “I made Judd’s lunch on the first day, and he called to ask where the meat was!” Vegetarian eating was easier for 2-year-old Cam, who didn’t seem to realize his meals were missing anything: “As long as his plate was full, he was happy,” says Cara.

Halfway through…

Cara worked on building healthier meals for her family with more whole ingredients and less prepackaged food. One of her new favorites became quinoa with pine nuts for breakfast—but Judd wasn’t ready to eat quite so adventurously. “The biggest challenge was finding recipes my producehating husband would eat,” says Cara. So she turned to old favorites and simply removed the meat: She made spaghetti with tomato sauce instead of Bolognese, and tacos with beans instead of beef. Cam remained easy to please and even started eating veggie burgers. Judd held up his end of the bargain—at home—but did sometimes eat meat while at work. “I didn’t fight it—some changes are better than no changes,” says Cara.

Challenge complete!

Nobody in the family went 100 percent vegetarian (when the Citrowskes found themselves at a Dairy Queen one night for dinner, fish sandwiches seemed like the best option), but they came close. “My husband cheated a little bit, but a good five days out of the week were meat-free, and that was huge,” says Cara. After the 30 days were up, Cara planned to continue serving vegetarian meals for herself and Cam whenever possible. Since Judd wanted to go back to eating meat, Cara decided that preparing meals that could be adjusted to suit everyone’s tastes, like tacos that could be filled with black beans or organic beef, would be a good option.

Update

Most of the meals Cara makes for herself and Cam are still meat-free—but since she’s pregnant (due in May!), she’s eating whatever she craves, which occassionally includes meat. Judd has managed to get his fruits and veggies up to three servings a day. “It might not sound like much to some people, but it’s a huge improvement for him,” says Cara. Her advice to other families? Try exploring recipes from other cultures that highlight veggies and use little or no meat, like falafel or fried rice (you’re less likely to feel like something is “missing” from the meal). “And above all,” says Cara, “compromise.” Some days, opt for inherently meat-free favorites, like pizza or lasagna, and other times, try flexible meals (such as spaghetti) that can be prepared to please everyone.

Reprinted from KIWI Magazine

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