1,000 Families Project: Vegetarian Family Nick, Jill and Jack

Dad and blogger Nick Shell explains what it’s like to be a vegetarian and vegan family, what inspired his family to convert and just how much they still want to come over for a barbecue!


My name is Nick Shell and I am the creator of Family Friendly Daddy Blog. My family is based near Nashville, Tennessee and something that really sets us apart from 95 percent of other families is that we are a vegan/vegetarian family.

Wait, wait! We’re not weird, I promise! We’re actually cool people.

I guess you could say that part of my agenda as a daddy blogger is to illustrate through my stories and photographs how a family can have a lot of fun, and still get proper nutrition, without relying on meat for protein.

Aside from the whole “we don’t eat meat” thing, we’re just like every American suburban family. Our 5-year-old son loves Legos, monster trucks, Power Rangers, and exploring in the woods with me anytime we get a chance.

We’re so excited that our second child is on the way—a daughter due on April 21st. We’re at a very good place in life right now.

Along our journey, though, we stumbled into the plant-based life. As a family, we converted to a vegetarian diet back in December 2011, then I alone became a vegan three years ago in April 2013. (Five months later, I even took it a step further and gave up caffeine as well.)

Our now five-year-old son had just turned one when we stopped eating meat, so really, this is all he knows. As for our soon-to-be born daughter, she will be raised vegetarian as well.

We were convinced after seeing several documentaries on Netflix: Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks over Knives, and Fed Up.

The reason we were open to such an extreme idea is that I had eczema and severe allergies for years. I was desperate to find a cure. Our family’s journey began by going kosher (eliminating all pork and shellfish).

It soon became obvious that the less animal products I consumed, the better my conditions became. As for my wife, she just felt better in general after weaning herself off of meat.

We would go on to learn that we could get our necessary nutrients, including protein, in six simple food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

Because it was a gradual transition from kosher to no processed foods to vegetarianism (and for me personally, veganism), there wasn’t a major climax in this plot line.

There has definitely been a learning curve for us as a family, since we are different from the norm. For example, it’s difficult to find restaurants to accommodate us, so we have to do some research prior to dining out.

My wife is the best. She quickly taught herself how to become a vegan chef, thanks largely in part to a blog called Oh She Glows. Most of our meals are either Italian or Mexican; substituting ground up cashews for cheese for the Italian meals and swapping avocados for cheese for the Mexican meals.

My wife and son do eat some dairy. They add cheese a la carte to the meal if they want and every once in a while will eat eggs.

That’s what separates my vegan lifestyle from their vegetarian lifestyle.

We recognize the way we live our lives is extreme as compared to most of the population, but we are happy this way—especially me. I suffered for years from my eczema and severe allergies—now I don’t.

That’s the number one reason I am not tempted to go back to eating meat, dairy and eggs.

Our family represents the new wave of vegans and vegetarians. As I mentioned, our inspiration isn’t animal rights; though I admit that’s a positive side effect. Instead, we want to live a lifestyle that helps us prevent health problems in the future.

And I hope we can be a healthy, friendly, positive example of what a vegan/vegetarian family looks like.

Like I said–we’re fun people! We just happen to be the only non-meat eating family that most of our friends know.

But no worries! Feel free to invite us to your next barbecue. We’ll bring our own garden burgers to throw on the grill!

Related: How to Deal When Your Kid Goes Vegetarian

Vegetarian Lasagna Without the Tears

This is #1000families post number 204. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.
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Nick Shell

About

Nick Shell served as Parents.com's daddy blogger from May 2011 to June 2014 before launching Family Friendly Daddy Blog, which he designed to celebrate active fatherhood, plant-based food and debt-free living. Nick and his wife, Jill, live in Tennessee with their five-year-old son and are expecting a daughter in April 2016.


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