Hello!!! When I was 15 I lived with my father in Manhattan. During a vacation that my father took to the Ivory Coast I was under the loving care of my grandmother. She went to great lengths to take care of me and that included making sure an active teenager was well fed. She made me yummy food and left a bunch of things prepared for me to run in and cook up for myself whenever I was hungry. In the freezer she put homemade hamburger patties for me to fry up at a moments notice. (You know, it is funny. I haven't had meat in 23 years so it is strange to think that I used to eat it… oh well, back to the story.) She informed me of all of the food that was available so that I would never worry about going hungry. She is a great grandma.
I grew up with a mother who made everything from scratch. My sister informed us that she was a vegetarian at the age of 12 and my mother simply made meals for us both. No fuss, no resistance. At times as a family we had gone without processed sugar and meat, so my sister declaring a special diet wasn't a big deal. Changing my mind was accepted in my home, and for that I am thankful.
On one particular day I came home starving. I was excited to have a hamburger and probably fries, I can quite remember. I pulled a hamburger out to cook up and got all of the fixings ready. As I went to bite into my hamburger I distinctly heard a "Moooooo" coming from the direction of the burger in my hand. It was, at that moment where I became a vegetarian. When I announced this change to my grandmother she, if I am remembering correctly, clasped her hands and looked toward the heavens. She prayed to Jesus Christ and dropped her head in worry. My sudden change left her confused and concerned. She has since grown to accept that choice regardless of whether or not she understands it.
Since that time I have gone on to become vegan (7 years ago). When I stopped eating dairy so many things changed. I stopped getting bloated, I became more flexible, my complexion improved, my asthma went away and I was no longer highly allergic to the myriad of things listed on my medical records. I have had to field many questions around my diet. The two most popular questions are: "Where do you get your protein?" and "What do you eat?" Due to the fact that I work out multiple times a day, most people don't ask me about having energy. Additionally, the fact that I have good muscle tone and am not a waif, no one asks if I eat "enough." :)
So, here are the answers: I eat everything that isn't meat or dairy! Come on, think people… really. Go to a grocery store and walk into the produce section. See all the goodness! This is what I eat! Mmmm mmm good. I also can eat a bunch of unhealthy crap that is found throughout the store. Tons of things are vegan… to the dismay of the healthy goddess inside of me. Now, to the protein question: Protein, what is it? Well, this is a question that needs a lot of education, but I will try to put it plainly and cite references for you to delve in further. Protein from animals is called high quality because it has is the closest protein to what we already have. Proteins are made up of amino acids, of which there are hundreds of thousands of different kinds. "They function as enzymes, hormones, structural tissue and transport molecules, all of which make life possible. Proteins wear out on a regular basis and must be replaced. This is accomplished by consuming foods that contain protein." (The China Study) The most complete protein would be human flesh actually (chew on that!) However, because proteins don't wear out all at once and all don't need to be replaced at the same time, you don't actually want or need to eat 'complete' proteins as a way of life. Too much of something is, well, too much. What you need is to replace the proteins slow and steady. The way you do that is with plant-based foods. Additionally, you don't lose protein like you have a big 'ole leak. So worrying about having the right combination of plants based protein at every meal is kind of ridiculous. I suggest you actually read up on what protein is, how it is synthesized and what our history is around the meat and dairy industry. Knowledge is power, and in this case, health.
When asked about protein I often tell people to look at me. I am the product of a non-dairy, non-meat diet. :) Any questions?
If you actually have questions please ask. Also check out these sources: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD; Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman http://www.drfuhrman.com/; Thrive (any of his books) by Brendan Brazier; The Savvy Vegetarian - http://www.savvyvegetarian.com/articles/protein-veg-diet.php
There are so many more sources but those are great places to start!