Every Friday we feature a plant-strong family! Today we hear from Allyson and her two daughters.
“I am a mother of two girls ages 7 and “almost” 6. I began my adventure into plant based eating in the early 1990s when I heard Dr. John McDougall speak. There have been many challenges and many rewards along the way, but the biggest challenge to date is figuring out how to raise two plant strong daughters. My diet fell off the wagon when I became pregnant; I gave into the belief that I “needed” dairy.
After gaining 60 pounds with my first pregnancy, I decided that maybe I did not need dairy. But after my first daughter turned 1, I was again told that she “needed” dairy. And, again, against my intuition I relented. At EVERY check up I was reminded how important dairy was for her health.
My second child had reflux and eczema. I decided on my own to take her off of dairy. Her symptoms improved. In the past I had done a lot of research on a plant-based diet and I knew it was the healthiest option for me. I decided to start re-reading some of the books I had read and read newer books like Engine2. I also attended a Healthy Lifestyle Expo in California. This gave me the knowledge and resolve that a plant-based diet was the best choice for my family and me. I know very few people who eat like we do, so I have found it paramount to my success to stay in touch with the plant-based world through Facebook, the internet and books.
The science-based research has given me the knowledge and courage to stand up to our pediatrician and NOT serve my daughters dairy. I have taken this lesson to heart, and have evaluated how I want to approach this with my daughters. In addition to providing a plant-based diet for them in our home, my goals are to:
Be a good example – I had to believe in this diet first before I could be a good example for my daughters. I LOVE this diet and I let them see my passion. I feel great, and I enjoy my meals. Teach them about a plant-based diet – What that means, WHY we eat this way, and how do we do it!
Give them the tools to succeed- Give other parents a heads up before play dates, provide healthy snacks, show them how to order in a restaurant, let them help you cook, provide yummy healthy treats when they have friends over.Get them involved.
Be respectful- Ultimately my girls will choose how they want to eat. I hope through being a good example, teaching them, giving them the tools to succeed, and providing encouragement that they will ultimately choose a plant based diet for life. But I also want them to know that I respect their choices and that they can feel safe telling me that they ate “real” ice cream at school.
Great goals, but what is reality? There are many challenging days being a plant-strong mom trying to get two elementary school girls to also eat plant-strong. The most success I have had with dinners is when I include them.
Taco night – I put cut up veggies, black beans, and rice in bowls across our counter. The girls have their own plate with corn tortillas or hard shells and make their own tacos. Taco salad night – Same as above, but I give both of them a plate of spinach and they put on the toppings. Always fun to make a design with the veggies.
Pizza Night – I have small frozen pizza crust and give each of them one with sauce and veggies on the counter that they can help themselves to. Create a recipe for mommy’s blog – as a hobby I have a blog, they LOVE when I post their pictures and their ideas. Some examples they have created – salad pasta. Simply sautéed spinach and tomatoes and place on top of pasta. (Yep, sautéed in veggie broth) Cabbage slaw with apples. We made a big mayo- free slaw one night and one of my daughters suggested throwing in apples. Excellent!
Have them come up with a dinner that would include all the colors in the rainbow. Make sure you have stuff on hand, first! I know it is hard to include children in dinner, especially when you are just trying to get it on the table between sports and homework. But if you can involve them a couple times a week it does payoff.
On other nights, my biggest lesson learned is to keep it simple: beans, rice, and a green vegetable or pasta with red sauce and a salad. The more complicated I try to make it, the less they like it. I have found my husband prefers more simple food as well.
Snacks I think this is our household’s most challenging area. They want all the bright colored cartoon packaged food. They don’t even know what the food is inside; they are victims of marketing just like other kids! So, I try to make snacks fun. I have them make their own trail mix. I just bought popsicle makers and we have been dreaming up combinations for those.
Lunches: They love having a lot of different things in a lot of containers. They literally count how many containers they have each day. So, cut up carrots in one, apples in another, lettuce in another, beans, dried fruit, etc.
We make a lot of bean dip and they love bean dip and salad sandwiches. Outside of the House I let them choose what they want outside of the house. They are not always plant strong, but they do try.
One example – my daughter went to a restaurant with another family, she told the waitress she was vegan and would like to order her pizza without cheese but add in more veggies. Success! Later they all went to get ice cream. The other mother told her there was vegan sorbet. My daughter politely told her it was ok for her to have chocolate ice cream! I am ok with this; I want them to know they do have a choice. Other tips – I try to always have fresh fruit and cut up veggies at their disposal. I usually have a container of bean dip and low fat tortilla chips available. It is certainly not always easy. In fact, we have many dinner disasters. And, lots of questions as to why I won’t buy “junk” food for them. Last night, one of my daughters threw her self on the floor after seeing dinner and screamed, “I just want to eat MEAT.” (She actually cleaned her plate about 30 minutes later)
But there is no question that this diet has greatly improved my health and energy, and why would I not give that gift to my children?
Thank you Allyson!
Please leave a comment on how you are transitioning your family to a plant-strong life.