Maybe it was different for you, but when I was growing up, my parents’ lifestyle didn’t change very much, which for us meant our mealtimes rotated through a catalog of "Standard American Diet" fare: bread, eggs, American cheese singles (individually wrapped in plastic), fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, meatloaf, hamburgers, hot dogs, mac and cheese, salty soups, sugar-laden salad dressings, and so on.
After I had children of my own, my parents (well, my mother mainly) became more aware of diet-related health concerns right around the same time I did as well. But where my mom stopped at Whole 30, I decided to go from quasi-paleo to becoming full-fledged vegan.
For me, switching to an entirely plant-based diet is a highly personal decision that I won’t impose upon others. When my kids are with their mother, for example, my lips stay zipped (although she does feed them plants about 85 percent of the time). My own convictions are my own, and trying to force those on anyone else will only put a bad taste in their mouth about making such an intimate change.
The greatest challenge, however, is when my daughters are with me and they’re not exactly enthusiastic about a new twist (a.k.a., I put in too much curry powder and garlic) I’ve introduced to the lentil dahl they’ve only just begun to accept as edible.
Eyes roll. Moans erupt. My 4-year-old empties her bowl into the garbage when I turn my back, or my 6-year-old, after being served a light lunch of homemade hummus and peppers exclaims “This is disgusting! It tastes like barf!” (side note: It was delicious — just ask my 4-year-old). I take a deep breath, smile, and embrace a teachable moment.
This sort of struggle isn’t always the case, however, and is becoming less and less the case the longer I’m past the one-year mark of switching to a plant-based diet.
Even still, it’s important to celebrate the little victories along the way. One avenue I’ve returned to for these small successes is to incorporate something that’s familiar to them from their days of exclusively eating within the Standard American Diet, and pairing them with veggies — like beets, sweet potatoes, and asparagus — sautéed in organic coconut oil and lightly flavored with ground black pepper and pink Himalayan sea salt.
For this meal, I used Daiya’s Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheesy Mac, which is delicious, creamy, vegan, and frequently on sale at Health Nut Nutrition.
So for those of you out there who have made significant lifestyle changes since having children — we understand that the struggle is real, but know that through consistency, it becomes less troublesome, and you can continue to incorporate nutritious foods into mealtimes that not only fill their little bellies but also supply the nutrients required to nourish their rapidly developing brains.