Transitioning to a plant based lifestyle
Transitioning my kids to a plant based lifestyle was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be. In the beginning I made sure to find ways to make plant based versions of the foods they were used to. I made lots of vegan macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and garlic bread, quesadillas, and grilled cheese. (Make sure you check out my recipe for plant based cheese, it made all the difference when it came to our transition.) Then little by little as we all adjusted and tried new things, we slowly started adding more diversity to our diet while still maintaining a simple and realistic approach. I made sure to make treats for them like brownies and cookies, did these things have sugar? Yes they did, but I knew the ultimate goal was a whole food plant based diet and that it would be a process to get there, so I did not beat myself up over the fact that our diet in the beginning wasn't completely sugar free. Over the course of a few months my kids got more and more used to simple whole foods, like roasted sweet potatoes with steamed broccoli and cheese sauce with some frozen fruit for dessert or some nice chocolate banana nice cream. They slowly got used to less and less sugar as I learned to bake without the use of refined sugars. Their palates adjusted to the flavors of real whole foods and to the sweetness of whole fruits. It's ok for it to be a process. Make plant based versions of the things they are familiar with and it's ok if they don't love it…..They will learn in time to love it as their palates adjust to the wholesome food you are giving them.
I did not know the joy of having a picky eater until I had my youngest. My first born will eat anything you put in front of him and even if it's not his favorite...he will continue to eat it and develop a taste for it. My daughter on the other hand has challenged every ounce of good nature and patience within me. She is picky for sport. She seems to find great satisfaction in not wanting or liking something I'm offering. If she could have been self reliant from birth she would have preferred it. I would like to sit here and tell you that she has been converted and loves everything I put in front of her...But that is not the case. She is almost 8 so there is still time to grow out of pickiness but the force is strong with this one. At any rate she has learned that I make one meal….she may choose to eat that meal or not eat that meal but the consequences are hers as well. Either a full belly or a hungry belly, and if dinner is not eaten, there is absolutely no snack available after. I learned this lesson in the trenches...She would not eat at lunch but then snack on tons of fruit before dinner. That led to not eating dinner, then snacking on fruit after dinner. But she was snacking on approved items….yes, but she was also beating me at my own game, and I am not raising a fruit bat. And while fruit is amazing and I want her to enjoy lots of it, there's also a whole rainbow of vegetables, sweet potatoes ,legumes and nuts and seeds to enjoy for well rounded health. Thus I had to enforce the “If you don’t eat a reasonable amount of the main meal, there’s no snack, just your next meal,” rule. My rule is this…..You don’t have to like it, but you do have to be polite. If you choose not to eat, that is your choice...but there will be no snacking in between meals.”
- Get your picky eater involved in the cooking process. My daughter is always more willing to eat what she has helped make. She takes great joy in clipping greens from the garden and making a beautiful salad from them. She will even eat some of that salad!
- Give them a night where they get to pick what is for dinner. Friday is that night for us and they always choose plant based pizza, yes its more work for me but they get so excited picking out their toppings and rolling out their own pizza that it makes it all worth it. They are taking an active role in choosing wholesome foods and how to arrange them.
- Lastly remember that you are in charge. So they whine, and bicker, and complain, it's ok! your job is to keep them healthy not to keep them from never being unhappy. They will learn to love healthy food choices and will hopefully take these skills with them into the rest of their lives.