At this point I’m probably on Bourbon Street, knocking back a couple of hand grenades, or digging into the blackened beef at Commander’s Palace.
Juuuust kidding. I love New Orleans, but my version of the city is a tad different from most visitors’! There’s a good chance that Chloe and I are curled up at her new house right now, making a veggie-full dinner. Maybe we’re out hearing some local music. Or maybe we’re being sickeningly girly and looking at bridal magazines (Chloe just got engaged!). Whatever the case, y’all will have to forgive me in advance if I don’t come home with tales of debauchery.
What I hope Iwill come home with are some fun recaps; some thoughts on maintaining a healthy lifestyle in a highly unhealthy (yet awesome) city; and some meals.
In the meantime, I’m turning you over to a blogger who needs little introduction from me. She’s someone most of you know and love, even if you haven’t heard from her in quite some time. She’s a mother of two, a wry chronicler of all things pop-culture related, a high-raw vegan with a vengeance, and a pretty hot lady. Any guesses?
If you guessed Mama LovIn, you’re right! Please join me in welcoming Sarah, the extraordinary blogger behind the now retired LovIn my Tummy blog . Though Sarah has been on a small blogosphere hiatus recently, she was generous enough to be my guest here atChoosing Raw for the day. She’ll be discussing one of my favorite topics: raising vegan kids.
I’m often asked whether or not I’ll be raising my kids vegan. The answer is, if I have children, of course I’ll feed them vegan at home. If I believe something’s right for my own body, why would I not want the same for my children? Whether or not they’ll be raw is another story: right now, I plan on giving my children plenty of raw fruits and veggies, but their diets will be a variety of both raw and cooked. When they’re not at home (friends’ bday parties, etc.), they’ll be totally free to eat what other kids are eating. And as they venture into the world–in their teen years and beyond–they’ll be entitled to decide what sort of lifestyle they’d like to lead. I hope I’ll have instilled a lifelong passion for produce and whole foods in them, but I’ll also respect whatever choices they make.
But parenting will be a long time coming for this blogger. So let me turn the mic over to a lady who knows a thing or two about the reality of raising vegan kids. Welcome, Sarah, toChoosing Raw!
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For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Sarah, and I used to have a blog here. It started as a food and fitness blog, tracking my daily eats and workouts, and it quickly turned into a labor of love: where I still shared my food, but I shared my family as well, particularly my now 2 and 4-year-old daughters.
Those who followed watched me transition from a meat eater to a vegan early in 2009. After a few months of preparing three different meals every evening at the family dinner table, a vegan meal for myself (ever had a Hugh Jass salad?), a meaty meal for my husband (he loved my Beef Stroganoff) and a kid friendly meal for the kids (such as Annie’s Mac & Cheese), my amazing (ahem* hot lawyer* ahem) of a husband agreed that going vegetarian/semi-vegan was best for ALL of us. After all, how could we take the kids to petting zoos and farms on the weekend, only to come home and eat cows, pigs and chickens?
Though my blogging days have been cut short for personal reasons, I still get asked quite frequently from both “real life” friends and friends in the blog world, “How do you get your kids to eat that?!?” Admittedly, we were starting in a pretty good spot before we made the switch: my kids have never been to McDonalds and weren’t downing nuggets and hot dogs for every meal. Still, it hasn’t been effortless. A few rules have guided me on my way in turning our SAD meals into REALLY “Happy Meals.”
Lead By Example
When I asked my kids what they think Mommy’s favorite food is, here are the answers I got: “Broccoli” and “Special Salad.” Thank goodness she didn’t say “Hugh Jass.” My girls know that I love these foods though, because they see me eat them all the time. We don’t have chips in our cupboards and we don’t have soda in our fridge. And after the initial excitement of seeing junk food at friends or relatives houses, after a few bites or sips, they have a “meh” reaction.
Instead, they always seem to want what I’m having, even if it is green. My rule is, if I wouldn’t want the girls to have it, I don’t buy it. Diet Coke stock may have had the most shocking downturn in history, but I can proudly share whatever I’m having now, knowing if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for them.
Level With Your Kids, but Lie When You Have To
While my 2-year-old may not understand what it means to be a “vegetarian,” my 4-year-old does. It dawned on me last year that she had no idea that the same “chicken” we harass and chase visit at the farm is the same “chicken” that is on her dinner plate. I, for one, think she has the right to know. And while I don’t go into graphic details about how meat gets from the farm to our dinner tables, I do explain that animals are our friends, and we simply don’t eat our friends. Honest, direct and simple.
On the other hand, I’m not afraid to bend the truth or be a little sneaky. Sometimes an extra vegetable sneaks into a smoothie.
Sometimes, I just make things up entirely. For example, every Halloween our girls give away all their candy that they get Trick-or-Treating, save a few select pieces to be enjoyed that night (by them and a certain hot dad I know). In exchange for their bags of HFCS and artificially colored junk, the “Treat Fairy” brings them whatever toy they want. I’m told there is a purple My Little Pony Pegasus that a 4-year-old “Cleopatrick” in our house will find in her empty treat bag.
Is there really a Treat Fairy? Is that spinach or kiwi in that green smoothie? I’ll never tell.
Don’t Assume Your Kids Won’t Like Something Based on Your Perceptions
This same rule applies to me at any movie my husband wants to see. I almost missed out on seeing sexy Daniel Craig as “ 007 ” and Matt Damon in all his Bourne glory, simply because I didn’t get my way and get to see whatever romantic comedy happened to be playing at the time.
My kids may have my stubborn streak (who me?!), but they still surprise me with things they are willing to try and end up enjoying. Who knew that toddlers could be down with hemp seeds, tempeh, spinach and broccoli? Young taste buds have both short and long memories, so don’t give up. Just because they passed on something last week doesn’t mean they’ll hate it the next time, and when they are older, the foods you encouraged them to at least try won’t be unfamiliar.
This next rule applies both to finding new tools in your new lifestyle, and into modifying old favorites to fit the new mold. Finding resources for vegan/vegetarian recipes has been crucial to getting my family to eat healthier. I haven’t been shy about telling everyone who asks, and many who don’t, that Dreena Burton’s cookbooks are like Bibles in my house. Not only are her vegan recipes delicious, but most are kid and husband friendly. Now that my family has tried so many of her recipes, they trust me when I tell them that dinner is going to be delicious.
Still, there are certain times when they want the comfort of their old favorites. I swapped the Skinny Cows (which should be called SAD Cows) for Tofuttis, and as you can tell, they were pretty bummed.
Then this weekend my daughter caught her first cold of the season. Here’s what I used to reach for:
Royally disgusting, if you ask me. “Mechanically separated chicken?” Really?!
So with a little ambition and confidence, I came up with a vegan (and educational, I might add) replacement.
Mama LovIN’s Alphabet Soup
4 c. organic vegetable broth
1/3 c. diced carrot
1/3 c. diced celery
¼ t. dried sage
½ t. dried oregano
½ t. dried rosemary
1 t. curry
1 t. paprika
1 t. sea salt (adjust to taste)
1 t. minced garlic
1 c. whole wheat alphabet pasta
Cook pasta according to package directions. Do NOT overcook.
In a separate pot, lightly sauté vegetables until softened. Add garlic, spices and salt and sauté for an additional minute. Add broth and pasta and heat until hot. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
Not only were the girls excited to eat it, but they liked finding letters in it too…and not finding mechanically separated chicken.
Maybe my girls won’t be vegetarian/almost vegans for their entire lives. Maybe once they get out into the real world they’ll swap their bean burgers for Big Macs, their hummus for “special sauce” and their sweet potatoes for French fries.
But for now I know that everything that is going into their growing bodies is safe, is healthy and was made with a lot of LovIN. And maybe someday, they’ll thank me for it.