I’m not at Nutritionist or a Dietitian. I’m just a mum who wants the best for my family. I’ve spent the last 6 months of this journey to a plant based lifestyle doing lots of research. As a plant based or vegan mum, you face extra scrutiny about the health and development of your children. This comes not only from friends, family and strangers; but from health professionals such as GP’s, Midwives and Plunket Nurses who don’t understand the lifestyle and who’s practice and values are often steeped in the food myths that protein must come from animal products and cow’s milk is good for your bones! I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to these professionals, but do your own research so you can make informed decisions.
If you’re going to make any significant changes to yours and your family’s diet and you have an existing medical condition, are pregnant, breastfeeding or have children; you should always consult with a health professional. I would definitely suggest seeing an Integrated Health Professional (fancy name for a GP who has also studied alternative medicine).
So after months of research here is what i now know about protein and the plant based lifestyle.
The daily protein requirement for an adult human is about 0.8 grams per 2.2 lbs of body weight. It can be higher in growing children and pregnant women. If you’re eating a balanced diet, it’s unlikely you will be protein deficient. Unless of course that is your medical condition! Excess protein intake (over 200 g/day) may lead to kidney damage over time. Are you cringing about that huge piece of steak you had last night?
When some people say vegans/plant based eaters don’t get enough protein or ask “where do you get your protein?” They are often speaking about the specific amino acids that vegans/plant based eaters may have a harder time getting. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins which help carry out body functions. There are 9 amino acids that our body CANNOT create; meaning we need to get them from a food source.
Meat and dairy are considered “complete proteins” because they have all 9 of these amino acids. However, eating a variety of foods will give us the 9 essential amino acids that we need. There are however vegan/plant based foods that are complete proteins. Foods such as quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and spirulina are just a few. It is a common misconception that vegans/plant based eaters don’t get enough protein and this is where it all stems from.
The foods listed below are considered complete proteins, meaning they contain all 9 of the essential amino acids:
-Soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, miso, and soy milk
-Sprouted seeds — each type of sprout has differing proportions of nutrients, so it’s best to eat a variety of them
-Grains, especially amaranth and quinoa
-Beans and legumes
-Spirulina and chorella (blue-green algae), which are over 60 percent protein
These are the 9 Essential Amino Acids and the foods which contain them. We should eat a variety each day, even if your an omnivore.
Threnoine: Papayas, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, green leafy vegetables such as celery, collards, kale, and lettuce (especially iceberg), lima beans, laver (Nori – a sea vegetable and its wrapped around your sushi!).
As I’ve said before, I’m not a health professional but I have done lots of research. If you look at my children, you will see that they are healthy, full of beans (pardon the pun) and thriving on the plant based diet. As for me, I’m feeling better than ever. We are still on this journey and we have days where we eat vegan junk food; such as chips and shop bought bread. We don’t beat ourselves up about it.
I really believe that it’s what we do everyday, not what we do sometimes which will make the biggest difference to our health.
I’ve been a bit quiet here, mostly due to lack of time to sit down and write. Life has been very busy with after school sports, camps, Stephen working lots and looking after our new puppy! We must be mad to add another baby into the mix but he’s so cute and we love him so much already!
So we’re 5 months into our plant based journey and it honestly feels like we’ve been eating this way forever. We all feel really good about our decision and the effects are really noticeable now. The main one being flatulence! Ask anyone plant based or vegan and if they’re brave enough they’ll tell you that farting increases 100%. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about; except if you’re in a queue or a lift!
As I’ve said before, I have a condition called Sarcoidosis and I’ve been having regular testing as I found a lump in my breast. When I first found the lump the Dr did a biopsy and a bunch of tests and diagnostics.
I was 77kg, my sarcoidosis hormone number was off the charts at 124 (normal is around 50). The CT scan showed it had spread from my lungs and chest cavity to my abdomen and the lymph nodes were around 13mm wide. My lung function test wasn’t that great either, the overall number was 52 which was pretty poor. They combine the total amount of air I’m able to blow out of my lungs, the amount of air I’m able to take in and the percentage of carbon dioxide blown out. I must admit we were pretty worried as were the Drs. They decided that treatment wasn’t a good option at this stage as it wasn’t affecting my liver or kidneys. Plus the treatment is Prednisone, which is a really strong steroid with lots of horrible side effects. So I was to be monitored, with these tests to be performed every 3 months and a warning to watch for a persistent cough and to go straight to my GP if I was worried.
A few months on and things are looking so much better. My last test results showed that my lung function has improved and the lymph nodes have shrunk! I don’t have any symptoms and I’m feeling great. The dr said its because sarcoidosis can flare up and then regress by it’s very nature. I told him I think my diet has helped. He agreed somewhat and now I am down to 6 monthly check ups.
In terms of our diet, I’ve been experimenting with a few different programmes. I found that the kids do really well with lots of healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut as well as plenty of carbohydrates, veggies, beans, legumes, grains and fruits. We dont have much refined sugar, except for a treat every now and then. We’ve had some dairy free icecream this weekend, which was so yummy! I tend to use pure maple syrup or dates to sweeten my baking.
My husband is finding giving up cows milk hard and he still has some ham and cheese. He has given up butter though which is great. I’ve found an alternative called Nuttelex which although is oil based, is better than the cholesterol laden butter. I do all the cooking at home so he eats plantbased 80% of the time, which is awesome!
As for me, I’ve been doing a potato reset this last week. I managed 5 days and I lost 5cm off my waist, 3cm off my chest and .5kg! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t use salt or sugar and I didn’t really miss them. I really enjoyed the natural flavours of my food so I’ll definitely be reducing the amount of salt I use in my cooking. Now I’m back to eating normally, I’m following a plan called The Starch Solution. Its focused on high carbohydrate intake and low to zero fats. This is what works best for me in terms of feeling full, maintaining my weight loss and being healthy on the inside.
So 5 months in and I’m feeling amazing. I have lots more energy, my skin is glowing and I feel healthy. Our children are thriving too which is what every parent wants. Knowing that the change in our diet has made them healthier is an awesome feeling for me. They are also learning about healthy food choices and compassion for animals.
We’ll never go back to eating meat and dairy now. What I’ve learnt about the two industries is truly shocking. I just hope that more people turn to plants for food if not for the animals then for their health.
I’m writing this on the drive back home from Ohope Beach. We’ve just spent 5 nights there; our first holiday in 2 years and our first as a family of 5. We had a great time just being together and doing fun stuff.
As anyone with young children knows, going away is like a military operation. It’s not always relaxing, but the break from the usual routine and being all together is awesome.
So I did some meal planning before we left and took a few nights dinners with us. I had planned on topping up at the local supermarket for extra veggies and stuff as we needed them. We had also decided that we would eat out and that this may take us away from whole foods. We were ok with that as it was only going to be for a few days.
Well it turns out my meal planning wasn’t so great after all! I was 2 dinners short and had completely forgotten about lunches. So we ate lots of hot chips (fries), sandwiches, potato chips, weetbix and fruit. Stephen and Jamari had a couple of hamburgers and hotdogs and I tried a piece of fish and some blue cheese. We also tried some Bio cheese, which we didn’t like at all. Some might call me a hypocrite but I don’t care. This is my family’s journey to a healthier diet; its fraught with temptation and a lifetime’s worth of ingrained meat and dairy eating. We’re bound to have the odd slip up.
What I did learn on this particular journey is threefold.
1. When travelling with the family I need to be much more organized and prepare easy meals and snacks for us.
2. We’re really lucky in New Plymouth that there are lots of eateries who cater for plantbased/vegan diners. They’re always happy to make an existing dish vegan or make something totally fresh just for you.
3. Eating a plantbased diet is what my body needs and prefers. I have honestly felt like crap these last few days. I’ve been lethargic, bloated, nauseous and I haven’t slept well; although the sleeping could be attributed to our youngest children waking constantly in the night, every night!
So, we’re human after all! I do love this new way of eating as it makes us all feel so much better physically, mentally and socially. We’ve had lots of conversations about why we are plantbased over the last week and we’re positive we’ve made the right choice for our family.
In an effort to do more for our environment and to teach our children about sustainability, we’ve been trying to cut down on our use of plastic. We already use metal straws, take reusable bags to the fruit and veg shop, I use calico produce bags, I shop at Binn Inn where I can buy in bulk and take my own containers and I use beeswax wraps instead of glad wrap (cling film).
We’ve got a way to go on this journey of ours and I’m not sure what the destination is, but I really do believe that by sharing our journey and experiences we as a family can make a difference.
We just went through Mokau and it’s a lovely feeling when you can see the top of our mountain.
We’re nearly home, Taranaki really is like no other.
Before we started this way of eating, I did lots of research. I was worried about protein, fat, and if my children would get enough vitamins. Then I thought to myself, these were the same things I was worried about before we went plant based and we were already eating whole foods and loads of veggies!!
There is so much information about the whole foods plant based way of eating, I was getting bamboozled!
It’s not to be confused with veganism, which is a way of life encompassing not only food but animal exploitation in every form. As much as I hate how animals are treated for humans to eat, we can’t afford to replace our leather couch or our shoes and all my handbags. Not that I use a handbag any more; Fiorelli and Guess don’t make handbags big enough for nappies, wipes, snacks and the kitchen sink you need for 2 kids under 3!
So I joined plant based Facebook groups, searched the web and got advice from a good friend who was already doing it. I also watched a few movies again; Forks over Knives, Earthlings and What the Health.
In my humble opinion the film Forks over Knives has the most scientific information about why this way of eating is best for us. I really liked the way Dr Caldwell Esselstyn explained the lifestyle and the health benefits. He talks about the China Study and his own longitudinal studies he had done with his patients. What he says really resonated with me and so I was convinced this was the right way to go.
I’ve ended up taking bits and pieces from different places.
Rawtillwhenever (high carb hannah) focuses on a high carb, low fat diet. She has some amazing cookbooks which I’ve purchased and taken lots of inspiration from. I try to eat at least one raw meal a day or at least encompass a raw element.
Forks over Knives focuses on prevention/management and reversing chronic diseases such as diabetes, Heart disease and high blood pressure. The diet does not allow oil.
Plant powered families with Dreena Burton (on facebook) is all about sharing insights and tips on raising plant based children. They have great resources regarding nutrition for children and good ideas for family meals.
So We’re only 5 weeks in but it feels like we’ve been eating this way forever. I can’t imagine going back to eating animal products and processed food.
I’m so proud of all of us, especially Jamari and Stephen. They’ve both really embraced the food and the reasons we’re doing it. We have given Jamari a choice however. When he’s at school, at a mate’s place or a social function he can make his own choices. In the first few weeks, he had an ice cream, a sausage and a piece of chicken. Afterwards he complained of a stomach ache and commented on how different it tasted. This week he had his first cooking class at school as part of tech. He told his teacher he was vegan so didn’t want to add the cheese or salami to the pizza they were making. I was extremely proud of him. It’s the first time he’s owned plant based eating. Previously he’s told people ‘my mum says we don’t eat animal products’.
We’re not totally perfect though, Stephen and I are still having a beer or wine at the weekends. And we’re still partial to chocolate; Whittakers 70% cocoa dark ghana is the new favourite!
I’m really look forward to the next few months as I learn more recipes and continue to feel so much better. I’ve also got another round of tests coming up in the next few weeks. I’m really interested to find out if eating this way has made any difference to the sarcoidosis.
So watch this space for more updates, tips and recipes.
Thank you for all the kind words and encouragement, it means a lot.
So it’s been a month since we embarked on our WFPB journey and going out with the kids is like a military operation! Where are we going? Will there be non compliant food there? Will people offer said food to my toddler? Will he just grab the food? Will people think I’m rude for bringing our own food? I’m definitely getting better at not apologising for our change in diet, but it does evoke some strong opinions from people. Anyway, i digress. This needs to be a whole other post!
Back to packing food. Not only do I have to prepare a toddler lunchbox, a meal for the baby but I have to take snacks for me and a ‘tween’ if he’s with us. Now, I know some might say that it can’t be that hard just chuck some fruit and veg in and ‘she’ll be right’. I wish it really was that simple. Yes, we do eat lots fruit and veg but the amount we need to keep us full won’t fit in my over sized, over priced baby bag let alone a Yumbox!
It all comes down to checking nutrient content and ensuring we get all we need for the day. Plus the food has to be appealing because we all know how fussy 2 year olds can be! I have found over the last month (with lots of trial and error) that spending one day a week prepping lunchbox food is what really helps me. I usually do this on a Sunday, as hubby is home to help entertain the brood. Or if by some miracle both toddler and baby are sleeping at the same time during the week, I’ll do some cooking then.
I have learned and found lots of new recipes for lunchbox fillers, but just to ease us into it I adapted a few tried and tested recipes.
Pancakes are always a winner, whether sweet or savoury. My kids’ favorites are banana & blueberry and pea and broccoli. You can make a big batch and freeze them. Add whatever fruit/veg you like and put them in a container with baking paper separating them.
Baked Rosti. Mmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about them. We love courgette (zucchini for you non-British folk) onion and potato. These also freeze well, but they don’t last long enough for me to freeze them! I had these for morning tea today with some mushrooms and peppers from my garden…yummy.
Chick pea chocolate cookies. Yes you read it right; chick peas! these are so yummy, your family won’t know they have chick peas in them. This recipe is adapted from Nadia Lim, and I have omitted the coconut oil. These also freeze well. My toddler has a batch of these in the day care fridge for when they are having a treat.
Give them a go and see how you and the kids like them. Let me know what you think.
Broccoli & pea pikelets:
1.5 cups oat flour (oats ground into flour. I use my nutri bullet but a food processor will do fine)
2 tablespoons of LSA (Ground linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds)
1 cup of frozen peas
1/4 head of broccoli finely chopped
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (not to be confused with brewers yeast!)
Pinch black pepper
1 cup almond milk (or other nut/milk. Have some more available to thin out the mixture if needed)
Add any other spices you’d like. Mix well. Mixture will be thick so you can add more milk if you like.
Spoon mixture into a hot non stick frying pan, spread out a little and cook for around 2 mins each side just until lightly brown.
3 medium potatoes
1 large courgette or a few small ones
1 brown onion
1 tablespoon Nutritional yeast
Pinch black pepper
Pinch of salt
Grate the veges onto a couple of clean, dry tea towels. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. Mix together in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients. To arrange on the tray, I use an upside down cookie cutter. This way the rosti are all a nice round shape. Fill the tray and bake at 200 until the rosti are brown and a little crispy. This usually takes me around 35 minutes.
Chick pea choc chip cookies:
1 can no added salt chick peas drained
1/2 cup nut butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup of pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons of LSA
1/4 cup dark choc chips (dairy free)
2 tablespoons water
Mix all ingredients together in a food processor except choc chips. You’ll need to scrape down the sides every now and then. Pulse until mixture looks like cookie dough, adding a little water to bind. Then add the choc chips and pulse to mix through. Wet your hands and roll mixture into small balls. I just use a spoon or I’ll end up eating the mixture! Place on a baking tray with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Press each ball down with a wet fork. Bake for 15-17 mins at 170. Cool on the tray. The cookies are quite crumbly when hot so I don’t use a wire rack. Store in the fridge for as long as they’ll last!