On my quest to eat healthier, I was faced with the family challenge: How do I make my family eat like me and do I need to make them eat like me? I see all kinds of blogs about how whole families eat as vegans or vegetarians, and how people switched their kids over to healthier eating plans. How do I do it and should I do it are the questions.
My sister started earlier than I did on a plant strong life and so her kids are naturally more "plant strong" programmed than mine are because they've been doing it longer and because they were younger when they started eating this way. As long as I can remember, she fed her children pretty healthily and offered them many different types of foods. In many ways, she is my nutrition hero (Tricia Mulhall Taylor, you rock!) My children are 10 and 13 so giving up the junk and making dietary changes is a lot harder for them. I'm not saying it can't be done , but should I do it? This is one of my regrets as a parent, that I didn't make them eat healthier from the get go. But, I didn't become plant strong till this year so I guess I should give myself a break. Don't get me wrong, I switched us early on to whole grains, I never fry anything any more, I don't use white flour, I think processed foods are horrible, I use very little oils (even the healthy ones), and I keep us stocked well with fresh fruits and veggies. I often think to myself that I should just force my children into the healthy eating lifestyle that I have chosen, but I don't think that would work. I think it would push them to eat more and worse when they are not at home.
Since my kids are teens and preteens, I guess I see my role as trying to make their meals that I do make at home as healthy as possible (which I do). I am constantly changing little things here and there, tweaking our meals as best I can to make them more nutrient dense, and even sneaking healthy stuff ( like flax and chia seeds) in on them without their knowledge. I try to focus on small modifications towards healthier eating (at least with the kids) so that the change is less dramatic and more progressive towards a healthier lifestyle. I think big dramatic change would cause too much push back with a possibility of them abandoning any kind of healthy lifestyle and just doing whatever they want when they are not at home.
I also see my role as leading by example and talking to the kids about why I am making the choices I am and how they can work to be healthier individuals.We talk about food choices and portion control as well. I am not perfect though, and we do have some "junk" in my house, but this is a process for us and I am treating it as such...at least where the kids are concerned. And just because I don't eat meat, I don't think I need to keep it from my kids. Lean cuts of chicken , fish, and turkey, as well as the once in awhile hormone free grass fed beef are good for them, I think. Everything healthy in moderation, I guess. I am also trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into their dinner repertoire, and I look for opportunities to substitute soy crumbles for ground beef whenever possible, like when I make lasagna.
I don't eat meat, so should they eat it? I don't eat sweets but should they eat them? I don't eat processed foods, so should my kids? If I love them and want to keep them safe and help them grow up strong and healthy, should I not ban certain foods that I know to be less than stellar, nutritionally speaking? These are questions I struggle with. I know that my kids eat better than the SAD (Standard American Diet) but not as healthy as a plant strong diet. I also know that we're moving them closer to becoming more plant strong every day. It's a process and takes time and I need to be mindful of that.
Above all, I know one important truth: I am doing my best, and right now, that has to be enough.