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Every parent’s dream is for their kids to eat healthy and for there to be no more mealtime battles. We know that telling our kids to clean their plates or withholding dessert as a threat isn’t working, nor is it teaching our children intuitive eating. The big questions start with how. How do we get our kids to eat their veggies? How do we reduce their sugar intake without making them (and us) miserable?
In recent years, more and more people are turning to a plant-based diet, for a myriad of reasons. However, if you hear “plant-based,” you might also scoff. Is it really, truly realistic that our entire family go plant-based, and is it worth it? I have good news for you.
Scary Mommy checked in with two plant-based diet experts to get their take. Reshma Shah, MD MPH, board-certified pediatrician, and adjunct instructor at Stanford, along with her co-author, Brenda Davis, a registered dietitian wrote “Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families.” They’re here to teach us all we need to know about implementing a plant-based diet for our family, whether we do it 100% or partially.
A Plant-Based Diet, Defined
Brenda Davis, RD, defines a plant-based diet as one that is “either mostly or exclusively plant foods.” Adding, “Plant-based diets can be semi-vegetarian (meaning small amounts of animal products are consumed), pescovegetarian (vegetarian plus fish), lacto-ovo vegetarian (plants plus dairy and eggs) or vegan (no animal products).” Dr. Shah shares that a plant-based diet is one that includes “vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lentils, beans, seeds, and nuts.”
Is A Plant-Based Diet Safe And Healthy?
A big question many parents ask is if a plant-based diet is safe and, in fact, healthy. After all, many diets claim to be the plan for ultimate health, and we all know that many of those are gimmicks. They are also very protein (and sometimes fat) laden. Dr. Shah shared that “Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics unequivocally stated that appropriately planned plant-based diets (including vegetarian and vegan diets) are healthful and nutritionally adequate during ALL stages of the lifecycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and for athletes.” I was also assured that those who eat gluten-free and those who are diabetic can safely eat a plant-based diet.
Supplementation Is Necessary
According to Dr. Shah, it’s imperative that any family committing to eat plant-based makes sure they get “adequate quantity and variety of foods including fortified foods and supplements when indicated.” Registered Dietitian Brenda Davis explains that those of us who choose a plant-based diet “may consider specific supplements such as vitamins B12, D, iodine, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.” She notes that B12 isn’t generally available from plant foods.
What About Protein?
A common argument I hear against eating plant-based in lieu of lots of dairy and meat, is that plant-based diets lack the protein our bodies need. I was raised in the 1980s when parents were told that children must drink three glasses of milk a day in order to build strong bones and fill up on some protein. Dr. Shah reminds us that fortified soy milk contains the same amount of protein and calcium as “regular” (cow’s) milk, and plant-based proteins like tofu and veggie-meats contain just as much protein as animal meat. There’s a major perk to getting your protein from plant-based foods. Dr. Shah shared that “multiple studies have demonstrated increased longevity and reduced risk of disease” when you eat plant-based.
Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
When researching, I discovered that there are many potential benefits to adhering to a plant-based diet. Dr. Shah shares, “Working towards a more plant-based diet offers many health advantages including a lower risk of developing several chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.” Brenda Davis adds that there’s also the added perk of being leaner and reducing our risk for “diverticular disease, fatty liver disease, cataracts, and kidney disease.”
Plant-Based Foods Can Be Delicious
I admit, when I switched to a mostly plant-based diet, I was overwhelmed. Was I destined to nibble on seeds and snack on pears for the rest of my life? A kale smoothie wasn’t exactly appealing, yet I knew there were major benefits to this diet. Luckily, the authors offer multiple, delicious plant-based recipes in their book, including cranberry orange almond muffins, crispy tofu fingers, peanut butter brownies, and lemony chickpea pasta. The authors tell me that their recipes are family-friendly. Dr. Shah also notes that even one ingredient, like black beans, can be used in many different ways such as lentil soup, black beans and rice, and bean burritos. (On a personal note, there are some amazing black bean brownie recipes online.) Plant-based foods not only offer flavor, but variety.
I asked the authors, can families who are always on the go, between work, school, and extracurriculars, eat a plant-based diet? Brenda Davis assured me, “Most convenient omnivorous foods have equally convenient plant-based counterparts. In addition, plant based meals do not need to be overly time-consuming to prepare. A sandwich and a bowl of soup is a perfectly acceptable meal.” In my family’s case, there are six of us, and we frequently grab a plant-based protein bar and a piece of whole fruit when rushing out the door. It’s just as easy to eat plant-based as it is not to.
Plant-Based Eating Is Affordable
I’ve read from many parents that “healthy eating is too expensive.” Brenda Davis replies, “The poorest people on the planet eat plant-based.” This is because animal products cost more. She gives the example of grains and beans being cheaper than meat or fish. She recognizes that processed plant-based foods tend to cost more than animal-processed plant based foods, such as a nut-based cheese versus a dairy cheese; these are extras in a plant-based diet and not necessities. She notes that beans, grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are “fairly reasonably priced.” Buying in bulk and growing some of your food (if that’s your cup of tea) can also help cut costs. Dr. Shah also notes that we don’t have to make eating so overwhelming and complicated. An apple and peanut butter is a perfectly sufficient, easy snack.
Is Plant-Based Eating All Or Nothing?
I wanted to know, are we cheating if we only eat plant-based sometimes? Is something better than nothing? Brenda Davis reassured me that going partially plant-based is “a great step.” After all, “Every step a person takes towards a more healthful, ethically sound, and ecologically sustainable diet is worth celebrating.” Also, she shares that “there are no vegan police.” Certainly, making dietary changes is a big deal, especially if your whole family does it, so offer up some patience, room for mistakes, and trial-and-error with recipes.
Despite eating a mostly plant-based diet for several years now, I learned a lot from the authors. Eating plant-based is feasible, it can save us on our grocery bill, and with some creativity, we can whip up meals and snacks that please us all.
The post A Plant Based Diet May Be Exactly What Your Family Needs To Finally Eat Healthy appeared first on Scary Mommy.
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The word “diet” forces me to try to fit my rolls and thick thighs into a box that was never meant for me. My body was never meant to be 100 pounds, a size two, or exist on vegetables alone. Over the years of finding love and having babies, the weight I carried turned from the “happy fat” of allowing myself to be loved by another and birthing babies into the world into something much different. The weight I carried, the image reflected at me, I didn’t like looking at. My thighs became too big. My belly too flabby. My butt too round. And the nonsense I filled my head with led me to try diet after diet.
I grew up in a household where large, hearty Sunday dinners were prepared with love by my Southern grandparents. Dinner was topped off by some homemade dessert of my grandfather’s, usually a cinnamon swirl cake with vanilla frosting and accompanied with some new flavor of Breyer’s ice cream for all of us to try. My relationship with food was built around love, the love others put into making a meal for me that would fuel my body and feed my soul — whether it was healthy was a secondary thought, coming after the thought about who made the meal and who sat with me to eat it. Eating was a family affair for me; food was something I enjoyed, and snacks were my saving grace.
After I had my twin daughters, and while on maternity leave, I began to cook more. I fulfilled my dream of making most of their first solid foods instead of buying them. I wanted them to grow up knowing and eating organic and healthy foods, resetting my tastebuds to better handle the foods I wanted them to eat. At some point, I told myself I needed to be successful at making their healthy foods and put unnecessary pressure on myself to eat better for them.
I thought I needed to follow someone else’s plan to help me help my waistline, so I started the Whole30 diet. My goal has always been to lose a few pounds, then to lose the baby weight, and then to get below 140 pounds. When I failed to lose any weight on the Whole30, I got discouraged and quit before the thirty days ended. I ignored the voice in my head that told me I didn’t need any diet.
Then I found the Keto Diet, a plan that encouraged eating high fat foods so that my body could burn fat first. I found success. This was it. This was the diet I’d been looking for! I lost five pounds easily. I fasted. I ate my fats. I tracked my food intake. I watched the number on the scale go down. This made me happy, until it didn’t. I wanted to have a slice of cake on my wife’s birthday. The keto cake I made for her did not go over well for any of us — and I mean, it was her birthday, so why did I make her suffer through the cake too?
The holidays came and went and I cut myself a little slack, giving myself permission not to diet because “I only live once.” So, I ate the rice and curry and the desserts offered up during Christmas and Thanksgiving, taking a little Keto diet detour. Eventually, I lost interest in being a Keto diet follower; blame it on pandemic life or the fact that being at home, stuck inside, cooking all my meals told me something about myself. It told me that all of the pressure I’d put on myself to follow someone else’s eating plan for me didn’t work. I’d lost control when that’s all I ever wanted. No diet, no food plan, no accountability partner could give me what I could only give myself: freedom. I owed myself the opportunity to tell myself a different story about what eating could and “should” be for me.
I gave myself the permission I needed to eat the homemade bread I perfected throughout the last few months. The bread born out of the times I scoured the empty aisles hoping to find yeast and flour. I practiced over and over until I perfected the ever so famous no-knead Mark Bittman loaf.
Making bread became a form of therapy for me. It cost less than $5 a baking session for me to realize that I only needed a few ingredients to give myself the kind of freedom I’d searched my entire life to find — permission to eat whatever the hell I wanted. And this is how I began building a healthier relationship with food … one loaf at a time.
The post I Gave Myself Permission To Eat, And Built A Better Relationship With Food appeared first on Scary Mommy.
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Trigger warning: Eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder
Compliments. I’ve never been very good about hearing or receiving compliments. And while I don’t know why — the cause of my discomfort is, more likely than not, an issue for my therapist (or the basis for another article) — a recent compliment really threw me for a loop. Four words shook me to my core. Why? Because they were inaccurate and misleading. They simply weren’t true.
So what was the compliment? What were the words which altered the course of my day and, in many ways, my life? A friend, whom I hadn’t seen in months, said “Wow! You look great.” Yes, that’s it. Game. Set. Match. Checkmate.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: How basic. How simplistic and innocuous. How pointedly harmless and innocent. But knowing this individual (really knowing them), I knew what they meant. Physically, I looked good. Since March, I’ve lost weight, and being complimented on my appearance bothered me — a lot — because I’m not healthy.
I’m not well.
You see, my weight loss has been fueled by anger, depression, and grief. My mother died in June, in a sudden and traumatic way. In July, I told my husband I was gay. And, like millions of others, the pandemic has taken a mental toll. I’ve been feeling hopeless and helpless, lost and trapped. But my habits have also changed. Old ways of thinking have returned, and old patterns of eating — or not eating — have (re)appeared.
A long-dormant eating disorder has returned.
I start my day with a cup of iced coffee. Black. I guzzle 20 ounces of water to curb my appetite. To keep the pangs of hunger at bay. I count the hours between meals just as I count calories. Intermittent fasting, it’s called. I don’t eat during certain times of the day. I opt for low or no fat foods, and I measure everything I consume. Ten pretzels. Five strawberries. Three olives. A half cup of yogurt or cottage cheese. And if I eat breakfast, I don’t allow myself the privilege of lunch. I never finish dinner. I also work out constantly. Obsessively.
It’s easy for me to log 50-plus miles a week.
And while I say it’s for my mental health (and, in a sense, it is), it’s also because I’m obsessed with my weight. I struggle with the size of my stomach and backside. I hate the thickness of my thighs. And being thin dictates my life.
I’ve wasted years pursuing “perfection.”
Of course, there is a name for my condition. Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessive, self-deprecating thoughts particularly over or about one’s physical appearance.
“Body dysmorphic disorder is a body image, mental health disorder in which someone has persistent negative thoughts about his or her flaws and/or imperfections, whether they are real or perceived, in a way that interferes with their daily lives,” Kathryn Lee — a therapist in New York City — tells Scary Mommy. And that is the case with me.
My day is structured around workouts and food. I’ve missed out on family moments because I’ve been too busy hitting the pavement or lifting weights. Before the pandemic, I would avoid cocktail hours and happy hours. Events which focused around food. And I sleep a lot because I lack the energy to do anything further. I lack the energy to exist. But that’s not all. I read nutrition labels obsessively. I run through pain. Because my thinking isn’t just disordered and distorted, it’s addictive. I’m addicted to feeling. To “power.” To the pursuit of perfection and control.
I’m not alone. Lee tells Scary Mommy addictive behaviors are common amongst those with disordered eating. “You can be addicted to exercise, eating, and/or not eating,” Lee explains. “And since addictions alter pleasure pathways in the brain, such as the levels of serotonin and dopamine, things like exercise, eating, and/or not eating, can fool our bodies to believe that these activities are good for us. However, as with drugs, the addiction occurs when these activities become abused. If an individual is so fixated his or habits that it interferes with his or her daily functioning, a problem may be developing.”
So, what can you do? What should you do? Well, according to Lee, if these issues persist, you can and should get help: “Individuals should reach out to friends, family, and/or a mental health professional to keep them accountable.” And she’s right. Lee’s advice is the advice I need to take because, from the outside looking in, you wouldn’t know I was sick. Hell, no one knows it … not my husband, my best friend, my girlfriends, or my psychologist. I’ve kept my struggles a secret — at least until now. Until earlier this week. But it’s time I get my shit together. I deserve happiness and health.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder and/or disordered behaviors, text or call the National Eating Disorder Association’s helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
We all have a dream of the parents we’d be if we had infinite time and resources. Relaxed and happy with everything we need close at hand. The challenge of family life is that this situation just doesn’t exist- we parent on a limited budget and a packed schedule, and we make the best of the situations that we find ourselves in. Every parent has dined on a supper of the food their kid just refused or tried to dispense a lunch to children in the back of a moving vehicle. Raising kids means developing the skill to make the best of adverse circumstances.
This is why parents become so familiar with The Snack. Our day isn’t scheduled around three sumptuous square meals- it’s a mad dash from a quick breakfast to a bag lunch and a delivered-just-in-time dinner that requires improvisation, cut corners, and a bagful of snacks at the ready. It’s not that nutritional value isn’t always our first priority- it’s that it basically never is. And the result is that we’re frequently presenting our kids with semi-nutritious food just so we can meet the various demands of our day. But with a little forethought, it’s possible to find healthier, more natural snack options that kids love *and* that fit into our mad scramble.
The factor that most often drives parents into the arms of unhealthy snacks is definitely the time crunch. On long, lazy afternoons, it’s easy to search the kitchen for the optimal snack, even if it takes some effort to prepare. But for every long, lazy afternoon that your family enjoys, there are dozens of mad dashes around the house to make the morning school bus or quick drives between two afterschool activities with famished kids. In situations like these, there’s no time to break out the baking sheets and popsicle molds- families need something that’s edible now and healthy to the greatest extent possible.
There are options for families feeling the time crunch, though- natural snacks, better for the whole family, that can be deployed in one instant and cleaned up in the next. Simple Truth Plant-Based Buffalo Cauliflower Dip, for instance, is a simple snack with all the flavor that kids crave which can go from fridge to table in an instant. And, served with baby carrots or Simple Truth Organic White Corn Tortilla Chips, you’re steering well clear of sugary or overprocessed snacks.
Time is the only consideration for a busy family, though: so much of family life happens on the go. More and more, we’re eating at school, at extracurricular activities, or at some quick stop in between, with no opportunity to bring the whole show back to the dinner table for a three-course meal. There are plenty of ways to make food portable, but few delicious ones that meet the dietary goals you have for your kids.
One great solution here are small, bite-sized snacks made with natural, non-GMO ingredients. Simple Truth Blueberry Cashew Trail Mix Bites, for instance, pack all of the flavors of trail mix into snackable morsels that pop easily into the mouth rather than burrowing into every crevice of your car. Easy to throw into a portable container or to dispense directly from front seat to back, small-bite snacks like this are purpose-built for consuming on the move.
Another challenge to healthy snacking that parents know so well is the fact that we’re seldom in a position to arrange separate snacks for kids, friends, and parents. When the neighborhood kids or the grandparents come over for a visit, we need a simple option that everyone can dip into as needed. Again, this problem is easy to solve with a bag of potato chips, but it’s a bit trickier if we have our eye on better ingredients.
The solution here is to go back to basics: kids, adults, and everyone in between respond to great flavors, and there are better-for-you snack options out there that pack the same punch as our guilty pleasures. Some, like Simple Truth Popped BBQ Protein Crisps, take a classic “junk food” flavor and improve the delivery method. These swap the fried potato chip for a popped soy protein crisp. Others, like Simple Truth Sunflower Butter Filled Pretzels, are in a genre all their own, but with a sweet & savory flavor that adults will enjoy right along with the kids. And because they’re free of both peanuts and tree nuts, we can set them out with peace of mind, no matter who’s joining for a snack.
In this universe of snacks, some healthy and others not-so-healthy, it’s not that parents don’t have great ways to give their kids natural, nutritious snacks. It’s that those snacks are not always the most obvious choice in our hectic modern family life. Thanks to Simple Truth®, though, it’s possible to find snacks that give parents the options and flexibility they need to oversee another stuffed day of family adventures while also keeping an eye on the ingredients we’re offering to our kids.
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