I have been a raw vegan for over a year. During this time, my meat and carb craving husband and son have been able to transition from 100% cooked foods to more and more raw vegan meals. On a very good day at home, breakfast, snacks, drinks and lunch are 100% raw and dinner is about 50% raw. As I write this, I am reminded of how far we have come in the past year. But it is a struggle sometimes. On what I call bad days, the boys consume almost 0% raw but for their drinks.
We recently visited Alabama and I was shocked to discover that in one restaurant the only fruit or vegetable (cooked or raw) on the menu was a side order of 2 slices of tomato!!! I couldn’t believe it. Needless to say, we didn’t eat there. We were appalled! But, what incensed me the most was the quality of food my husband and son were eating – rather what they chose to eat when dining out: non-organic meats, Krispy Kreme doughnuts (at a buffet in a museum), highly processed preservative filled pancakes and muffins (I would have chosen better restaurants if there were options), fried coconut shrimp (probably saturated fat and mercury filled), lemonade no doubt made with high fructose corn syrup… I could go on. I cringed at their choices. I cringed at the toxins they were eating. I cringed because I had a quick vision of myself giving up on them and serving them what they obviously so enjoyed.
Where we didn’t eat: A Cafe in Gadsden, AL
Then it struck me… as it always does, that it is OK. It is OK for them to make their own choices for themselves.It is OK for them to discover how these awful foods affect their bodies – for themselves. It can be a learning experience for them – and for me too. When we returned home, they were exhausted and had outbreaks of pimples on their bodies. I, on the other hand, was as healthy and full of energy as I was at the beginning of the trip.
Now at home, I have bravely decided that (like all raw moms), I needed to do a better job at properly empowering my family to make better food choices. But how?HOW?!? Although we homeschool, bring our lunch boxes everywhere and eat at home for most meals, we want to be part of the community and in doing so, we are exposed to what other people eat a few times a week. Although our friends know how careful I am about our family’s diet, it is inevitable that our son will want what all the other kids or adults are having. In a recent birthday party, there was a pinata and our son just devoured all the candy he picked up. It didn’t stop there of course because he ate all of his mainstream cupcake, some ice cream AND he wanted a lollipop. Needless to say, a watermelon cube at the end of a toothpick just wouldn’t do. (Did I already mention that we even made sure we fed him before we arrived at the party?) Of course, the very next day, he had a bit of a runny nose…
Although I do explain the difference between processed and fresh foods – does my son really care? Does he understand? But will he choose to eat that junk anyway? Hmmm… if given a choice, probably yes. Ditto for my husband if we’re out of the house.
Before this summer, it was easier to get our 3 year old son to eat more raw and he loved the green smoothies and sprouted salads. But as he has become more social and more attentive to how other kids (or adults) eat and attuned to their negative views on vegetables, he has said: “I don’t like greens.” “No green smoothie for me!” “I just want bread!” “This is Almond Butter, not Peanut Butter. Yuck!” He has taken the lettuce out of a raw sandwich (so lovingly put together), refused to drink freshly made juice or smoothies and declared “I am not hungry!” after surveying the table.
OH DEAR! This is HARD.
How can you fight a culture that loves and exhaults bad food???
How can you fight the Standard American Diet when it is constantly in your family’s face???
Ummm… perseverance, I guess? Let me see… what other mantras do I recite in my head while I cringe at my family’s food choices: force not, educate constantly, provide healthy food options at home and while traveling… and geez… you gotta just RELAX. It’s not the end of the world. So what do I do? I keep at it because at the end of the day, I know I’ve done my best for my family’s health and well-being. This thought alone motivates, encourages and inspires me to keep serving up more raw vegan fare at home.
Many friends have asked me HOW I have come this far in transitioning my family’s meals at home. Most are daunted by the task of introducing raw foods, especially if their husbands and children love meats and cooked foods. So, here is my ‘plan’. I wish we were 80% raw now, but I believe in ‘the slower the better’ method especially for those who may resist change.
1. GO SLOW
Make a list. Start by changing one habit at a time – the easiest ones first. Once that becomes comfortable, move on to the next item on your list.
2. EDUCATE THE FAMILY AND GET SUPPORT
For my husband, documentaries are important in getting his support, such as:
– The Cove (let’s just say we don’t go to Sushi restaurants as much anymore, and if we do – he chooses his fish carefully)
– Blue Vinyl (this has diminished his craving for more animal products)
– Food Matters (he now wants to add Superfoods into his food and suggested more meals consisting of his favourite raw vegan foods – YEAH!)
– Food Inc (I don’t have to argue why organic, local food is better)
For my son, he looks at what Daddy eats. So, if Daddy is on board, it is much easier getting the child to change diet.
For me, I read and contribute to the Raw Mom Blog, I found a local raw vegan community, I keep reading books on nutrition and health, and keep sharing what I’ve learned with others.
Bring the whole family along to:
– nutrition talks and meetings. After one meeting, my son looked at me and said “We need to eat a RAINBOW of colours Mama!”
– shop at health food stores and let them choose produce for the week
– when shopping at grocery stores, teach them about the different aisles, food labels, sale items, conventional versus organic, etc
– go to local farms and support them. My son has eaten freshly picked okra.
3. GET RID OF EVERYTHING PROCESSED IN THE KITCHEN AND IN THE PANTRY THAT WON’T BE MISSED
– I did this in one day and it felt really good to get rid of the junk!
– going forward, substitute ingredients for raw, i.e. use local honey instead of sugar, raw almond butter instead of peanut butter, coconut butter/oil instead of butter, use more whole grain products instead of refined (make raw oatmeal instead of cooked)
1 cup fresh lemon juice, 5 cups water, 3/4 cup honey.
Mix all together.
Add fresh mint sprigs and citrus slices, as you wish.
– We bought a filter for our drinking water.
– I started juicing and making more green smoothies. I would make these in bulk to last at most 3 days. Live enzymes and the nutrients would be depleted by then, but it is a far better option than store bought.
– Our son had some nut allergies in the beginning, so we opted for raw goat’s milk for him for a while. Now we alternate between raw goat’s milk and raw homemade almond milk, but plan to stick to more of the latter.
– Use a straw or a thermos to mask the taste/texture/colour of some green smoothies… it works!
– anything with dips and sauces, like flax seed crackers with spinach avocado dip, spring rolls with mung bean sprouts, raw hummus
– soups served in spoons
– anything bite size
e. the main course
1/2 cooked (pasta) and 1/2 raw (sauce and veggies)
– start ‘easy’ by serving up 1/2 cooked and 1/2 raw items together
– move on to substitute the cooked pasta with vegetable ‘pasta’ made from carrots, zucchini…
– experiment with dehydrated breads and ‘wraps’ to create sandwich-like items (puree spinach with flax meal, salt, tomatoes, spices and dehydrate)
– salads or fillings with tomato, corn or avocado are always a success in our house
– avocado sushi (nori wrapped avocado)
5. HAVE RAW CHOICES AT EVERY MEAL
– ASK: do you want to drink your raw vegan foods (smoothie/juice) or eat it (salad) today?
– make sure to have lots of fresh fruits around for desserts/snacks
– make foods and drinks to last at least 2 days (less work for you!)
– organize and plan your meals!
6. KEEP TRYING NEW RAW FOOD CHOICES AND DON’T GIVE UP
use greens as ‘wraps’
– if the family doesn’t like something, keep at it to discover the raw foods that they do like
– keep the raw foods that they like around
7. ALLOW SOME OLD TREATS DURING THE WEEKEND OR SPECIAL OCASSIONS
– remember, enjoying the food also helps the body digest it better!
8. HAVE FUN AND DON’T GET SO WORKED UP OVER IT!
– make the food fun and appealing (use straws, make edible food art together, make it bite size, give it a striking name – we’ve had Jedi power, Jawa juice, etc)
– understand that transitioning takes time and people’s cravings change
– plan and organize a weekly menu
– write down every raw vegan food item that the family liked and put it on a list under breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert — so you don’t have to think next time you go food shopping or plan for next week’s meals
– if plans fail today, there’s always tomorrow!
9. INVEST IN GOOD APPLIANCES and READ LOTS OF BOOKS when you have the chance
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