I'm having a really hard time committing to feeding my family plant-based/vegan. Perhaps if my children were typical functioning children and ate normally and could gain weight easily. But they're not.
That's the number one reason: It seriously makes me feel like a bad mother that I can't get them to gain weight.
Pookie, who turned 12 earlier this month, weighs nearly 57 lbs. He needs a good amount of protein or he has a hard time controlling his behavior. He now hates peanut butter and can't hardly stand cashews or quinoa.
Even when we were eating a typical western diet, albeit primarily homemade instead of processed, they struggle to gain weight-- the oldest two and the youngest two mainly.
But when we omit foods like eggs and cheese and butter and milkfats, it's REALLY a struggle.
I truly, TRULY believe it is much healthier to have a plant-based whole-foods diet. But maybe that will be secondary to getting them to grow. Maybe it's mostly for adults, not growing children.
Before we switched to feeding them vegan, I researched and studied and kept track of what they would be eating so I could be sure they were getting the nutritional requirements they need. And I studied and researched along the way.
Some things we have learned and changes we've made in the past 9 months:
We gave up cow's milk for almond milk even though it's twice the price because it has 45% calcium per cup (instead of 30%) and your body can absorb it since it's not blocked by the animal proteins.
We've given up most oils for coconut oil (unflavored) because of it's many benefits. I on occasion use shortening-- pretty much just in pie crust. I haven't ventured to using coconut oil in it yet. Yes, I know shortening is a killer. But we don't eat pie every day-- or even monthly.
We learned that we LOVE nutritional yeast on popcorn and can't stomach microwave popcorn anymore.
We learned to eat a lot less meat. I never considered us big meat-eaters to begin with. Instead of saying, "We have chicken. What should we make for dinner that's a chicken dish?" We now say, "What grain (rice, pasta, quinoa, bread, rolls) do we want to go with these veggies?" We don't base our meals around the meat anymore.
We found out it's cheaper to eat more grains, veggies, beans, legumes, fruit, than it is to eat meat. However, it's a lot more expensive to buy organic. We do what we can to let our "vote" for organics be heard, but we aren't going to break the bank for it.
We learned to read labels on everything. We learned what BHT in cereal does to our children and their attention spans.
We grew a garden and enjoyed reaping the benefits from it.
We found out how much we love locally grown fruits and veggies in season.
We learned how companies make natural dyes -- and we prefer not to partake of the red ones. :P
We learned about extruded grains and cereals and have agreed that we can't be that obsessed with omitting cereals because I cannot devote hours to cooking or prepping meals daily. I have to find a balance.
We eat a lot more oatmeal. I make granola and discovered I can freeze it!
But I'm done. I can't be at the place I thought I'd be at this point because my children's growth, and my sanity, need to come first.
Many of these changes we will continue. We will continue to veganize recipes, drink almond milk, base our meals around the healthy components, buy locally.
But I'm going to buy yogurt and granola bars and boxed cereal and pasta. I'm going to fill my freezer with homemade freezer meals -- even if they have dairy or meat-- so I can cut my budget down and the time spent in meal prep and the stress of not knowing what's for dinner.
I feel like I'm making an educated decision now that I have experimented for several months and read and researched.
Please let it help my children gain weight. Bring on the cheese.