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Obsessed with what my kids eat: Maybe more parents should

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Yesterday I went on a field trip with my six year old (holy cow she is six!), and I found myself obsessing over what she was eating. I was counting up grams of protein and amounts of calcium in my head. I found myself looking up values of different nutrients in one type of bread versus another type of bread and so on.


Then it occurred to me: Before I put my kids on a mostly vegan diet, I never really thought about what they ate. I tried to make sure that they ate healthy meals, but really, I never gave it much thought. So, why am I obsessing now?
If you go online and search out information about being a vegan parent, there is so much information about how it can be bad for kids from information about B12 to vitamin D and protein. People tend to fall into one of two camps: vehemently against vegan kids or absolutely for it. I am the kinda gal who has to do the research, so I just had to keep reading. The truth is that B12 is a food additive because it comes from bacteria, but most people get it from dairy and eggs. Vitamin D is added to dairy as well. Most Americans eat too much protein. If you spend 10-15 minutes outside without sunscreen, your body makes plenty of Vitamin D, by the way.
And, many of the products we eat in our house have B12 as an additive. There are plenty of ways you can get B12–from supplements, nutritional yeast, other foods.
So, because of my new found obsession, I decided to do a side by side comparison of what my kids eat now and what they ate before the new diet (I put the values into Livestrong’s my plate calorie counter). What I found out is that they eat about the same amount of protein. They eat more calcium and get more essential nutrients such as vitamin A and K and Manganese. The most important finding is that they eat less calories and less fat (with virtually no trans fats) while getting this valuable punch of nutrition.
I could only think to myself, I wish I had spent more time thinking about what we were all eating before! I don’t think parents like me are the problem. I do think about it. I make sure they have access to a wide variety of foods. And I am positive they have changed their taste buds. They eat everything from turnips to Swiss chard. I rarely hear complaints. We don’t have a cookie in the house, and not a single child has complained.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have cookies. If you have read my other posts, then you know we love a good Oreo. But it isn’t something that we must eat in our house everyday now. On many of the blogs, the Vegan parents say something like, “if I said I was going to feed my kids pink slime nuggets and chemicals pressed with sugar disguised as cookies, no one would say anything.” That really resonated with me. We don’t question if someone feeds their kids junk food diets. We rail if someone says having obese children is akin to child abuse, but then when we want to do something like go Vegan for health, ethical, and environmental reasons, then people say you might be doing something wrong. We have internalized this message so much that I have become obsessed with what my children are eating.

Here is the basic fact of the matter, my kids are healthy, they are energetic, lovely children. I am concerned about them, and I make sure that they get what they need. I may make mistakes in terms of what I feed them, but you know what, it can’t be worse than a steady diet of McDonald’s. So, back to the field trip that sparked this obsession. I was surrounded by five, six, and some seven-year-old children. Many of these children were already displaying the signs of an unhealthy life style (such as obesity and type II diabetes). I was sitting with my field trip group at the park, eating lunch, and I was looking at their lunches.

Let me start by telling you what Medea was eating:
Peanut butter and Vegan marshmallow fluff sandwich on whole wheat, whole grain bread.
Fruit salad with pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries.
Mishmash (applesauce with cinnamon).

Normally I pack a “dessert” item in her lunch like a bar or a cookie or something, but we were out. She recently told me she doesn’t have enough time to eat her entire lunch so she would rather have the mishmash than the cookie. She at the fruit salad first and then the sandwich. She saved her mishmash for after she played a while. (Preview: We are going to make oatmeal energy bars so the recipe will be coming soon!)

The other children were eating one of two meals. They had either brought their meal from home or they had a school provided lunch. Let’s start with the school provided lunch. The school lunch was a ham and cheese single sandwich. A bag of baked chips and an apple. Every child (three in my group) who brought a lunch from home brought a lunchable. The lunchables were ham and cheese with crackers, a Capri Sun, and a chocolate bar. Each child with a brought lunch also had it supplemented–one child had chips, one had more candy, one had a granola bar. The lunches were gross. Not a single child ate all of their sandwich, but they did eat the candy. Most of them ate at least part of the apple as well.

I noticed that some of the parents who had also chaperoned the field trip brought their kids fast food lunches. It was everywhere. I felt so overwhelmed by the fast food, processed nation that my kids live in. My 13-year-old is still giving me a hassle about how we eat, but I know in my heart that at least she gets good, whole foods at home. I hope that some of that wears off on her. Maybe the compassion component will come later.
For now, I am going to try to obsess just a little less and just to make sure that I continue to plan well rounded, yummy meals for us to eat.

On a funny note from the field trip: As one of the stations, you could be an artist. We all drew pigs and wrote “save the pigs!” I included a picture of Mae’s drawing. (I wrote the words).

Yucky day to Yeah Day!

>Today just started out yucky. Awfully yucky. Terrible really. I found out the traffic ticket I recieved is going to cost me an arm and a leg. (I pled not guilty to a portion of it so I have to go to court). My house is a mess. I’m under a veritable mountain of homework and work work. I just feel blah. Not to mention there is this nagging voice “whatcha going to do with your life?” That is intensified by the people around me who keep asking me things like, “what are your long range plans.” I guess I’m tired of feeling responsible for all the plans of other people’s lives! But I understand that the decisions I make really do impact so many people. To put it mildly. Today sucks.

Then I had to stop at Kroger to pick up some “filler groceries.” Filler groceries are what I call the groceries you have to get in between big shopping. Sometimes it might be milk (of the almond variety for us) or bread or whatever. When I got there, I was just pissy. I have to spend money when I found out how broke I am from a stupid ticket, you get the picture. But then, blueberries were on sale. So I got some crazy idea to make a fruit salad, and I just went crazy. I bought all my favorite fruits from canteloupe to pineapple to kiwis.

Then they had Earth Balance Margarine. This stuff is great. It is made from natural ingredients.
Like I can pronounce every ingredinet on the label. That is usually my threshold for products we bring in the house (except oreos). All of a sudden, I just started feeling better. I think I am starting to feel like I can do this. I feel more confident in my choices more sure that even if I make a flub (like the great margarine crisis of 2012) that I can find a corrective action and move in that direction. I didn’t just give up. I didn’t just throw in the towel because today was a rough day.

For those of you who know me, it is unusual for me to feel proud of myself. I always feel like I could have done it better. But I really feel like, “yes, yes.” I don’t know if going vegan is the reason for it or not, but I feel like it might have something to do with it because I am really starting to live my values, and that, my friends, feels good.

I know I promised a post on fake meat . . . I will still do that fake meat post . . . either later today or tomorrow.

Nervous Breakdowns, butter, and oreos

>So I had a “vegan” nervous breakdown. I have been doing a lot of vegan research; and as I transition to veganism, I am experiencing the usual ups and downs of what that means. It is also difficult living in a more rural setting without the expansive resources available in more urban settings. But even in Longview, I have it better than in other more rural settings. However, one thing I am coming to realize is that it may actually be better being a rural or suburban vegan because there are fewer choices and fewer judgements so it is easier to transition.

My husband also has helped me overcome some of these little hiccups. He basically said, “you can’t be perfect. You are doing the research, you are doing the best you can with the resources you have. Sometime there are going to be mistakes, but you just keep moving forward. Lesson learned.” I see his point, and the good thing is that maybe I can share those lessons with you all. And maybe someday all these lessons will make it into a book. But that may be wishful thinking 🙂

Anyway, back to the nervous breakdown. I ate margarine with whey in it. Whey is a milk byproduct; and therefore, an animal product–not vegan. I had done the research. But when I went to the grocery store, my daughter was bugging me, it was really late at night, I was hurrying, and I didn’t read the label. I thought I grabbed the brand that was vegan. So, we just ate it. Then I had this weird nagging voice in my head. So, I read the label. The bad news is it had whey in it. I was really upset.

I mean, I have been trying so hard to have it all go up in flames over whey! Grrr. Dang whey. So, of course, we quit eating it. We bought a vegan brand. Move on.

So, then we went to the store for sun screen. My kids have pretty fair skin. The middle child (Persephone) has been getting a really serious freckle outbreak and it is only APRIL! Well freckles are a sign of sun damage. Our family has a pretty serious history of melanoma, so I wanted to get her one of those stick sunscreens that she could swipe on her face before recess everyday. Just something to be preventative. Well, everything had beeswax in it. GRRR! My dear husband said, “you live in Longview. These are your choices, move on.” Well I struggled. Finally I found a stick that didn’t have beeswax, but it was on SPF 30. I know the studies say SPF 30 is enough, but I wanted at least 50, and I wanted it to be zinc based, blah blah.

So, I decided that I was going to go with the SPF 30 because it didn’t have beeswax and the literature supports that SPF 30 is adequate. But then there was a small display of sunscreen off to the side. So, I read the labels of all of those as well. And as luck would have it, I found a vegan stick that is SPF 50! Yeah! Robert was really irritated that I took like 25 minutes to pick out a sunscreen, but I will know for next time, so it won’t take so long, and I felt really happy with my choice.

Then I came home and really thought about what it meant for my family to be Vegans. I think for us, it means that we just do the best that we can. But I realized how difficult this is for me. Especially after my husband called me “One of those crazy Vegans.” Am I being crazy? I am not sure. I guess I am figuring it out as I go. I am trying really hard to evaluate gray areas. I am trying to be a good Vegan and to find out what that means in suburban areas.

So what that the margarine had whey in it? I didn’t do it on purpose. I learned a valuable lesson. But I also learned something that made me a little sad: a may never be comfortable eating an unfamiliar product again. That is hard to swallow.

So, what did I do in my sadness? I ate a freaking oreo! I promised myself I was not going to be a junk food vegan. I am a healthy, whole grain, celery eating vegan . . . who gets upset and comforts herself with food like the rest of us. That food is oreos. Tomorrow I’m going to write about tofurkey and why I don’t eat it. I think all the transition gurus are wrong, so I don’t eat fake meat (that is your preview). But I needed the oreo. I needed to eat something vegan that reminded me of what it is like to eat to be happy. I just felt guilty. But I guess, at least it was Vegan, right?

The Rotten Pie

My blog is normally a feel good, love yourself type of blog, but one way we can love ourselves is through empowering ourselves and those around us. Actions ALWAYS speak louder than words.

I have been reading a very interesting book on Feminist theory. Before you boys and girls turn off, I have discovered an interesting dynamic that expands so much further than the stereotypical idea of a bra burning feminist. bell hooks (yes she prefers her name to be lowercase–and it is a pen name) said in her article “Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression” that to look at Feminism as an identity diminishes the true goal of the movement. Instead, it is better to look at it as advocating on behalf of feminism. She also explores how feminism is directly related to the causes that look at ending all discrimination and oppression whether it be based on sex, race, class or any other determining factor.

Bonnie Kreps further develops on this idea when she says, “We . . . do not believe that the oppression of women will be ended by giving them a bigger piece of the pie. We believe that the pie itself is rotten.” How profound is that? The pie itself is rotten. Just chew on that.

Isn’t that what we are all grappling with right now in America? A rotten pie? And how do we overcome the odds of getting food poisoning while being spoon fed rotten pie? Well we need to look to forming social groups based not on our perceived identities while social aims that benefit only our group, but we need toward benefiting society as a whole. Women in particular face a hard road because we are divided by our loyalty and attachment to the men in our lives and to our social status. There so many other factors that play into our lives. Not only that, in this recession, women have more and more been looked at to be the sole provider for their families and to provide emotional and parental support.

I am a horrible culprit of talking the talk, but not walking the walk. I see MY plight and the plight of those who are like me as superior. Our concerns are paramount and any other concerns interfere with our own struggle, but this is just a confrontational way of thinking that just perpetuates that current system. I know that we are better than that–there is no reason we can’t fight sexism and racism while trying to fight against poverty. They all are related… they intertwine, and we can address them at the same time.

But this still leaves the problem what do we do? What can we do? Well I don’t know your personal views on issues that are affecting women today, but we can talk about real reproductive health measures not just hear but in the world at large. We can urge businesses, our government, and others to advocate on behalf of oppressed women. We can speak with our dollars. Support a Women’s charity, give to charities that support women in impoverished countries, support a charity that tries to end female circumcision.

But like I always say, it starts by being the ripe tomato. I am going to join my local chapter of the NOW organization, and I am going to start being an advocate on issues that matter to me through the auspices of this organization. I am going to advocate to stop human trafficking, to support reproductivehealth and rights, and to focus on better wages and standing for women in our community.