Many twists and turns, stops and starts and stalls led me to a whole-food, processed sugar-free and plant-based life. If we had never had to deal with health issues, I may never have looked at it. So, with one child who suffered from allergies, horrible excema and a gluten-sensitivity and another child who is haywire when he has processed white/brown sugar, I was forced to look at how I was feeding my family.
We eliminated eggs for a period of time around 11 years ago (the Grade 5 immunization in Canada is egg-based, and our daughter's body had trouble dealing with it) and moved to a gluten-free (due to gastrointestinal issues) way of cooking. It was Difficult. My repertoire of recipes were no longer viable and in 2007 the gluten and egg-free options were hard to find...and I found myself dreading cooking. Over those few years, I experimented-many fails, few successes-and eventually got better and started to feel good about my cooking again.
Enter the 'Hungry For Change' documentary....and then 'FoodMatters'...and I shifted again. These movies called attention to the incredible amount of sugar in our North American diet and processed food in particular. We clearly needed to eat more vegetables. I realized that this was contributing to why my son was so difficult - too much sugar was going into his growing body. I learned so much from these documentaries and they really supported me as I implemented going sugar-free.
I would just like to note this mistake I made as a warning for other moms: DO NOT TELL YOUR CHILDREN THAT YOU AREN'T BUYING SUGAR ANYMORE and expect them to be as excited as you are. We had a revolt.
But I was stubborn and prevailed hahaha. We have been white/brown/molasses/corn syrup-free for about 5 years now. Not perfectly! We have icing on cakes and treats from friends and school still make it through the gate but it is WAY less than it used to be. We've even changed Hallowe'en...but I'll write about that in a different post 😉
When we were first married I had a sugar bin, and bought a 10kg bag of white sugar about once a month. Now I have coconut sugar, maple syrup and honey to sweeten our life (yes, I know that honey is from bees and many vegans abstain. We have quite a few bee-keepers in our area who are passionate about their bees and no bees=no growing food, so I am happy to support them). We eat very little processed sugar, preferring fresh and frozen fruit and raisins as sweet treats over the kid-friendly fruit snacks and store-bought cereals and granola bars. The kids still like those things but I don't buy them as a regular staple anymore.
So while I was transitioning to sugar-free and increasing the amount of vegetables in our diet, my sister Carla had been moving towards Veganism and while I was there for a visit, she introduced me to 'Forks over Knives'. While I was always sad when animals die and had to pretend that they didn't when I ate meat, it hadn't really hit me as something that I could or would be willing to change. We need meat, right?? Well, between that movie, Cowspiracy and great support on www.Foodmatters.com...I was done with Meat. Now to get the family on board....
Thankfully I remembered my "DON'T TALK ABOUT SUGAR-FREE" lesson and started with myself. The first week was hard, the cravings while cooking meat for everyone else were sometimes overwhelming. The second week I was tired and had brain fog and thought 'I don't think I can do this' about a million times. By the third week, I was feeling proud of myself and in the fourth week I watched the documentaries again to bolster my spirit. I was still cooking meat, but it was no longer attractive to me. Yay!!
Somewhere around month 4, as I stuffed a Turkey (not for the last time, but I'll get into that later) I realized that I couldn't even cook meat anymore. My Spirit was screaming at me. I was a hypocrite. How could I spout the health and spiritual benefits I was experiencing of living animal-protein free and still feed it to those that I love the most? It wasn't enough for me to just abstain...I needed to remove it from the dinner table. So, a few months later I told my husband "I'm not cooking meat anymore. Period. I just can't do it. I can't feed it to the kids anymore. If you want it, you will have to buy it and cook it yourself." Fight ensued. Not a deal-breaker one, but one that definitely shook things up!
So there we were, a somewhat divided family for a period of time while I once again dreaded cooking dinner and the inevitable discussion of 'where's the beef?' at the table. And I had to learn how to cook food that my family would eat and hopefully enjoy! Some wins along the way...a lot of misses. But we got through it.
In the spirit of compromise, I taught my husband how to stuff the turkey the next Yuletide and washed my hands of it completely the second year..and last year he said 'Why don't we just not have turkey this year?' so we had a Harvest Vegetable Pot Pie and it was a bigger hit than the turkey had been all those years!
Over the last year, I have let go of dairy. It's not always perfect - I love dips and caesar dressing and sometimes slip, forgetting that there's probably dairy in them. Letting go of cheese was tough, but I found that once I stopped looking at it like a nutrient source and more like a garnish, it was easier to give up and convert to Non-Dairy cheeses when I feel the craving. Dairy-free options in restaurants can be hard to find, so occasionally I send an energetic Thank You to the cow or chicken who provided me with that aspect of my meal. I have learned to Forgive Myself on this path.
Overall, the dairy consumption in our home has DRASTICALLY reduced - in the past we used to buy FOUR 4L jugs of milk a week..yes, you read that right...and now we buy none. There's still cow cream going into some coffee mugs, cow butter for those that still want it on their toast and cow cheese going on kid pizza and nachoes (still working on a good melt-in-the-oven cheese!) but waaay less than even a year ago! I'm excited for a further reduction in this next year!
As far as the kids go...I have one daughter who transitioned easily to about 98% meat-free (parties and friends homes are the other 2%) in the first few months of my cooking completely meat-free, a son who has discovered that veggie hotdogs and nuggets are now his favourite (yes, they are highly processed, but this is a Journey, not a race!), another son who craves Udon Noodle Miso Soup (from www.itdoesn'ttastelikechicken.com - LOVE her!!) which is loaded with straight-up tofu! And because my eldest is out in the Great Big World living her life...all I can do it hope that her Food Choices are a Blessing to the Earth and her body and encourage her where I can. My husband and children may never be completely vegan, but through discussion and taking the time to really acknowledge where our food comes from, their food consciousness has definitely improved.
It has been over 3 years now that I have been fully vegetarian.
I feel good, from the Inside-Out. My kids are healthier, we talk about food differently now. This was the right path for us and I'm glad I implemented it for my family. This journey began with excema, tummy troubles and a child who literally bounced off the walls, challenges that felt frustrating and very unfair at times, but the strings weaving our Family Food Story led us to where my Spirit always wanted our family to go. 'Do what you will, and harm none.' We're getting there and I am Greatfull for that 🙂