Saturday, March 19, 2011

your kids eat kale?!

Yes, my kids do eat kale and other vegetables, most of the time. Although lately P has been on strike from greens for whatever reason (she did turn 2), while T is eating them up. Earlier it was the opposite. I often am asked how we do it, getting them to eat and even like veggies, so I thought I'd write down the things that have worked for us in case it might help someone else (and also for my own reference!).

So here are my family's tips, tricks, thoughts, and policies that seem to encourage our kids to eat more veggies:

-We don't assume our kids will not like something. Instead, we assume that they will like it and are [outwardly] surprised if they don't. "You don't like broccoli? Really? Hm, I sure do. I like this about it."

-We talk about how we love different vegetables and why: the color, the flavor, the vitamins, how they make us feel good, give us energy and help us stay healthy.

(If you don't love veggies, your kids won't either. However, if they see you eating a big plate of salad as a random snack, it will likely spark some interest at some point.)

-We celebrate the times they do eat well. My girls love to pose with their plates so I can take a picture and brag about how they love their veggies. We also let them know what a good decision they're making and talk about how big/strong/healthy they're getting because of it. This approach has made the biggest impact on T, I think.

-If they show interest in a particular vegetable (or other healthy food), ride that wave! For example recently I told T that I was going to make noodles with veggies for lunch. "What vegetables? I want noodles with kale and asparagus." Ok! So off we went to the grocery store to buy asparagus. She loved that we made the special trip to fulfill her request, and she ended up cleaning her plate and asking for more of everything. (I should point out that we have pasta about once a month, maybe twice, so she was also excited about it bc she loves pasta.)

-We teach them to eat in order of nutritional value, beginning with greens and other brightly colored vegetables (see Dr Furhman's guide). Here's how that often pans out: "Too full for veggies? That's ok! We'll save the your plate for your snack later (or for breakfast, if it's dinnertime). Oh, you're not really full and just want to eat the bread (or what-have-you)? Then you need to eat at least this many big bites of veggies first." Another example is that P does really well with eating her soup and bread together (and she usually finishes her whole bowl), so she gets a regular piece of bread right away with her meal. Meanwhile, T rarely eats even half her bowl of soup and would fill up on bread alone if she could. So, she gets a bite-sized piece of bread with her meal, and then she can earn additional small pieces as she eats her soup.

-Fruit is our dessert. They like candy and such, but they love fruit and can be convinced to finish their salad just so they can have it for dessert.

-I try to let them help prepare food, even if it's just letting them spin the washed greens in the salad spinner. We just bought them each a wavy chopper so they can help me cut veggies, and they LOVE it. My hope is that no matter what they think about zucchini (T is not a fan), they will grow up with good memories of preparing it and other vegetables, and hopefully these memories will influence them in years to come.

-I'm not at all a fan of condiments as they are pretty much all processed junk, plus they cause us (not only kids) to want a salad more for the taste of the condiment (salt and/or oil, mostly) than for the salad itself (or whatever the dish). They cover up the natural taste, so kids don't even have a chance to develop a "taste" for the veggies. BUT every so often a squirt of ketchup, for example, will make the difference between a full meal of veggies being eaten versus nothing at all. Sometimes you have to make an exception. It's a hard one, though, bc they are quick to try to make the exception the new rule. Use with discretion, is my advice :) My kids seem to love nutritional yeast. They use it on veggies like other kids use ranch or ketchup, but it is a healthier alternative.

-Make it fun! We found out that eating a wad of dark greens turns one's tongue quite green--an amazing discovery! Also, green smoothie mustaches are so much fun: you can laugh at each other, look in the mirror and take pictures!

-After a while, if they eat vegetables every day, their smart little bodies will crave what's good for them and tell them to eat it. Randomly they'll eat a ton of salad, drink a big smoothie or ask for a specific vegetable, especially if they've been on strike for a while. This is when you know that the hard work and consistency is paying off! It's also one of those times to reinforce their great eating :)

When talking to various parents, it seems to me that the main reason why many kids are not eating vegetables is that it is simply not important enough to the parents, and the kids know it and follow suit. It takes consistency, teaching and parenting. We are regularly adapting our approach (or at least trying) to the girls' ever-changing developmental stages, and their diet is not always ideal. Overall, though, it is working and it feels so good to know that they are receiving innumerable benefits from eating a whole food, plant-based diet!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patrick of Ireland

Just thought I'd share a link to the story of St Patrick of Ireland being that he is celebrated today on the civil calendar.

Also, here is the lovely, emboldening prayer attributed to him, St Patrick's Breastplate:

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort, [i.e., at home]
Christ in the chariot seat, [i.e., travelling by land]
Christ in the deck. [i.e., travelling by water]

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

enjoying food

I can't really say I ever enjoyed food much, until recently. At meals, I ate because it was the socially acceptable thing to do as well as a necessary task. I generally prepared the same things over and over and had no real interest in picking up a cookbook and trying something new. I had no care for the aesthetic of food. When presented with a beautifully plated dish, I couldn't have cared less about how it looked and couldn't have told you whether the taste was great versus average. I'd have eaten it with the same (lack of) enthusiasm as I would have eaten salted, cold day-old couscous out of a plastic tupperware with some thin slices of cheddar on top. There were times when my poor husband, who knew how to enjoy food, would take his plate back to the kitchen, add some fresh vegetables and rearrange his food in a more appetizing way. I'd look at his plate, then at mine, and shrug my shoulders thinking he was a bit eccentric.

In between meals, I ate out of compulsion, and I ate foods that I thought I'd enjoy, despite their obvious nutritional flaws--chips, crackers, cheese, CANDY, ice cream. With both meals and snacks, I almost always ate past the point of satiety. With snack foods in particular, I'd continue eating past the point of feeling sick until I either ran out or physically couldn't eat any more. The things I tended toward the most were cheese, ice cream and candy (and salt, though I only notice it now in retrospect.) But can I say I really enjoyed them when I had no control over them? when I couldn't NOT buy them? when I kept eating them past the point of enjoyment? when I knew my body didn't like them? (I had a severe allergy to dairy as a child and got headaches from too much sugar.)

Every so often I'd break the mold and stop buying junk and even lose the craving for sugar, for example. However as soon as I thought it was safe to buy one little candy bar, the floodgates opened and the next thing I knew the cupboard was full of junk yet again. Sometimes I would sit back and look at my behavior in awe, "It's like I'm addicted to sugar!" I'm really not sure how I managed to remain just a bit overweight and not obese.

All that has changed over the course of the last 1.5 years. As my interest in eating plant-based whole foods has grown, so has my interest in the food itself. I love how the colors of the food look on our white plates. I love the flavor of the food and can tell you when I'm really enjoying something and when I'm not. I enjoy noticing textures and mixing flavors: savoury with sweet with earthy... It's to the point that I want to take pictures of my lunch and post them on facebook, for heaven's sake! :)

As well as enjoying the aesthetics of the food, I pleasure in the good health that has come with my new diet. I feel light, strong and an overall sense of well-being. My skin has a healthy glow, even in the dead of winter when it would otherwise tend to turn a pale-grey. Between my diet and moderate exercise (maybe 3-4 times/week), I'm losing weight at a slow, steady pace (which means it's going to stay off!), and I'm getting more fit and strong physically than I've been for a long time. I'm confident that a plant-based whole food diet is the best way to prevent, reverse and treat all kinds of illness, and it feels good to know that I'm doing the best that I can for my body (nearly, still have some tweaking to do).

I still have waves of weakness where I struggle to maintain control, but since I'm now much more aware of myself physically and mentally these times become fewer and shorter in duration. I sometimes still have a hard time knowing when I've had enough (esp with french fries!), but I'm getting better at it. It is a journey. I may never completely lose my addictive response to certain foods, but I feel more equipped to deal with it. I expect I'll probably read "The End of Overeating" by Kessler every so often as a reminder and encouragement, and I have a very disciplined husband to help me as well. Most of all, I'm motivated by good health, a clear conscience and the desire to truly appreciate each meal. Plus, I just really like eating plants :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

going plant-based

Wow, it's been forever since I've written anything, I feel like I've almost forgotten how! Even so, I feel like writing a bit about my family's newest journey--going on a plant-based diet.

How did we get on this path? Well, it all began with religious fasting where the diet is basically vegan with a little fish here and there, days without oil or wine, minimal (or no) sweets, and, technically, we are supposed to eat as simply and with as little cooking involved as possible (besides boiling grains and such). After the first week or two of adjusting to the fast, I always felt nice and light instead of heavy and full. Then as we reached the end of it, I'd begin thinking about and craving cheese, meat and eggs. But once we began on our regular diet again, I'd notice that the meat in particular made me feel just plain bad, and the taste, smell and texture grossed me out. I'd continue eating it anyway, and eventually my body and taste buds would re-adapt. It was always a bitter-sweet reunion with our normal diet.

Finally, I asked myself: why do I force myself to eat things that taste bad and make my body feel bad? Why not just go meatless for an extra week or two and see if I end up actually wanting it or not? And surprise, surprise, I never craved meat again. I did still cook it, esp when I was short on meal ideas or was short on time (I'd go pick up a roasted chicken), but I ate less and less of it as time went by. Andruskii (my dh) also began to feel similarly. Then he read Fast Food Nation, and that was the end of red meat in our house. We also discussed a desire for a more sustainable diet, and we talked about how meat used to be reserved for very special occasions bc animals were too valuable. It followed that we began eating meat just twice a week, and then just once a week. By then I pretty much didn't have any desire to eat meat and would have just a bite or two at dinner, and I noticed that the chicken that used to get devoured within two days would sit in the fridge for a whole week. Apparently I wasn't the only one losing a taste for meat. After a while, we moved to just buying good fish and shellfish from Whole Foods, and the price alone made even that a fairly rare occasion. Pizza has been the hardest to give up, but I'd say we're at about 80% compliance with making it vegan-friendly, which I think is pretty good :) Eggs still come around every so often as well. Cravings are satisfied, and we all feel balanced.

We went through all this change pretty naturally, and then out of curiosity I started looking at different diets that were based on vegetables. My body already knew instinctively what it wanted, and I was listening, but my mind wanted to understand as well (nature of my personality, I guess). I looked into the alkaline diet which made a lot of sense to me and has since proven practical and helpful when I've felt "off". I also read up on the benefits of green smoothies. After doing a 2-week challenge where I drank one every day (anywhere from 8-20 oz/day), I had noticeable changes in my finger nails, skin, bowels (sorry), and I had fewer cravings for snacks and junk food. This sold me on the benefits of greens--who knew they could be so good for you?! haha!

Next I began following, an amazing woman with an amazing story (go check it out!), and took note of her suggested book list. So far I've read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, The End of Overeating by David Kessler MD, and The Pleasure Trap by Douglas Lisle, Ph.D., and Alan Goldhamer, D.C. They are all good books, but I now own The China Study and soon I will own The End of Overeating, and that's really saying something about how I like them! :)

I'm currently reading The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (who also wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma). I really like both of these as well. Esselstyn offers a vegan, oil-free, salt-free diet as a way to lose excess weight, lower cholesterol and maintain a healthy, happy body. I like his gentle, personal approach and genuine desire to help people eat better. Even if they can't keep to the ideal diet past his recommended 4 weeks, he hopes people will be empowered to make healthier choices in the context of their usual diet. I also think most people would really like Pollan's book. He is not vegan but makes the following proposition: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." The review says, "By urging us to once again eat food, he challenges the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach — what he calls nutritionism — and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, unprocessed food." Now, I'm only about half-way through it, so I can only vouch for the first half of the book :)

Also on my list: The pH Miracle, Fast Food Nation, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and many more...oh, and someday a license in plant-based nutrition.

I have so much more to say about our journey, exploitation, the counter-cultural aspect of eating whole foods, and my new passion for nutritious food, but it will all have to wait for another day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

prayer and miracles

I am writing this post after reading my sister-in-law's lovely post about her family's recent challenges:

I have a hard time actually believing there are miracles. Or maybe my struggle is that I don’t believe that I am somehow good enough to qualify for a miracle. Or, maybe I just don’t give enough credit to the little miracles. You know, that maybe there are actually miracles all around me and I just don’t see them for what they are.

Also, I see people pray for miracles all the time, and they don’t always happen. I’m praying for Ameena’s eye to be healed (as are A LOT of other people) but when I have friends who have had to take their baby off of life support, or watch their mother die of horrible cancer, or whose kids live with chronic illnesses and debilitating diseases, how am I to believe that Ameena’s eye sight is somehow more important?
(read the whole post for context)

I've had similar conflicted feelings/thoughts about praying for miracles, so this really got me thinking about where I stand with it now. I believe it is important to have faith in God's love and faith that He can do the particular miracle, even ask Him for it. Most important, though, is to hope and pray for His will to be done, plain and simple, which means letting go of the need to understand and to plan, like Angela says. This is where I've learned so much from Orthodox prayers. For example, molebens (info here and here). The priest always asks why we are serving the moleben--what is our motive; what do we want to say; what are we hoping to receive/have answered? Then he serves the molebin without a mention of what we told him (I was keenly aware of this during my first one), except for some general supplications. Instead he asks for mercy, for God's grace on us and on our lives. In my heart I may be asking specifics, but the prayers help me remember what is really important (salvation) and remind me to be open to God's will.

Many of my family's specific requests over the last few years have not been granted, but we don't feel any regret. In fact, we feel confident that God has heard our prayers and granted us our deeper desire, to be guided by His will. He is taking care of us in ways we didn't know we needed, and He's guided us away from some bad situations and into better ones. I also should mention that so many times we've thought, "It would really be a miracle if...", and gosh darn if that miracle didn't come to pass!

I was brought up praying boldly for specific things that I needed and wanted (although, thankfully, I was taught to ask wholeheartedly but without begging). When I was still a fairly new convert, I asked the priest how to pray. Specifically I asked how do I still pray honestly and personally about things without presenting a list. I think I already knew the answer, but I had conflicting arguments in my head and I needed someone to confirm my new understanding. For an Orthodox priest, it might've seemed like one of those questions that was so obvious that answering it seemed a bit tricky. Anyway, after a minute of thought, he told me that St John of Kronstadt prayed about everything, and the way he prayed for it all was something like this: Иже веси судьбами Господи, так благоустрой жизнь нашу чтобы нам спастись-- In Your omnipotence, Lord, arrange our lives to lead to our salvation.

That prayer made everything clear to me. It puts everything into perspective. It is the Jesus Prayer clothed in different words, and it has been very powerful in my life and that of my family. We say this prayer every day and anytime we feel frustrated, confused, sad, like we need guidance, or have a request.

Glory to God for His love, omnipotence, and for the Church!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

the verdict on the Challenge

Well, we finished our 21 Dollar Challenge last week. It was almost a success. Although I had tried to clean out our fridge before the start of the challenge week, we still had a few things left that we splurged on the first half of the week. The second half of the week required spending about $20 more to pacify the hungry crowd :) Overall the menu was a success. The lentil soup stretched for 4+ meals (I actually froze 1 meal's worth for another time). The squash soup was a bit expensive for the yield, but it did stretch over a couple meals when I combined it with brown rice. If I were to do it over, I probably would have added some beans to every meal. I think that the hardest part was having such light lunches everyday. Overall I think that it was harder psychologically than anything else because in the past we've gone a week with less than this and been quite satisfied. It is harder when you're choosing a challenge versus being forced into and surviving a one.

The lessons I learned are: a healthy vegan diet is do-able on a tight budget; I need to be spending less money on food per week; no matter who you are or what diet you are following, the food stamp allowance is barely enough. It seems to me that having a few more people in the family (and therefore a bit more money to spend) must be easier than having only $21/week to feed yourself, especially if you're working and probably doing a lot of walking to and from home.

I still haven't posted the price per meal. Maybe I will get to it, but I do know that making a soup is one of the most economical ways to cook food.

Even though we didn't properly succeed in this challenge, I'm glad we gave it a try.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

21 Dollar Challenge--Grocery List

Here's the grocery list to make everything on my menu. I've included my guess of the individual prices of things. Later this week I will go shopping at Vitamin Cottage and see how I did and what I'm actually able to get.

1 lb carrots --($1.25)
1 bunch celery --($1.25)
8 onions (4 yellow, 4 white) --($1.50)
6-8 potatoes (about 3 lbs?) --($3.00)
1 garlic --($0.25)
1 lg head of lettuce, kale or spinach (or 2 small) --($1.50)
5 lb bag of apples --($5.25)
1 bunch bananas --($1.75)
1 zucchini --($1.00)
1 bunch parsley --($1.00)
1 bunch green onions --($1.25)
3 lg squash (6-8 c. worth) --($5.00)
[1 bottle olive oil --$3.00] Will use what I have but am taking the standard $3 off for it.
1 lemon --($0.50)
1 jar peanut butter --($4.00)
sm bag bulk red lentils --($3.00)
sm bag almonds --($6.00)
med bag raisins --($3.00)
bulk oats (14c. or 112 oz) --($5.00)
sm bag brown rice (need at least 3 c.) --($2.00)
1 can black beans --($1.50)
[salt/pepper--$1.00] Will use what I have, but I figure $1/wk buys a cheap thing of salt and pepper.
whole wheat bread --($3.50)
boxed hummus (just takes water) --($2.60)
bulk rooibos tea --($2.00)

Grand Total: $61.10

That only leaves me with a couple dollars for tax, but I'm hoping I over-estimated some of the prices on bulk items and will have a few more bucks to give the government. :)