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Our Flexitarian Kids

Building healthful eating habits in children that last a lifetime sometimes requires a quid pro quo approach.

Mu husband Matt and I never really know what our kids are taking away from our whole-food, plant-based diet. Do they think we’re nuts? Is it all just going over their heads? Are they buying their time until they turn 18 so they can eat what they want?

They’ve watched with us Forks Over KnivesEarthlingsVegucated and The Skinny on Obesity. Matt and I talk incessantly about our lifestyle. We’re always sharing something new we've learned, read or heard. We talk about new vegan dishes and restaurants. We have a steady stream of magazines, books and cookbooks flowing into the house. They take an active interest in this blog. Our way of life is everywhere.

They’ve also been impacted by many of our changes.

For example, I haven’t cooked meat in forever (though they do order it when we go out). We switched two years ago from cow’s milk to almond milk. We’ve reduced their dairy intake. No fast food. Overall, though, it’s been a struggle. They don’t jump at the site of beans or legumes and will not even consider certain vegetables.

I know what many of you are thinking, “Who’s the parent here!” And you’re exactly right. Even prior to becoming a healthful vegan, instilling good eating habits was something we didn’t exactly nail. We were too OK making a second meal if one or all didn’t like what we put before them. It’s the one area we always wish we could do over because we recognize now more than ever how important healthful eating habits are.

Matt and I decided that 2013 was the year to get it right. But what would be our plan? It’s incredibly difficult to get adults -- many of whom have medical issues, take medication, struggle with being overweight, etc. -- to change their dietary preferences, let along three young children who think they’ll live forever.

Our plan has been a quid pro quo approach framed closely around author Michael Pollan’s mantra, “Eat food. Not too much, Mostly plants."

  • Drastically reduce their intake of processed food.
  • Prepare 100% organic, 100% grass-fed meat, two-three times per week. The other nights, they eat what we’re having. The alternate meal is peanut butter on 100% whole grain bread, fruit and vegetable.
  • Limit purchase of school lunches to two times per week (no meat dishes).
  • One fun snack per day.
  • All the fruit and vegetables they can eat!

They all liked our roadmap forward, even Dylan (our pickiest eater) who applauded the return of meat. Ryan and Sienna pretty quickly decided they didn’t like the idea of a sandwich for dinner so they have become eager to try what we’re enjoying. In almost every instance, they’ve loved the dish. Tonight's dinner was a Deconstructed Wonton Soup, which was loaded with mushrooms, edamame and Asian coleslaw. The two of them licked their bowls clean! (Dylan was at ski club, but he surely would have selected the alternate.)

We’re feeling upbeat and optimistic … like this is the year we’re going to turn them.

Our feelings were validated on Tuesday evening in a discussion between Ryan and Dylan. A nutritionist had come to Ryan’s school to talk about healthful eating. Ryan relayed to us what she had told him. Here's an excerpt from that discussion:

“She actually said meat was good for you,” said Ryan.

To which Dylan replied, “No way. Did you say something? I wouldn’t have been able to hold myself back.”

"No, but I didn't believe most of what she told us," he answered.

We felt good hearing that. While our kids may not have adopted fully our way of life, they certainly believe we're on the better path to health.

That's progress.

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Learn about the wonders of a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

Visit Breaking Four blog at http://breaking4.blogspot.com/ and LIKE us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BreakingFourBlog.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mary January 25, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Kellie, I know you have the best intentions, but you sound a little over the top. The discussion between your children is disturbing to me. It strikes me as odd that it made you feel good. I would be asking myself "have I taken this too far?".
Kellie Walenciak January 25, 2013 at 07:35 PM
I appreciate your comment, Mary. As two people who have spent the majority of our lives living on the Western Diet, we are well aware of how our new lifestyle may seem extreme to many. My husband and I believe that eliminating processed foods and eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains provides optimal health, and there are decades worth of scientific and clinical research to support this. We have serious chronic diseases in both our families, all of which have been caused by lifestyle choices. As a result, we’re taking proactive steps to ensure we don't follow in that path. I do appreciate your concern and for taking the time to comment.

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