showing all articles for the category "food"

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding - meal time jobs for the parents and child

July 01, 2019

If you are anything like me, you've probably tried to force or even bribe your child to eat their dinner on many, many occasions. It just doesn't work. Not only that, you can end up damaging their relationship with food in the long run. Years ago, I came across this handy little flyer for the division of responsibility in feeding and I have kept it and loosely referred to it on occasion. If only I had truly emphasized it's importance and actually followed it earlier!

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding is simply this: at mealtime, the parents have specific jobs only they should do, and the child has specific jobs only they could do. Notice the difference in should and could. You cannot force your child to do anything, let alone eat their food - let that be their job. Don't allow these responsibilities to sway back and forth between parent and child, that could make for a nasty power struggle. Only you should be the one to do your job as the parent, and only your child could do their job:


It is the parent's job to decide 
  • what  is being served at each meal, 
  • when  the meal takes place, and 
  • where  the meal will be eaten. 
It is the child's job to decide 
  • if  they will eat what has be served, and 
  • how much  of it they will eat.

If you allow your child to make the decisions on what is being served for mealtime, you could be putting their health at risk. That may sound dramatic, but they're just not mature enough for that job. Children don't typically make healthy meal choices on their own. (I don't know about you, but if I let my boys choose what they ate for each meal they would eat nothing but pancakes and noodles) That's too much responsibility for a child anyway. Besides, do you really want to be making separate meals for your them every day for the unforeseeable future? That's a habit that is hard to break. Children should grow up eating what their parents eat. What you should do is teach your little ones why they can't just eat pancakes and noodles (for example) and what they should choose instead. Don't be afraid to talk science. Discuss vitamin and minerals and nutrients with your littles, they understand more than you think. Maybe even have your elementary age kids help with the meal plan and work together to find meals that everyone likes, but are still well balanced and healthful.

Also, more than that, if you allow them free reign as to when and where meal times are taking place, you are now no longer in control of meals and chaos will ensue. That dynamic doesn't make for healthy eating habits in the long run and definitely not a healthy parent child relationship. You can allow their input, but ultimately it's your decision, momma. Children need and crave structure and boundaries, even though they may not know it. Plus, how much fun is it to clean food out of the carpet and couch? Do you like walking through the house barefoot, collecting oats and seeds on your feet the whole way and ending up with a granola bar on your foot by the time you get to the kitchen? Meal time should be at the table. It's a reasonable request.

Diving in further to the parental responsibilities during meal time - it is also up to you to make sure that meal time is structured and supportive. You are providing your children with opportunities to 1) try new foods, 2) learn how to be responsible over their own health and nutrition, and 3) make good choices regarding their behavior at the dinner table. If they see that you are healthy and satisfied with your meals, they will be more likely to try new things. They learn by following your example, so behave in a manner suitable of imitating and show your children how much you enjoy eating your food. Families should all sit down together, eat together, and help clean up afterwards (according to their abilities, of course).

In order to make the most out of meal times, snacks should be limited. Don't allow your child to have unbridled access to the fridge or pantry between designated meal and snack times. This could lead to a habit of continually grazing and them not being hungry enough to eat the meals you serve. There are exceptions to this rule, for example, if your child is underweight and the doctor is encouraging them to cram in all the calories they can (which is where we are at with my oldest). But for the average child, they typically graze because they are bored. Parents should set healthy boundaries around snacks and teach their kiddos why those boundaries are there. Children will not learn how to do this if their parents never teach them. They also cannot learn how to take responsibility for their own bodies if they're never taught.  

There is so much in the life of a child that they do not get to control, and eating the food given to them is one thing they do get to control. Don't take that away from them. It took me a long while to learn this lesson with my own boys, But I should have realized it before I became a mom. My parents forced me to eat all my dinner when I was a child. I wasn't allowed to leave the dinner table until my plate was empty, even if it took hours. It would be cold and stale and I would be crying but that didn't matter, I had to eat it. I believe this caused me to develop an unhealthy relationship with food (which I have since dealt with) and I was having flashbacks each time I would try and force my oldest to eat all of his dinner.

As the parent, if you do your job with feeding, your child will do their job with eating.

Photo by Rustic Vegan on Unsplash

why I don't feel comfortable calling myself a "vegan"

June 24, 2019

I am not comfortable calling myself a "vegan."

I intentionally stay away from eating meat, eggs, and dairy as a basic rule. So, I eat like a vegan, and when I'm out to eat at restaurants I ask for "vegan options." Which, depending on the place, means I just have a side or two of steamed broccoli. 

When I first went plant based it was so much easier to just tell people I was vegan. I didn't really know what that meant except that I didn't eat animal products anymore. But the more research I have done the more I have found that eating plant based and going vegan are two very different things. (more on that here)

I do so many things that aren't considered "vegan." For example, 

  • I go to the zoo and aquarium with my kids, which a true vegan would never do unless they were picketing
  • I eat honey, and sometimes use it as a facial mask, which a vegan would consider wrong because it's exploiting bees and stealing their food
  • It doesn't bother me if my husband wears a leather belt
  • I pay a company to come and spray my house and yard for bugs and scorpions regularly, which is probably not vegan considering it's intentionally killing a living being
  • I am unsure if my makeup or shower products are vegan friendly, and if I found out they weren't I would still buy them
  • I choose to eat one small slice of turkey or ham at Thanksgiving, and then again on Christmas
  • I reserve the right to compromise when I'm out to eat and order something that may have eggs or chicken broth in it (I haven't done this, but I reserve the right to!) I will not, however, compromise with dairy - click here if you care to read why

I don't like to call myself a vegan because I don't want to group myself into a belief system that I don't fully cooperate in. I will most likely never be an animal rights activists or picket.... anywhere. I probably won't restrict myself to only buy products that are certified vegan and not tested on animals - and I'm not going to try and convince others to do that either. I do read ingredients labels, but I don't research into the practices of every company before I buy their products. I'm not saying that I condone animal testing or abuse, because I don't. I'm just saying I'm most likely not going to make it my life's mission to go out and protect every last one of them.  

I'm known by friends and family with pets for not particularly liking animals up close. I can admire their beauty and value in the home to their owners, but they're cuter when they're twenty feet (or more) away. And I can't stand when a dog comes up to me puts their wet nose on my skin or rubs their fur all over my pants. 

So, I am not a "vegan." There is just too much controversy surrounding that label, and I don't want to be a hypocrite. Plus, I'm not looking for a label anyway. I don't want to be defined by what I eat, what I wear, where I go, etc. I am so much more than that. Being vegan, I believe, is a very good thing. There are a lot of vegans out there doing a whole lot of good for the animals and for the environment, and I support that. But that's not my calling in life, and I'm OK with that. 

I eat a plant based diet because I care about my health and the health of my family. I love what we eat. We are very satisfied with our meals. I don't count calories and I have no idea how many grams of each macro nutrient we consume. And that's the beautiful thing about eating a diet revolving around whole plant foods, you don't have to! Sometimes, I get lazy about nutrition and we eat vegan junk food. I aim for the best I can do, but I'm not too hard on myself when I fall short. I try not to judge others for what they choose to eat, but I do enjoy conversations with self proclaimed carnivores about the health benefits of cutting out animal foods. I'm not afraid of sharing the evidence.

I do believe God created humans with inherent value above the animals, not equal, and it's our God given responsibility to take care of them. And I feel like I'm doing my part by not eating them. Even though eating animals is not a sin, I am fully conviced that animal products are not a healthful addition to any human diet.

If you are interested in learning more, check out my articles about food



Is eating meat a sin?

March 28, 2019

Is eating meat a sin? Didn't God create all living things as vegan, so shouldn't we all be vegan today? Is it wrong to kill animals for food?

There are many varying opinions within the Christian community regarding veganism/vegetarianism. Unfortunately, this often separates God's people and causes contention. This is not God's will for His people. There is so much freedom we have considering our Christian liberties, and the food we eat is one of them. 

Was creation vegan/vegetarian in the beginning?

In the first chapter of Genesis (Genesis 1:29-30), God clearly says that He created all the seed bearing fruits and plants for us as food. Not only for us though, He also said it was for every animal as well. Even though this statement by God is a positive one, saying what is given for food, not necessarily what isn't allowed, I believe He didn't intend His creation to eat each other. He gave mankind the responsibility to rule over and care for all the animals, but He did not say they were for food or that we could do with them as we please. Besides, God deemed all of creation "good" in Genesis 1:31. There was no violence, sickness, suffering, nor death. God warns Adam about the consequence of sin in Genesis 2:17. Death is a punishment, a consequence for sin (Romans 6:23) and since there was no sin (yet) there could have been no death, therefore, no meat eating. Based on these evidences, I personally believe that human kind and every other creature was created vegan. 

In the garden after they sinned, God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins when He found them naked (Genesis 3:21). Scripture doesn't say specifically that God killed an animal to make these clothes, but it is a widely believed idea that this is the first account of an animal death. God showed He loves human kind more than animals by sacrificing an animal to cover the sins of His people temporarily, until He sends Jesus to do it permanently. In the beginning before there was sin due to the fall, there was no death, no killing, no hunting, no slaughtering; Adam and Eve were not created as meat eaters; carnivores nor omnivores existed. All of creation ate only whole plant foods. Sin brought death to animals and to humans and that's when eating animals entered creation (for both people and other animals). Does the entirety of my faith rest on this belief? NO, of course not. If I am proved wrong, I lose nothing, and I move on. No big deal.


When did creation become omnivorous?

After the fall of man, sin entered the world and people just kinda started doing whatever they wanted. This includes eating meat, even though it was against God's original design. At this point in time, I believe that eating meat was a sin. We were commanded to rule over and take care of the animals (Genesis 1:26), not to eat them. This is not something God intended for us to do, and when we do what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do, that is sin. So, sin was out, people left God, and the flood came and went (Genesis 7:11-12)...


Is it a sin to eat animals or animal products?

God gave Noah (and all mankind) a new freedom once he got off the ark: everything that lives and moves is now allowed to be our food (Genesis 9:3). It is made perfectly clear that God has made it acceptable to eat an animal from that point on. However, just because it is spiritually permissible, doesn't mean it is physically beneficial - more on that here. So, if it was a sin against God to eat meat up until this point, it is now no longer a sin. I found it interesting that God added verse four as an exception: we can eat meat, but only as long as it's lifeblood is not in it (Genesis 9:4). Does this mean we shouldn't eat raw meat? Or animals who are still alive? Either way, it is very clear here that God Himself says that it is NOT a sin against Him to eat animals or animal products. But He also doesn't say that it is a necessity to following Him. It is neither condemned nor commanded. It is a choice each person can make for themselves. But the Spirit works individually in each person and will convict you if He so pleases. If you feel the Spirit prompting you to refrain from consuming animal products, but you choose to eat them anyway, then you are in fact sinning against God. 


What about killing and eating animals for sacrificial purposes or worship?

After giving permission to eat animals, God did tell Noah in Genesis 9:5 that He would demand an accounting of blood from His people and the animals as an atonement for sin, pointing to our need for Jesus. Exodus 12:1-11 is God's instructions on how to prepare and eat the Passover lamb. This was a ceremonial thing that wasn't to be done everyday, but only once a year. The slaughtering and consuming of the Passover lamb was symbolic and, again, pointed to our need for redemption and the future coming of Christ, the Lamb of God. Christians no longer celebrate the Passover today because Jesus was our final Passover Lamb, we have no need to ceremonially sacrifice animals anymore. Jesus was our one and done. The Old Testament Passover lamb wasn't sufficient, but the blood of the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).


Does eating animals defile you?

In Leviticus 11:1-47, there's a huge list of rules about which animals are clean and which ones are not. In the New Testament, Jesus says that what goes into a persons body is not what defiles him (Mark 7:14-19), which is commonly known as Jesus declaring that all animals are now considered clean before God. But even that is surrounded by debate: was He talking about hand washing rituals or the actual food itself? I'm not going to go into that, because honestly the research was wearing me out and it's not what our faith is built on anyway (Romans 14:17). Instead I want to focus on whether or not we as Christians are allowed to eat meat or other animal products, and how to handle a situation where there is a disagreement between believers on this subject. We've already learned that it is not a sin to eat meat. If you choose to follow the "clean/unclean" list from Leviticus, there's no harm in that. But taking the spiritual freedom aspect out of it, is it good for your physical health to consume animals and animal products? That demands personal conviction and research.


Use your Christian freedom responsibly

To judge a brother or sister who is using their Christian freedom to eat or abstain from whatever food they want is wrong (Romans 14:18-20). Some people are personally convicted by the Holy Spirit to refrain, for whatever reason, while others are not. It is good to be vegan or vegetarian, but it is not good to put that above loving and accepting others. In general, it is not a sin to eat animals. In the Old Testament, God says it is no longer forbidden (Genesis 9:3). In the new testament, Jesus says to love each other (John 13:34-35). So whether you eat meat or choose not to, do it for the Lord. Romans 14:1-23 is a great chapter about this very topic. I don't believe that this passage is calling all vegans "spiritually weak." It is most likely referring to those Christians who were offended by, and therefore avoided, meat slaughtered by pagan butchers that may have been offered to pagan gods; they still believed it was a sin and were convicted, and that's OK (Romans 14:6). One might say that person is "spiritually weak" because they are acting like those pagan gods were real and have any power to make the meat "unclean." Either way, this chapter is more focused on keeping the peace between believers rather than focusing on the things of earth that won't matter when we get to heaven. What we eat or drink won't determine where we end up for eternity, so why bother making a fuss of it down here? 


But for the sake of argument...

Let's just assume that at creation God didn't forbid using animals for food. Let's assume that Adam and Eve were allowed to eat meat and other animal products. If it was allowed by God at creation, one would assume that it would be good and healthful and science should be able to back that up. Well, quite the opposite actually. Eating animal products is known to cause cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. BUT, the animal products they would have eaten back in Adam and Eve's day are exponentially different than what we have available to us today. Factory farming and processing has changed the quality of the animals themselves, making a harmful "food" product. Plus, the quantity in which we eat animal products today is just ridiculous. First off, we aren't out there working to hunt the animal or raise it ourselves, and we aren't the ones preparing their bodies or mammalian breast milk for consumption either. We go to the grocery store where it's already been done for us days or even weeks earlier.


But let's get back to this hypothetical and compare it to what we have today.

If Adam and Eve kept a dairy cow, odds are they would consume much smaller amounts of dairy than we consume today, given the fact they had to leave enough for the baby cow. Nowadays, the babies are separated from their momma right after birth because they take too much of the milk. This may be a little known fact, but cows only lactate after having a baby, like humans. Dairy cows are continuously cycled through forced pregnancies which takes a toll on their bodies. They are impregnated while still lactating, so all those pregnancy hormones end up in her milk then straight to your glass or on top of your pizza. Would you drink some random woman's breast milk? Probably not, so why would you drink some random cow's breast milk? Anyway, Adam and Eve wouldn't have been able to forcibly impregnate their hypothetical dairy cows, and they most certainly would have let her baby drink from her mommy. The quality of the milk would have been very different, too. They would have had fresh, unprocessed, un-homogenized, unpasteurized, naturally added growth hormone free, antibiotic free, grass fed, and free range whole milk from happy and healthy cows who also got to feed and keep their babies. To buy milk like this today can cost between $15-$20 a gallon! 

And then there's eggs, same idea different animal. Happy chickens, doing their chicken thing. So what if Adam and Eve picked up an egg a wild chicken left behind and ate it? It doesn't hurt the chicken. The egg industry today is nothing like that at all. Chickens have been so genetically modified that they lay almost 300 eggs per year, compared to a wild chicken who would only lay about 12. An egg is part of a chicken's reproductive cycle. If it's fertilized, a baby chick is in there. If it's not, it's just a "period." And unfortunately, backyard chickens are not wild chickens. They still come from a chicken hatchery from a long line of genetically modified birds, so they will also lay way more eggs than God created them to. 

So even if we argue that Adam and Eve could have been vegetarian, not killing animals to eat them, but loving and taking care of them while consuming their food products, it is not a good argument to say that it is good for us to do today. Or even if they were omnivorous,"ethically slaughtering" their animals for food (sounds like an oxymoron to me), the quality of that meat is far superior to what we are offered today at any grocery store. And I guarantee the factory farms are not concerned about what "ethical" means. 


So, all of that being said...

If God was OK with it back then, having the animals living and being cared for they way they would have been with Adam and Eve, what makes us think He would be OK with the way it is now

Proverbs 12:10, Genesis 1:21

If you choose to consume meat or other animal products, that is your choice. It is not a sin against God and no one can fault you for it. However, I challenge you, for the sake of your health and the animals, to eat way more whole plant foods and considerably less animal products - and when you do eat animal foods, consider where your meat, eggs, and dairy come from. We vote with our dollars, and when you buy animal products that come from abused, genetically modified, factory farmed, sick animals who are pumped with medications you are keeping those things going and saying that you are OK with it. You are paying for and therefore supporting animal abuse. Not to mention you are buying a food product that will possibly (actually, most likely) make you sick and fat in the long run.

I am not an animal rights activist and I won't be picketing or anything like that, but once you do the research you can't help but notice that something is wrong with the way our animals are being treated before they become our food. With all the research out there about animal food consumption being to blame for so many health and environmental problems, I find it hard to defend eating animals. It seems to be a bad idea no matter how you slice it. But again, it's not a black and white sin. 

You have to follow the Spirit's guiding in your own life. If you are convicted and called to refrain from eating animal products, listen.




Dairy is a packaged deal, and if I were you, I'd stop buying!

January 19, 2019

My family and I have been living a whole food plant based lifestyle since July 2017 and one of my biggest takeaways is what I've learned about dairy.

The first thing I had noticed after switching to a whole food plant based diet was this:  dairy and I did not get along. 

We didn't have the beautiful relationship I thought we had. Dairy did not love me like I loved it. I never knew that I was lactose intolerant (as was my oldest son) and that dairy was causing my horrible cystic acne. 

I don't think I had gone an entire day without cow's milk my whole life. So I just grew up thinking it was normal to have a full face of acne and regular stomach cramps.

After doing more research on the link between the effects cutting out dairy has on stomach/bowel issues and acne - it all became clear (pun intended). Dairy was causing (or at least aggravating) these issues I tried so hard to remedy with medicines and prescription face washes. After only three days without any dairy, my digestive health was much better and I had no new cystic acne breakouts. I remember telling my husband three days after cutting out animal products from our diet that I will never go back to dairy. I loved milk, cheese, and ice cream as much as anyone else, but I did not love having painful cystic acne or the discomfort of being constipated all the time.

When we cut out dairy we realized how much it was shamelessly added into so many packaged foods unnecessarily. Packaged convenience food that doesn't require dairy "contains milk." Why? Well, the dairy industry knows that it's addictive and they want you addicted to their product. Not only is dairy addictive, it is also one of the top allergens among Americans. Not to mention that it is linked to causing and aggravating many health issues and diseases.

This made us angry, and sad. Just like any loving parent, we fed our kids milk and cheese because we were told that they needed it, it's nature's perfect food after all, or so we thought. Cow's milk, even in its most natural form - organic, from grass fed cows, added hormone free, raw, completely unadulterated - is still an unhealthy and possibly harmful addition to anyone's diet. Unless you are a baby cow. But I am assuming if you are reading this, you are in fact not a baby cow, therefore there is no reason you should consume cow's milk.

Nutrition and Health

Let's talk nutrition. Vitamin D, potassium, iodine, calcium etc. Our "not baby cow" bodies certainly do need these things, and yes, if you read a nutrition label on the gallon of cow's milk, it will show that these nutrients are in there. What you won't see is all of the bad stuff - naturally present bovine pregnancy hormones, toxins, protein quality not fit for human consumption, and no warning of the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol.

  • Vitamin D is actually a hormone, but it doesn't come from animals, it comes from the sun. So if your cow's milk has Vitamin D in it, it was added via supplementation either to the cow's diet or to the milk during the production stage. You're better off cutting out the middle cow and just taking the supplement straight up. Or even better, allowing the sun to hit your bare skin for only a few minutes a day is all your body needs to turn that sunlight into Vitamin D. If you live somewhere that sunlight is rare half of the year, buy Vitamin D fortified mushrooms and cereals or take a Vitamin D supplement. A safe supplementation amount is 1,000 - 2,000 IU of D3 per day.
  • Potassium. With cow's milk, the lower the fat content, the higher the potassium level. In one cup of skim milk you can get almost 400mg of potassium. The recommended daily amount is between 3,500mg-5,000mg, so milk isn't actually that helpful considering one large banana has 500mg of potassium, and a cup of leafy greens can have over 1,000mg of potassium. You are much better off getting your potassium from plants than from milk. 
  • Iodine. Cow's milk does not naturally contain iodine. The cleaning agent used to disinfect the milk tanks and the cow's teats contains iodine, and that leaches into the milk. Unfortunately, for cows with staph mastitis, the iodine treatment increases the amount of pus content in the milk by up to 60%. Yum. The current recommended daily amount of Iodine is 150 micrograms per day, with the safe upper limit of 1,000 micrograms per day. Sea vegetables (sea weed) are an excellent source of iodine, but if you're like me and don't care for the taste of the ocean, use iodized salt or a sea vegetable salt alternative naturally high in iodine.
  • Now for the big one - what about calcium? Just like Vitamin D and iodine, cows don't create calcium, either. Yet it is in the milk. Calcium comes from plants, cows eat plants, and the calcium they eat is recycled and excreted through their milk. When a human consumes the milk, they receive the leftover regurgitated calcium. Plant sources of calcium like broccoli, kale, bok choy and other dark leafy greens are absorbed twice as well as cow's milk calcium. Plus, plant calcium includes fiber, antioxidants, folate, iron, and vitamin K (which is good for bone health). None of these nutrients are found in dairy. The current recommended daily amount for calcium is 1,000mg - but that's assuming you're on a diet high in animal proteins, which has a high excretion rate, forcing you to consume more calcium to replace the lost calcium. So getting enough calcium is totally obtainable on a whole food plant based diet. Tahini, blackstrap molasses, almonds, and fortified plant milk are a few more examples of plant sourced calcium.

But "milk builds strong bones," right? Well, science can't back that statement up. There is no scientific or medical evidence that milk actually builds or protects bones. Actually, it's just the opposite. Hip fracture risks are highest where there is greatest milk consumption. Populations where dairy consumption is extremely low or non-existent have no instances of osteoporosis. But here in America, where dairy is our number one source of calcium, we have 54 million people with osteoporosis or low bone density - over half of people over age 50 in America are at risk of breaking a bone due to poor bone health. If milk was really protective, shouldn't Americans have stronger bones?

Bone health is so much more than just calcium intake. There are so many vital nutrients in beans, fruits, and vegetables that are associated with better bone mineral density and overall better bone health than milk. In fact, studies show that antioxidant rich fruit reduces bone loss and therefore lessens risk for osteoporosis.

Dairy products may be the number one source in America for calcium, but it isn't all its hyped up to be. Dairy comes as a packaged deal, and it is quite a gross and scary package. Sure, just three servings of dairy per day provides your daily calcium requirement but you're also getting too much saturated fat and cholesterol, not to mention pus, manure, antibiotics, pesticides, and all the naturally occurring bovine pregnancy hormones. In America you can expect over 300 million pus cells in each glass of milk - the highest allowable concentration in the world. The Dairy Industry argues that the infection and inflammation of the udders in factory farmed dairy cows is irrelevant because of pasteurization protocols - cooked pus poses no food safety risks. Still, ew. There are better ways to get your calcium.

What about some other components of dairy?

  • Casein is a milk protein that when consumed and digested forms an opioid compound in our stomach called casomorphin. This compound binds to the opioid receptors in our brain and gives a sort of high. This is why cheese is known to be addictive, because casein in cheese is more concentrated than regular milk. Casomorphins formed from casein in human breast milk is actually beneficial to babies in the way it keeps the baby coming back for more of his mommies nutritious milk - nature's perfect food, created specifically for baby.
  • Lactose is milk sugar. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body doesn't create enough lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose. Lactose is the main carbohydrate in human breast milk as well. When we were babies feeding on our mother's milk we had all the lactase we needed. But naturally as we grew, and our bodies no longer needed our mother's milk, we stop creating it. Being able to digest lactose as an adult is a strange genetic adaptation. 60% of the world's population is lactose intolerant.
  • Trans fats are the most dangerous fats, currently on their way to becoming illegalized in the American food supply. Trans fats are naturally present in dairy products (and other animal foods) but they are in low enough amounts (less than .5g per serving) that they are legally allowed to be labeled as 0% trans fats, or a trans fat free food. Which is a blatant lie. The only safe amount is none. Half a gram per serving adds up quick.
  • IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor 1) is produced by the liver when we consume animal proteins. This causes cancer cells to grow
  • Hormones, including estrogen naturally occur in cow's milk and is a known health issue for humans. Acne, premature puberty, obesity, and increased cancer risk are associated with regular hormone consumption.

Dairy is a packaged deal, and if I were you, I'd stop buying (in fact, I did and I'm better off for it!)


Originally posted on 7/23/2018, updated and reposted on 1/19/2019

how whole food plant based is different from veganism

October 23, 2018

Whole food refers to the state of the food. Food in its most natural form, unrefined and unprocessed (or very minimally processed considering washing, chopping, and steaming veggies can be considered a form of "processing"). The dictionary definition of "process" is "to perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations on something in order to change or preserve it." Unprocessed food has nothing bad added and nothing good taken away. Processed food is easy to spot because it will come in a box or package and have a long list of complicated ingredients with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and a bunch of other added unnecessary ingredients. Whole foods include grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds all in their whole and most natural form. This would also include milk fresh from a healthy cow, a free range chicken egg, a wild caught fish, etc.

Plant based refers to the food itself. Food comes either from the ground or from an animal. All food items can be traced back to their plant or animal origin. Plant food excludes all animal based foods, sounds simple enough, right? Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans are all plant foods. Corn syrup, cane sugar, Oreos, and even some cakes and donuts are technically plant based (if they contain no milk, eggs, or other animal byproducts). Other animal byproducts which may not be obvious would include gelatin (made from animal bones), lard (animal fat), lactic acid (from animal muscles and blood - but is also found in beets), casein (a dairy milk protein), rennet (from calf stomach mucus), and many more.

"Vegan" and "whole food plant based" are not the same, although they can be seen as pretty similar. A vegan eats entirely plant based, but not necessarily whole food. Plant based does not always mean whole food, just like whole food does not always equal plant based. The terms vegetarian and vegan primarily refer to what somebody doesn't eat: any food product that is derived from animal origin. While the term whole food plant based refers to what somebody does eat: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes in their most whole and natural forms, unprocessed and unrefined.

Veganism is a lifestyle choice where animal rights activism is the motivation. This goes farther than food: wool, leather, fur coats, and even zoos aren't vegan. Any product (like chocolate, coffee, or gold) that was obtained via child labor or slave labor is not vegan. Products that have been tested on animals are also not vegan. Some people choose veganism for the planet's health, to reduce their carbon footprint and encourage others to do the same. This would include any environmentally friendly alternative that saves water, power, or protects nature. So plastic bags, gas guzzling SUVs, and littering are not vegan. Then there are the people, like me and my family, who chose to adopt a whole food plant based "vegan" diet purely for the health benefits to our own bodies (at least that's where it started). So adopting a vegan lifestyle could be motivated by the love of animals, the love of the planet, or the love of your own body (or all of the above!).

If more people treated their body with this kind of love and care, there would be far less instances of obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, and other preventable food related illnesses. Unfortunately, too many people don't know how to love or care for their bodies.

Animal foods and highly processed foods are more calorically dense, while whole plant food is more nutritionally dense. 

When choosing foods, I often ask myself these two questions:  Did this come from a plant?  Is it in its most whole or natural form? 

If the answer is yes to both then I am good to go! I know that the calories I am consuming aren't empty or harmful, but filled with all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients my body needs. And if I feel like compromising (I love Oreos) I try and make sure that it isn't a regular thing. But I don't compromise to the point of eating processed meat or dairy products. I may have let gelatin as an ingredient slide every once in a while in the beginning of my journey, and I had a couple tiny chunks of egg in some fried rice a few months ago. And for the record, we do still consume honey. 

My goal is whole food AND plant based, not junk food veganism.

Protein - Essential and Nonessential Amino Acids

August 08, 2018

An essential amino acid is one our bodies need but cannot make on its own, therefore we must consume and absorb them through our food. 

Non-essential amino acids are ones our bodies need, but make enough on their own. We don't need worry about consuming these in order to fulfill our bodies need for them.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The protein in our food and body are composed of 20 amino acids - 11 of these we can create in our own bodies using nitrogen, the other 9 need to be consumed from food since we cannot make them.

The 9 essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

The 11 non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutemic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.


All plant proteins have all the essential amino acids.

Plant proteins are just as good and as complete as animal proteins. Although not all plant proteins contain the same amount and proportions of each amino acid, they are perfectly adequate in providing what our bodies need. 

Many people believe we need meat for protein even though the idea of plant proteins being incomplete and inferior to animal proteins has been dismissed by the nutrition community decades ago. The American Heart Association has officially stated on their website that the protein found in plants is perfectly adequate and supplies all of the essential and non essential amino acids, and there is no need to combine protein sources in order to meet the needs of our bodies. 

As long as you're eating enough calories to meet your energy needs, you will not be protein deficient. In fact, it is nearly impossible to design a diet with a variety of whole plant foods that is sufficient in calories but deficient in protein, based on the way our bodies store and recycle protein for its specific needs.

Our skeletal muscles keep a sizable storehouse in the intracellular spaces of free amino acids to regulate our protein levels. Every day, about 90g of protein is dumped into our intestines to be broken down and reassembled to whatever proportion of amino acids we need. We do not need to be concerned with the amount of protein we are consuming, or if we are getting all of the essential amino acids. Our bodies were designed to prevent this type of deficiency by storing and recombining the amino acids to be used as our body requires.

So don't worry about if you're getting enough protein, just eat enough calories with a variety of plant foods including whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, etc. and you will have what your body needs.

our journey to a whole food plant based lifestyle

July 19, 2018

In the Fall of 2014, I came across a website called 100 Days of Real Food. After browsing some of Lisa Leake's recipes and reading into her 14 day challenge to cut out processed food, I bought her book. This changed my life. As a wife and mom of two boys, I wanted to be fully aware and educated about everything going into my families bodies. I had a unique challenge, my husband is overweight and my oldest son is underweight. I had fed them thus far, junk. I didn't know it was junk at the time and I didn't really think about it. Freezer lasagna, easy Mac, ramen, etc. I was working full time before my youngest son was born in early 2013 and I didn't really have the time or desire to prepare home cooked meals that required thought and prep. Opening a package and tossing it in the microwave was just easier. Unfortunately, easier isn't better.

So I read 100 Days of Real Food and made changes. I completed the 14 day challenge (as did my family, because mommy buys the food and plans the meals) and I was shocked at how easy it was! The feedback I got from my family was good. We learned so much. What is real food? What is whole food? What does processed really mean? Oh, that's an ingredients list? What are all of those hard to understand ingredients we used to just put into our mouths without question? I truly became an ingredients list master. Shopping took a lot longer, as I would practically sit down in the isle with packaged foods and Google each individual ingredient, most of the time out of sheer curiosity of what my family and I used to consume daily. Often times just doing that research on site made me despise that product all together and just put it back on the shelf, unfortunately for the next unsuspecting consumer.

This new knowledge and way of preparing, shopping, cooking, and eating was so exciting! I felt rejuvenated as a wife and mom, I felt so good about the decisions we were making and the way our bodies were feeling, I just had to share. I told my friend and bought her the book for her birthday and she loved it, too. She made the same change with her family and we became each other's support system. We would share recipes, make large meals to enjoy together, get each other's feedback on new things we would try, and even go peach picking or to the local farmers market together.

Fast forward a few years. June 28th 2017. My friend sends me a text about an interesting documentary with a vegan message that she wants me to watch, and that her and her husband are going to try out a vegan diet for 30 days and see what they think. I shared this with my husband and we both laughed. We said we wouldn't watch it because there is no way we would ever go vegan. We love what we eat: ribs, steak, burgers, cheese, whole milk, eggs and bacon. All organic and cruelty free, grass fed beef and free range eggs, no added hormones whole milk and expensive cheese. I made specific purchasing choices to make sure the animal products I was feeding my family were as healthy as possible, and I felt good about it. After all, we need them in our diet, don't we?

So my husband and I completely disregarded it as a phase, they'll realize how much they want and need animal products and then life will go back to the way it was. Well, a few days later, we hosted a brunch party and I had prepared a beautiful spread. Bacon wrapped cream cheese filled jalapenos, egg casserole, mini sausages, homemade Crock-pot apple crisp with vanilla ice cream, avocado toast and mimosas. My friend and her husband were there, talking about what they're learning and avoiding all the delicious food I have prepared, except the avocado toast. After the party, once everyone else had gone home, she pulls up Netflix on my TV and in a very loving, friendly way, forces my husband and I to watch this documentary, haha. Let me just say, I am so glad that she loves my family enough to drill past my hesitant and stubborn ways to make sure that I had an opportunity to gain this knowledge, so I can make an educated decision about food and health. I did this for her years earlier, and now she's upping the ante. We watched What The Health.

We sat through this documentary, to appease her, with no real intention of making any further changes. But once they started talking about the politics and money being paid out to confuse the public and advertise these animal products as health promoting or necessary or even SAFE, that was it. The science, studies, and expert opinions presented were all the evidence we needed that more research had to be done, we cannot disregard these claims. In fact, my husband was convinced enough at that point to get up right then and there and start throwing stuff away! Two packages of $8/lb grass fed ground beef, at least $10 worth of cheese, two gallons of milk, a carton and a half of eggs, all the bacon! I was very surprised. And if you knew my husband, you would be, too. I pleaded with him to let us go through what we had first, and then start this 30 day trial period my friend and her husband were doing, but he was convinced, we were starting now.

After What The Health ended, we went on a rabbit trail of documentaries and online research. We were hooked. It's like a whole new world was opened up to us that we never knew about. We've heard about veganism, but what's this whole food, plant based thing all about? Looking back, I am very grateful that we didn't go from the traditional American diet high in processed food and junk straight to a whole food plant based lifestyle. I believe that making the change to real food using Lisa Leake's resources, challenges, and books over the course of a couple years first was like a stepping stone for us to make the bigger and better change to whole food plant based nutrition. But this all happened so fast, within a day (so now came the fun part) telling the kids.

My boys were easy. They had a routine. Every day there were a few staples they could rely on. Milk, scrambled or hard boiled eggs, yogurt, string cheese, etc. Mom and Dad are about to change everything. My husband and I prepared ourselves for the conversation. We pulled up a few videos on YouTube, particularly Bite Size Vegan's videos for kids (just say no to milk and 5 reasons why we don't eat meat) and called the boys into the room. We told them, flat out, we won't be eating animals anymore. They didn't seem to care, so we moved on. We also won't be eating anything that comes from animals. This confused them. They didn't understand the concept. So we let them watch the videos (Bite Size Vegan does a really good job explaining, so we let her do it).

They were on board! They didn't realize that their favorite snacks and foods were actually causing harm to animals AND their own bodies. Before this, we never really explained (or even understood) the concept that when we consume dairy, we are in fact stealing from a baby calf, and even more sad, that baby calf (if male) would be killed just so we can consume his mommies milk and eat his body! And if it's a female calf, she will be forced into a life of repeated rape and having her babies kidnapped and milk stolen as well. I do not believe any child would choose to consume dead animal flesh or food retrieved in this way if given a choice, but they aren't given a choice, are they? In a way, parents brainwash their children into believing they need meat, dairy, and eggs without educating them on the facts first, mostly because parents don't actually have the facts in the first place!

My husband and I were learning that the food industry is a scary place. They want us to be confused enough about health and nutrition and diet that we just eat what we want, and we usually want what isn't always best for us. Many food producers have people on staff for the specific purpose of making a food product to be crave-able and addicting. This infuriated us. We made the switch overnight, cold turkey. I went shopping that next day, and we pretty much decided to wing it the first few days. The next few months would be jam packed with research, YouTube videos, more documentaries and an understanding that we may never fully understand it all. But that's ok, because what we do know is enough to make the changes we need.


 

whole food plant based for better health

July 18, 2018

If you are considering adopting a whole food plant based lifestyle, you have some questions to ask yourself. 

What are your goals? What's your motivation? What do you care about? What changes do you want to make?

I have learned that it's not really about what you do, it's your motive and purpose behind doing it that makes for long lasting change. For example, if you go on a diet to lose a few pounds, when the pounds have been lost and the diet ends, you will gain that weight back eventually. But let's say you adopt a whole food plant based lifestyle with the intention of preventing disease, managing chronic issues, becoming a healthier you etc., sure weight loss may be a side effect of eating clean, but the motivation and purpose is to live a healthy and wholesome life.

There are many different reasons people decide to switch to and remain on a whole food plant based lifestyle.

  • General overall health
  • It's more sustainable for the planet
  • There's less (if any) effect on the health and welfare of animals
  • Prevention and reversal of many debilitating ailments
  • Meeting healthy weight goals (loss or gain) 
  • If done with care it is perfectly nutritionally adequate
  • Lowering inflammation in the body, leading to less instances of acne and pain
  • Better gut and digestive health due to higher fiber intake
  • More energy and less feelings of being sluggish and fatigued

Personally, I have chosen to adopt this lifestyle because of the health benefits, both for now and the future.

The World Health Organization's website states that over 17 million people die each year from cardiovascular disease (that's 31% of all deaths worldwide). According to the Center for Disease Control, over 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes, that's more than 9% of our population. They project that one in three people will be diabetic by year 2050. The CDC's website states that in 2015-2016 almost 40% of U.S. adults were considered obese, that's over 93 million people nationwide.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and a group of researchers led a whole plant nutrition intervention study in participants with heart disease. They found they were able to drastically reduce the amount of major cardiac events and even reverse heart disease. There are also studies that show a balanced whole plant food diet can reverse morbid obesity. Even people with diabetes are able to drastically reduce their need to take insulin or medications after just a few weeks of a whole plant food diet intervention.

A whole plant food diet can be better than modern medicine in the way of actually preventing and reversing the disease. Medications treat the symptoms, but rarely the root cause. Our bodies were made to heal themselves, we just need to give them a chance. Start replacing foods that are detrimental to our health with beneficial whole plant foods that allow our bodies to heal.

Some would say that making this kind of change is extreme, but I personally believe open heart surgery is extreme; being on blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medication for the rest of your life is extreme. The amount of suffering animals go through just to provide us with unhealthful food products is extreme. The damage the agricultural industry is doing on our planets soil and air is extreme. But it's your choice. Make an educated decision.

So whatever your goals or motivation - for the health and wellbeing of your body, of the animals, or the planet - a whole food plant based lifestyle is a personal choice that each individual should make for themselves. You cannot make this choice for someone else,  whether to please them or to change them - the obvious exception is parents, you feed your children based on your best educated choices.

I think the world would be a better and healthier place if everyone switched to a whole food plant based diet (or at least mostly), but I am obviously biased. I have an opinion, so do you, and that's OK.

how to switch to a whole food plant based lifestyle

July 17, 2018

So, are you curious about going "whole food plant based?" If so, how do you do it? 

Well, don't eat animal products or junk food.

Ah if only it were that easy.

If you are coming from an already whole / real food lifestyle, then this should be pretty simple. 

If you are coming from the typical Western diet, high in processed meat, dairy, and packaged foods, then this will be hard. But it is possible! You just have to want it.

First, I want to clarify the difference in the term "lifestyle" and the word "diet" as most of us know it. 

"Diet" as a noun is simply a word used to describe the kinds of food a person habitually eats. It is not always referring to "diet" as a verb, a special course of food a person restricts oneself to for a limited amount of time in order to achieve weight loss.

A "lifestyle" is a way of life, your diet (the foods you eat) is a part of your lifestyle. 

Many people transition to a whole food plant based lifestyle over a certain period of time, which could be days or weeks. Others, like me and my family, do it overnight cold turkey - pun intended ;)

At first, it may be overwhelming. Especially if you eat meat, eggs, dairy, or junk / highly processed food regularly.

The idea of cutting out all of those foods may be daunting, but think about it, what is your motivation? 

In order to make this change stick you need to know why you are doing it. Is it for your health? That's why my family did it. 

While it may be possible to eat junk food and animal products every day and still be considered "generally healthy," these foods are not clean eating foods, even if they are organic and ethically raised. 

Animal products or highly processed foods will not promote health or help you meet significant health goals. 

Besides, "generally healthy" compared to who? The heart disease ridden, obese population with diabetes on multiple different prescription medications?

Extreme exercising and restricting calories will most likely help you lose weight, but how healthy is your heart? What about your endocrine system? Are you at risk for developing cancer or diabetes? Are you deficient in any essential nutrients?

Your body needs food, we all know this, but just like a car that needs gasoline to run, our bodies need the right type of fuel to run properly. A whole food plant based diet is evidence based nutrition, proven to prevent and reverse diseases and other ailments. 

A well planned diet revolving around whole plant foods is the perfect way to properly fuel your body.

In our culture, it is socially acceptable to eat junk food and animal products every meal. 

It is also socially acceptable to be overweight, diabetic, have blood pressure or cholesterol issues, and be on any number of prescription medications. I am not saying that all medications are bad, but some medications are just being used to treat the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle. 

It is easier to pop a pill for your heart every day than it is to eliminate dietary cholesterol, drastically reduce saturated fat intake, and increase your consumption of whole plant foods. 

It is easier to follow a fad diet for a few weeks to lose weight than it is to dramatically change your diet and engage in a regular workout routine. 

If you want to live a life independent of drugs, free from the symptoms of an unhealthy lifestyle, then you have to get up and do something about it. 

That choice and responsibility is yours.

So once you know that switching to a whole food plant based diet is the right choice for you to make for your health, you're almost there. This is more of a mental change than a physical one. 

You'll need to unlearn all of the untruths you've been taught about food since you were a child. It's shocking to see who really benefits from the ads pushing our "need" for dairy or animal protein. Anyway, that's a whole other topic right there. But go and do your research. As I do more research, I plan to share what I learn on this blog.

But let's get back to how to make that switch.

If you are not confident that going cold turkey is sustainable for you, then go slow. Take it one meal at a time.

Go through the food you already have in your fridge and pantry, but don't continue to buy the foods you are working to cut out. 

Try switching to vegan convenience foods while you transition. Meat and dairy alternatives like vegan hot dogs, burgers, and vegan cheeses, can help to make the transition smoother and more tolerable. The goal is to eventually cut these out too since they are highly processed and contain a number of artificial ingredients that are definitely not health promoting.

Remember, you chose to make this change for you. So go easy on yourself, and don't feel guilty for not succeeding perfectly on day one, or day twelve.


Making the Switch

Decide whether you are switching overnight, or transitioning slowly. To switch overnight was easy for my family because we already had a good understanding of what whole food was. But if you want to make the switch slowly over a few days or weeks, consider the following six steps to make it an easier transition.


  1. Begin adding more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, beans, etc first, before you start eliminating the animal foods or highly processed packaged foods.
  2. DO NOT BUY more animal foods, it is OK to go through what you already have first if you want. Don't be afraid of vegan milks, cheeses, and meats. This will make cutting out animal foods easier.
  3. Look for recipes that don't require animal foods and implement one meal a week completely void of meat, dairy, or eggs, and then work up from there. 
  4. If you usually have a snack in between meals, only snack on fresh fruits or veggies. Apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, carrots, sugar snap peas, raw broccoli, etc.
  5. Become a pro ingredients list reader, learn all of the sneaky names for harmful ingredients and start buying less and less packaged foods.
  6. Slowly decrease the amount of vegan cheeses and meats you purchase. Remember, although they are vegan they are still highly processed and not whole foods. (check out my post for more details on this difference) Over time, pick up recipes to make your own "cheeses" and "meats," for example, there are many amazing cream cheese and queso recipes using whole plant foods that are simple and delicious. There are also a bunch of ways to season and cook certain vegetables, grains, and jackfruit to mimic the flavor and texture of meat.

Do not be hard on yourself. This isn't an impossible transition. 

Make progress and continue taking steps in the right direction. 

No matter your motivation or circumstances, you can do this!