I met Tess a few years ago. We lived in the same neighborhood until she moved to Wisconsin. I am inspired by her dedication to her family diet and health. I love how she uses the term “healthful” to describe her diet and lifestyle choices. I asked her if she would be willing to write about her journey. Her experiences have really inspired me to work at what I do to provide nutrients for Hugh (something that I posted earlier about struggling with). Thank you Tess for sharing your experiences.
>>> My journey to health wasn’t a quick or easy one. I grew up with Top Ramen and Spaghetti-O’s for lunch with white bread and butter on the side. Boxed macaroni and cheese was my specialty for dinner. If I was feeling extra fancy, grilled cheese it was.
Once I was married, I started eating more vegetables here and there but our diet consisted of mainly frozen foods from Costco: specifically, the orange chicken.
It wasn’t until after I had my first child that I watched my first food documentary. “Food Inc” blew my mind. I had never thought about what I put in my body, where food came from, and what was needed to live sustainably and healthfully.
After investing in a Vitamix and juicer, I started taking the health of my family seriously. I wanted to raise my child to love fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
We adopted a plant based lifestyle with little processed food. Meat wasn’t a really big deal for us to stop eating because we never bought it in the first place. It was refined sugar that really caused the withdrawals. But we were determined to raise our daughter with healthful eating habits.
Not giving a baby sugar is pretty easy to do. Baby food is made up of fruits and vegetables. When do we, as humans, develop our terrible addictions to fatty, salty, and sugary foods?
Our culture in the United States is so centered on food. Every one year old celebrates their first birthday by eating as much cake as they can while the adults in the room coo about how cute they are. For my daughter Estela’s first birthday, we set one cupcake made of beets in front of her. Her second birthday, we served a raw vegan brownie.
When Estela started eating food other than pureed baby food, we made sure we gave her fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. She didn’t get Gold Fish or Cheezits (my particular favorite while I was growing up). For dinner, we made sure that she ate what we ate. We didn’t give her “kid” food like chicken nuggets while we ate something else.
Because we started right away, It was easy for my daughter to love fresh vegetables and fruit. Bell peppers were always her favorite snack and still are to this day. Do we look like weirdos when we bring her own snack to her church nursery? Yeah, kind of. But she doesn’t mind.
Here is a little bit of what our day consists of, meal wise.
Breakfast.: Oatmeal, Cheerios, or a smoothie
Mid morning snack: smoothie
Lunch: Sandwich (our favorite right now is a veggie one with sprouts, peppers, cucumbers, hummus, and avocado on whole wheat bread)
Afternoon snack: Fruit or veggies with hummus (or both!!)
Dinner: Whole grains with lots of veggies! Basically, it’s different every night! And the possibilities are endless! (in the picture, Estela is eating a wild rice salad with peas and bell pepper.)
As we move and make new friends, we kindly refuse things that don’t fit in with our lifestyle. Luckily it gets easier each time! However, it’s important not to become too obsessive and controlling about what I eat and what I let my daughter eat.
In fact, It was in France that she had her first piece of white bread. There was no whole grain bread in sight! I started to break down and feel stressed. Thankfully I realized how silly I was to stress about that. She was hungry and that demi baguette filled her tummy! As Estela gets older, we encourage her to make her own decisions about what she eats. Sometimes at birthday parties, she doesn’t even want a cupcake!
Of course we make exceptions for every rule, but at home we eat healthful. And that works for us! <<<
Post written by Tess Antivilo :: You can find more of her at her beautiful food blog Table of Tess.