Raising a Plant Based Family
With the over-abundance of nutrition science, research, government programs, and health advocates pushing their latest weight loss miracles, one would assume we would easily live in a healthy world, which would keep disease and weight down. This, unfortunately, is not what statistics are showing. With increased consumption of meat, dairy, refined sugar and grains, and fast food, both The United States and The Middle East are feeling the repercussions. Recent reports reflect The Middle East quickly surpassing the US in chronic disease and early obesity rankings.
According to a 2017 data from the World Health Organization, Egypt ranked as the 17th most Obese nation (the USA was 18th), BUT of the 20 most populous countries, Egypt has the biggest weight problem with 35% (1 in 3) adults falling into the BMI category of obesity according to a 2017 study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
It is not easy being an active, nurturing, and loving parent. Spending time with your children can seem impossible some days with: sports, reading, cooking, cleaning, bath time, injuries, the list can go on and on. Being a good parent is a lot of work and feeding your child healthy and nutritious meals are a part of this job description.
What happens then when we are raising our children in a society where food is extremely obesogenic (tending to cause obesity) and addictive? Many times I give my patients this example: the Coca plant is a natural plant that people have processed into a highly addictive substance called Cocaine, Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that can be refined into an even more addictive substance called “Crack”. Corn is a natural-ish plant that people have processed into a highly addictive substance called Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup is a highly addictive substance that can be refined into an even more addictive substance called “High Fructose Corn Syrup”. See the similarity? This list can go on and on and on with healthy plant foods being turned into an unnatural ingredient. What we have done in the last 80-or-so years is heavily process and refine these natural and healthy plants into highly addictive substances that we call “food”. What is even more disturbing is that most of these food-like substances are heavily marketed to children and families in general.
What is a parent to do? Luckily the solution is simpler than you think! If you take one thing away from this article take only this, “plants protect”. If you can take a look at the foods you are currently feeding your family or yourself and ask yourself this one question, “How can I add more plant foods to this?” You are on your way to a healthier life. Whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit are all foods you need to be eating more of (buying organic is a huge plus as well). Add as much of them as you like to every meal and snack you eat in the day. If you look for whole plant foods like the ones listed above you will help yourself avoid processed, refined, and additive rich products. When you look at the back of a product, read the ingredients. Instead of seeing single components of a food like sugar, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, etc; look for whole food ingredients like almonds, dates, chickpeas, and other whole food ingredients you can actually understand.
Making changes can be hard at first, but take your time and move at your own pace. Take your first step whether it is big or small and remember it is all about progress, not perfection. My husband and I started a consulting business called “Married to Health” in order to help people make these changes and provide resources that can help busy parents find easy and real life ways to ditch the unwanted ingredients and add in the nutrition that is missing. We both grew up as unhealthy, obese, sick kids and are determined to help our daughter and other families avoid the health consequences that came with that. Obesity, chronic disease, and pain and suffering can often be prevented through plant based nutrition, increased physical activity, and other lifestyle intervention. We alongside our inspiring peers are committed to combating this preventable and undue harm.
If you feel like your kid is destined to always be a picky eater, that the situation is hopeless, or they will never eat healthy like other kids, start small! Start with one healthier meal or snack at a time. Just like we wouldn’t say a kid who struggles to read when they first begin practicing will never become a good reader, we should think of healthy eating in the same way! Give it time, put in work to practice, be their role model with healthy eating, and see them flourish while they’re well-nourished! We all have heard friends and family say, “being healthy is so time consuming”, but who has time to be sick? Not you! And not your smart, ambitious, strong, amazing kids!
Meet our Guest Writer…
This post was contributed by Dahlia Marin, Functional Plant-Based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Co-Founder of Married to Health. Dahlia overcame pre-diabetes, PCOS, and Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism with a plant-based diet and went on to have a healthy plant-based pregnancy raise a 100% plant-based, healthy, happy 4 year old. Dahlia now shares her knowledge through Married to Health: advocating plant-based food as medicine and empowering people to find true health and healing.