As a family, we want to move in the direction of a plant-based diet. Changing the diet of five people is hard, so our family sabbatical might be our best chance of succeeding.
Eliminating sugar and processed foods
Our first step is to focus on eliminating sugar and processed foods. I am cautiously optimistic that we are succeeding in breaking our collective sweet cravings. We have long had a rule where we allow treats only on Shabbat, so it’s not like we are eating a lot of candy or adding raw sugar to any of our dishes. However, like most Americans, we still consume a lot of sugar that is hidden in most processed foods. Getting rid of processed foods will also get rid of other nasty chemicals, so it’s a good thing to do.
This week we spent our Saturday on Banana Beach in Tel Aviv. My husband offered Seven an ice-cream. “No thank you. That’s not healthy,” he surprised us. “Plus, I don’t like it,” he was quick to add. Whatever his reasons, I realized that none of the kids had asked for a sweet this week. That is a huge victory!
Increasing the percentage of plants we eat
Still, we have a long way to go. For example, we are eating many white flour products (bread, pasta, pita, and so forth). Unfortunately, white flour has much the same effect on the body as processed sugar. We also still gorge on a lot of animal protein (eggs, milk, meat, cheese). I am not convinced that animal protein is all bad, even though some claim animal protein causes cancer. For now, we are not trying to eliminate white flour and animal protein, just to significantly increase the percentage of plant-based foods in our diet. After that, we will see. Either way, I need to find more plant-based recipes that the kids will eat. Plants are too often “side dishes” during dinner, and they may be absent altogether during breakfast, lunch or snack.
“You’re the worst cook ever”
Finding acceptable plant-based recipes has been slow going. I have received many wonderful recipes from family and friends, and even a cooking lesson. If nothing else, at least, this food journey is a vehicle to renew bonds. That is a good thing. I am spending an inordinate number of hours in the kitchen. For those who know me, that might come as a surprise. I’m not much of a cook, and yes, many dishes still burn.
Of the dishes I succeed not to scorch, many are rejected by one or more of the children. To their credit, the children always try a “no thank you” bite. Today, all three of my plant-based plates were rejected: roasted beets (with sea salt and creme fraiche), zucchini “pasta” (zucchini strips boiled for 2 minutes), and roasted brussels sprouts (I was hoping the caramelization would make them sweet enough).
It’s easy to feel discouraged. “You’re the worst cook ever,” Seven rubbed it in as he stomped to the kitchen to warm himself some cheese bourekas. It is time to take stock of my cooking adventures so far. For an experiment to be a success, two out of three children must agree to eat the dish at least twice. Also, a dish must be easy enough to survive the real world once we return from our family sabbatical. It turns out that my failures have outnumbered the successes by a factor two to one. If I put on my one-third full glasses on, then we are making progress! This is clearly a marathon, not a sprint.
If you have any plant-based recipes that your children love, please share them with me in the comments!
An inventory of my cooking experiments during the first month in Israel:
- Potato and carrot “latkes”
- Sweet potato “chips”
- Carrot “fries” (carrots strips baked in a bit of coconut oil)
- Strawberry smoothies (without added sugar)
- Banana and blueberries “icecream” (only two out of the three like this)
- Roasted cauliflower (they liked it the first time, then refused to eat it again)
- Quinoa salad variations (only my oldest will eat this – that’s a start)
- Roasted beets (with sea salt and creme fraiche)
- Zucchini “pasta” (zucchini strips boiled for 2 minutes) – with tomato sauce
- Roasted brussels sprouts
- Kale chips (granted, I burned them a little – I may try again)
- Carrot bread
- Lentil soup (tried two different recipes so far – but not giving up yet)
- Tuna melt (they tried it once, then refused)
- Carob peanut butter freezer fudge (tried two different variations)
- Apple & pear baked oatmeal
- Homemade mac ‘n cheese (they refuse to eat whole wheat pasta version)
- Chickpeas and peas Indian style curry
- Red velvet cupcakes colored with red beets
Successful new recipes with meat (but those don’t count):
- Shepherd’s Pie
- Homemade hamburgers
- Homemade chicken schnitzels (also has white flour bread crumbs)