Green parenting: How to adopt a plant-based diet

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The media lately has highlighted the current appetite for veganism, eating more plant based foods and our changing dietary habits as a society. We all want to be healthier and eat better, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Writer, athlete, nutritionist and mum of six Rosie Canham shares her story and tips to help! Over to Rosie…

Green Parenting is a phrase we have probably all heard so what is it? It sounds like something we should all be doing but how?

The image of green parenting

Does it make you think of happy home-educated children with long hair and dimples exploring outside in woods or fields while an adult indulges their curiosity in nature? Or maybe it is family bike rides, country walks and other activities which take our kiddies away from their beloved screens? The sort of things we love to do if we are lucky enough to get away on holiday but which in real life just doesn’t seem attainable in our hectic lifestyles.

Well, having given it much thought over the years I don’t think it means any of the above, although those things are wonderful. Anyone who wants to can be more green in their lifestyle and so also in their parenting. Do you nag your kids to turn lights and appliances off? Green parenting. Ever done the recycling and mentioned it to your kids or better still got them to do it instead of you? Green parenting. Made use of ‘hand me downs’ instead of buying new? Green parenting.

So let’s go a step further and think about food. I have been a vegetarian since about the age of 14 having always been passionate about the welfare of animals. The last few years I have been increasingly aware of the impact of our dietary choices on the environment too. I actually gave full veganism a try in 2016 but certain parts of it didn’t quite resonate with me, for example I had always been given lovely fresh eggs from my dad’s hens and seeing as his chickens are very spoilt I just couldn’t get my head round why I would cut this out of my diet. So now I just don’t buy eggs from a supermarket as I don’t want to support this industry.

You have probably heard that cutting down on meat and dairy will help our health and help the planet. It can also help your bank balance…. Winning!

A typical teenager’s day on a plant-based diet

My family are very sporty and we are always on a budget as we spend the majority of our income on subs, travel, races, kit, the list goes on. I have found that it’s been easier to save money on the food shopping bill by eating more whole plantbased foods. Here’s a sample of what my son (a club swimmer and footballer) eats in a typical school/training day
Breakfast: porridge (made with whatever milk we have in the fridge or water if no milk! with raisins and/or banana >rough cost under £1

Lunch: peanut butter sarnie or falafel wrap, cereal bar >rough cost £1-£1.50

Dinner: savoury soya mince with brown rice or couscous and steamed broccoli >rough cost £2.50-£3 to serve 4

Snacks: malted wheats or rice pops, banana, toast (brown or granary), cucumber with houmous

The above is only an example and sometimes depends on how much I can spend. I don’t beat myself up if my kids have to have a day without veggies or white bread instead of brown. We just aim for this ideal on the whole. I also have an extremely fussy youngest child and I have had to be quite crafty with him to ensure he eats what I want him to eat! Here are my top tips for making changes and dealing with fussy eaters

#TIP 1
– Start with what they like
I know my son likes junk food so I always let him have ketchup! My blender is my best friend as I can give him tomatoes and lentils etc in a spag Bol and he has no idea! Also try swapping beef for soya mince

#TIP 2
– Give them some power
I’ll often say to my son ‘you can have spag Bol tonight or pasta with broccoli’ I very rarely ask him what do you want for dinner, as that is too much choice. (and yes he rolls his eyes and often kicks off but I just stick to my guns… most of the time 😉

#TIP 3
– If you don’t want them to eat it then don’t put it in the freezer/cupboards. We have nights when I am too tired to cook from scratch but my lot know that a night like this equals beans on brown toast, maybe with some cheese on top (well balanced meal) or a bowl of cereal with a banana. I can’t resort to processed freezer food as its not in there and I can’t usually afford a takeaway anyway!

The benefits of a family plant-based diet

So that’s a snapshot of our diet. It’s cheap, nutritious and beneficial to the planet. Less processed food equals less packaging. I am currently trying to buy more foods in bulk as this will help us to be more green too, eg spices, oats, flours, lentils. My children have always seen takeaways as rare treats and a typical weekend dinner for us might be homemade pizza. But we are all starting this journey from different places. If you are further on than me I salute you! If you are starting from scratch I salute you too!

#LAST TIP
– Small tweaks and little changes are the key to making this work for you long term. Don’t be hard on yourself. You can be a Green Parent and massively inspire your kids for their future. Good luck

Rosie CanhamAbout the author. Rosie is a mum of six ranging in age from 12-24, an early years teacher and a masters athlete competing in club and national levels for 800 meters. She is dedicated to a planet based way of eating and has completed nutrition courses to further her own interest. You can catch up with Rosie on Instagram.

How to adopt a plant based family diet
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