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Simple tips to encourage plant-based eating in your home

I began limiting animal-based foods from my diet when I was in college, mainly because I never loved the texture of most meat, and I was drawn to the idea that cutting back on such food could be beneficial to the environment. I went back and forth on what exactly I included in my diet, eventually settling in my comfort zone, which is as a technical pescatarian (though my fish intake is limited), who is currently limiting dairy.

For me, cutting back on meat is simple, as I enjoy many fruits, vegetables, nuts and other plant-based products. I am perfectly happy with a salad filled with colorful ingredients, and can put together a full meal entirely of sides at even the most meat-centric restaurant. My kids, however, do not share my love of veggies, and getting them to think of greens, whole grains, legumes and other plant-based foods as tasty parts of a healthy diet has been a futile effort. Like many parents, meat-eaters or not, I stress about whether my kids are eating enough nutritious foods (spoiler: mine probably are not).

Social media makes me believe every other family has kids who happily eat platefuls of raw spinach, while I am happy with mine eating a few pieces of lettuce at dinner. What I am learning, however, is no family is perfect, and that we need to take a deep breath and realize we are all probably doing much better than we realize. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak with Brooke Brimm, a mom, advocate and champion of plant-based eating. Brooke, who has been vegan for many years, believes adding plant-based foods shouldn’t be a negative or stressful experience. In our chat on Instagram, Brooke shares how eating more vegan foods is not about shaming meat or meat eaters, nor is it about projecting our own needs onto our family. She urges her followers to make food a positive experience and to embrace the myriad of ways many of us (our kids especially) enjoy eating.

Keep reading to see more great tips from Brooke.

Lead With Kindness

Brooke runs a highly successful vegan community on Facebook, and a large reason for the group’s popularity is the clear rule that members refrain from judgement or shaming. For Brooke and her followers, the idea is to educate and encourage anyone who is interested in exploring plant-based eating. Nobody is called out for their choices, and those who don’t respect others are removed. Though a family is much smaller than a social media group, and you see these people all the time, the concept of kindness and refraining from judgement still applies. This may mean accepting the only way your preschooler might eat any veggies is with lots of dressing, or that your big kid prefers his in smoothies. It doesn’t mean you stop cooking or serving food the way you like, but meeting your kids where they are and offering positive feedback goes a long way.

Avoid Food Shaming

How we speak about or even imply about food has a big impact on ourselves and our families. While we can all agree certain foods offer more in the way of nutritional value, all too often so-called “junk” foods are vilified to the point they become even more appealing. Brooke emphasizes the idea of loving on vegetables rather than hating on other foods. Our children pick up on our attitudes, and if we approach eating with a positive mindset, they will notice.

Give Kids Room To Develop Their Own Relationship With Food

During our chat, Brooke spoke about how the way she enjoyed certain foods was different from what her kids preferred. She shared the example of how a perfect smoothie for her would have plenty of vegetables, while her kids liked them to be much sweeter, and therefor had more fruit. I know when I think about my own childhood, I wasn’t scarfing down veggies with glee. I was a typical picky kid who wanted all the pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream. However, I was continually exposed to healthier foods (never forced), and over time, I began to appreciate them more. I have to remind myself to let my kids find their own way when it comes to food.

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Get Creative

There are many ways to prepare and serve fruits, vegetables, legumes and other plant-based foods. You can make soup, fry them up, add them to desserts, and much more. Plant-based alternatives to meat are readily available and have come a long way in terms of taste, texture and nutrition. We also have access to great recipes and cooking tips right at our fingers. You can learn more about plant-based eating and how to encourage a positive relationship with food by checking out my interview with Brooke Brimm below.

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