Protein, Calcium, Iron, Oh My!

Every time I tell someone I’m plant based, I get a few questions:

  • Are you raising your son Vegan?
  • Why? Don’t you miss cheese?
  • Where do you get your Protein, Calcium, etc.?

So to answer these, I need to take a step back to February 2015 after I had my son, Jackson.  When people tell you having a child changes you – mentally and physically, they’re right.  After a messy, lengthy labor (“It looks like a freaking crime scene in here,” said the doctor) and a few nights in the hospital, I was finally home with my family, but the problems were just beginning. I had eczema, began to experience stomach issues, and started booking appointments with my doctor.  The dermatologist wanted to treat with steroids and the GI doc said, “Maybe it’s IBS or a Gluten Intolerance.”  His uncertainty didn’t much to calm my nerves or address my issues.  He suggested coming back when I was done breastfeeding so I could get on medication.

I knew medication couldn’t be the only option, so it was time to experiment. The first thing I did was remove dairy from my diet.  My husband, Steve, was already vegan, so it wasn’t too difficult to remove those items from the house.  Going out to eat, I’d still eat dairy in small quantities, but overall, my stomach started feeling much better.  I started running again, but was still struggling to lose the baby weight.  My son started getting old enough to start eating solid foods, but we really hadn’t decided what route we wanted to take with him.  Steve was leaning towards vegan; I was leaning towards some meat but limiting the amounts.  I decided the only way I would be able to argue my point would be to research the hell out of it to convince Steve that veganism will not be enough for a growing child.  So I found credible websites like: nutritionfacts.org (a non-profit site with no corporate agricultural ties), pcrm.org (the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), and paper after paper explaining all of the benefits of Plant-Based diets.  I decided to try it myself.

I started following Happy Herbivore, a website that offers meal plans for Whole Food Plant Based, No Oil (WFPBNO).  I would stray from this philosophy in restaurants, but at home I would make these meals and stick strictly to the recipes.  Conveniently, I was able to spend a few hours on Sunday preparing meals for the entire week.  I found myself more and more attracted to vegetarian menu items in restaurants, and at some point meat and cheese just didn’t seem appealing anymore. I loved how I felt when eating our meals at home.  So, after running it by our physician and having done our homework, we decided to move forward with a plant based lifestyle for Jackson.  And if I was going to make the decision on his behalf, why wouldn’t I do it myself?

During my research I learned that unless you’re not eating enough calories, it’s impossible to be protein deficient.  I learned there are better sources of calcium than milk: beans, cabbage, kale, even broccoli. And that only 1/3 of calcium in milk is absorbed.  Certain greens have a higher proportion of calcium that is absorbed. (http://nutritionstudies.org/how-to-get-calcium-without-dairy/).

So in the last few months, Jackson has devoured the following meals and basic foods.

  • slow cooker pumpkin curry
  • fruits like avocados, bananas (three-four/day in the early going), strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
  • potato, rice, and quinoa bowls with all sorts of beans, lentils, sauces, veggies, and seeds
  • taco and pumpkin-spice sandwiches
  • oatmeal (or “porridge” as Steve calls it) with kale, spices, tahini, beans, a starchy vegetables
  • whole wheat pastas with homemade pesto sauces and peas
  • nut butters
  • homemade muffins

It’s been such an interesting progression for our family that I thought it could be helpful to document the reasons we chose this philosophy and how, contrary to popular belief, it makes things easier, more enjoyable, and more affordable.

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