It all started with throw-up. On a playground. On vacation. So, we all rushed to urgent care. Our son had allergy issues in the past: dog saliva, egg whites, soy and now…We all were vacationing in Colorado, hanging out on a playground, and shortly after he had a bite or two of one those whole-food bars with blueberries, his face got red and he threw up. The tests revealed an allergy to nuts. Argh.
Then a few months later our list expanded to dairy and gluten, so the tests say. One child: no nuts or soy. One adult: no dairy (casein) or gluten.
We are a family that likes to eat. I don’t mean we over-eat or indulge on crappy junk food. We like to eat. Good food. We have been conscientious whole food eaters for years. But, we also enjoyed some processed foods like bread, cheese, and, of course, pizza.
We went through a grieving process of denial, anger and sadness to acceptance. The challenge was the extensive dietary limitations across the board. Most dairy replacements (such as almond milk) are not an option for us. My son has since outgrown the soy allergy, but we still avoid it.
When I became pregnant with our second child, I started reading more about nutrition and doing my research. Took in a deep breath and came at this dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free diet with a whole new approach. We wanted our love of food back. We wanted health. We wanted to truly enjoy eating…good food. We longed to feel good about our diets and lifestyle.
We also longed for a life full of community and connection. We wanted to live simple and small with big and open hearts. Our spirits to be fed and to enjoy everything. While this may sound out of touch, we have worked hard to make it a reality. We live in the city, in a neighborhood that is walkable. Our kids can walk to school, we can walk to parks and the grocery store. My work is around my family’s schedule so that one person has flexibility to be present.
In our minds, this journey toward growing a sense of connection and community is strongly tied to the foods we eat. For instance, we eat as locally as possible, spend time at the neighborhood farmer’s market in summer, and prepare this food together. We invite family and friends to our table to grow friendship and deepen community. This is real to us and to our life, because most of the time life is hard but we want to enjoy it anyway.
Our second child is now three years old. Since my pregnancy with her, our family prepared a whole-food plant based diet for the family. We get a CSA (community supported agriculture) delivery in the warmer months and get excited about all the wonderful food on our plates. We pretend we are rodents chomping on veggies. I also purchased a Vitamix and I use it. Everyday. At the very least, in the morning for green smoothies. Everyone gets a breakfast smoothie. It is an invaluable tool for our food prep.
In writing this and thinking about my children, I am reminded of a time several years ago when I was a teacher, one of the moms of one of my young students said this to me, “All she will eat is hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. What can I do?” I immediately felt so grateful that this question was being asked of me before I became a parent. I got to think ahead. My solution was simple, “Don’t buy the food you don’t want your kids to eat.”
As a family, even pre-kids and pre-allergies, we were committed to eating as holistically as possible. So when all the allergies and sensitivities were put on our plate, we were already in a good place rise to the challenge. As long we were not traveling (and we are getting better at “on the road” meals now too) we feed our children the food we want them to eat because it is real food, it is whole food and it is vegetables. So our kids love salad. They drink green smoothies in the morning, and eat salads at dinner. They like beets, carrots, celery, endive and all kinds leaves from romaine to spinach and kale. If you asked them, they would tell you.
Yes, we still have food allergies and food sensitivities. We still avoid the foods that make us sick or our bodies ache. But, we very much enjoy the food we do eat.
We look at our children, who are bright, beautiful healthy people. We are proud they drink smoothies and eat salads. But, because of the type of food we eat and the way we eat it also means we are together enjoying our meals. The food is good, the company even better. It takes time to eat a good meal and because it takes time, we also get to enjoy good family conversation, and laughter.
So, we eat whole foods because they help our bodies stay strong and healthy, because we feel better connected to the earth this way and because it helps us to slow down and be more present.
Here is one of our favourite green smoothie recipes:
- 1 banana
- 2 cups frozen fruit (your choice)
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 large handfuls of spinach
- 2 cups coconut milk (from a carton not a can)