Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Talking Whole Foods With Holly - Founder of My Plant-Based Family

The plant-based community is an ever growing community of many fascinating and wonderful people. Many of these people are looking to improve their health by going plant-based. Holly was one of these people, and she has a great story to tell!

Not only did Holly take the leap of faith and adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet, but she managed to get her whole family to embrace this lifestyle. And their results speak for themselves. This was certainly no easy task by any means as they had several kids running around the house keeping them busy!

So how'd she do it? What's her secret? Find out the answers to these questions and more in this exclusive interview with her as she reveals the life of her Plant-Based Family...

Jim and Holly
Holly and Jim's two young boys

Dustin:  Holly, I ran across your site (My Plant-Based Family) the other day and have to admit I think it's great! What's it all about and what inspired you to create it?

Holly:  When we initially decided to transition to a plant-based diet I had a difficult time finding resources. I would find websites or blogs that were vegan but used oil, white sugar, and white flour. Other sites or blogs relied heavily on processed products like vegan margarine and faux meat products. Most of the recipes I found were also not suited to families with small children.

I decided there needed to be a resource for families who want to eat whole food, plant-based foods that were affordable, easy, and delicious. I focus on helping people make the transition from omnivore to plant-eater, extending grace when it’s needed and equipping people to actually do it.

Dustin:  So, you and your husband's stories have some health-related issues behind them? Do you care to share?

Holly:  I have had some minor health issues for years. I thought they were just a part of life and didn’t realize they were a product of my poor food choices. In 2011 after the birth of my second child I began having bladder spasms and suffered 7 UTIs (including 7 rounds of antibiotic) that year. I felt like I couldn’t take care of my family and I became desperate. The specialist I saw said I may have interstitial cystitis but his “solutions” were not an option. In a desperate email to my closest friends I told them what I had been going through and asked if any of them could help. One friend recommended her mother, a whole food educator.

Eileen explained a whole food, plant-based diet as a way to prevent and reverse disease. Within days, aches and pains I thought were just a part of life were gone. I felt light, I could bounce up the stairs where before I avoided them at all cost. It took a few months for my bladder to heal. My life is no longer dictated by the disposition of my bladder. I lost weight easily and went from a 14 to a 6 in about six weeks.

We considered my husband's health issues to be "genetic" and didn't believe we could really do anything about them. He was on medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, allergies, and acid reflux. He no longer needs any of that medication and has lost over 50 pounds.

You can read more about our stories here and here.

Dustin:  Do you think feeding your kids a whole foods, plant-based diet is the way to go? If so, why?

Holly:  I grew up eating a lot of processed food. I loved my Little Debbies, Coca Cola, and candy. I have a big sweet tooth and never really cared for fruit or veggies. Even before switching to a plant-based diet I didn’t want my kids to end up like me. I knew fruit and veggies were good and processed junk was bad. I did my best and served them plenty of fruit and veggies along with tons of dairy; I was led astray by the dairy industries advertising.

After watching Forks Over Knives and researching I was convinced at the overwhelming evidence linking the Standard American Diet to disease. I have every confidence that my children will not suffer at the hands of Western disease, especially if they choose this diet for the rest of their lives.

Most people continue the same diet they have always followed. I believe the earlier your kids begin eating a healthy diet the better it will be for them.

Dustin:  I hear a lot of couples or parents with kids, especially young kids, say it's too hard to feed your kids healthy all the time and they wouldn't like that kind of food anyway even if they tried. Do you find this to be true? How do you manage to keep your kids happy with healthy foods?

Holly:  The earlier your kids begin to eat healthy, the easier it is but it is possible at any age. We started slow with our boys. They were 2 ½ and 10 months, and the oldest had been eating a lot of fast food; burgers, chicken nuggets and fries were eaten often. First we stopped all dairy. It was a large part of the older son’s diet. He continued to ask for cheese, milk and yogurt for a few weeks. We made food that had the same flavors we liked. Taco night became Quinoa-Lentil Taco night, and instead of spaghetti with meat sauce we had sauce with mushrooms. Most dinners worked great, if he wouldn’t eat what was prepared we would give him a nut butter sandwich or a banana. The baby was mostly eating fruit, veggies, and some whole grains at this point and still nursing.

Just as our taste preferences were changing so was our son’s. If we were eating something, he would want to share. If we were eating spinach, he wanted spinach, when we ate walnuts he ate walnuts. I also moved away from products that contained oil and sugar to their healthier counterparts like peanut butter and almond butter.

Intellectually our kids didn’t understand the changes we were making but they slowly adapted and today I’m so proud of the progress. We constantly talk about which foods are good for us and which foods can make us sick. My 4 year old will often turn down a treat that might , “give me a tummy ache”. Now almost a year and a half post-transition my boys beg for leaves (spinach), salad, sprinkles (chia seeds), oatmeal, walnuts, and fruit. My two year old loves broccoli, bell peppers, and whole beans; he actually gets giddy with laughter.

The best advice I can give is to always have healthy options available. Some days I put hummus and carrot sticks on the table and let everyone help themselves. Most days mid-morning I’ll cut up 2-3 apples for a snack, give them a little almond butter for dip, and a handful of walnuts. If they don’t want to eat something that is prepared we tell them they have to “try it” before they can refuse. Refusal isn’t always an option.

Teenagers are a different story. We transitioned shortly after our teenagers had moved across country to their mother’s. They have come back to visit since then and we have approached it differently each time. The first time they came back for a week. We ate out a lot and bought them cow’s milk. When they visited for summer we had them view Forks Over Knives and we allowed them to order whatever they wanted when we went out. I only cooked healthy food at home. We were willing to make more concessions when they were only visiting. Last year our teenage daughter moved in with us for a while. My husband and I spent a lot of time discussing what was important. We compromised on a few things, we bought cage-free eggs, her choice of peanut butter, and in the beginning her choice of bread. Her taste changed over time and she began to enjoy healthy food.

Dustin:  What's your family's favorite dishes? And your kid's favorite?

Holly:  We love Mexican food. Our favorite meal, which can actually be broken down into quite a few combinations, is Quinoa-Lentil Tacos, with Unfried Beans, Mexican Rice, fresh salsa and guacamole. We can layer it in a casserole, eat it in a salad, burritos, mixed together in a bowl or served as Nachos. These dishes make for happy leftovers and our kids love them too! Our boys particularly love baked sweet potatoes, tostadas, oatmeal loaded with chia seeds, walnuts, and dried fruit, and believe it or not salad.

Dustin:  Isn't it expensive to eat healthy? Seems like buying all those fruits and vegetables would break the bank.

Holly:  It doesn’t have to be expensive. We have found the best places to shop for our family. We buy seasonal produce and supplement with frozen fruit and veggies when necessary. Each week we buy bananas, apples, oranges, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes and greens. Every few weeks we buy onions, potatoes, carrots, garlic along with a variety of beans and grains. When I find other things on sale for a great price I’ll buy them instead but the items mentioned above are the building blocks of our meals and are typically inexpensive. I buy other items as needed. We do a lot of entertaining so our grocery bill is more expensive some weeks.

We spend more on some products than we used to. Buying better quality products and ingredients does cost more but we are also not buying meat, dairy, oil, or a lot of processed food. My husband was able to eliminate the need for several prescription and OTC medications.

Our grocery bill is lower now than it was before our diet change.

Dustin:  A lot of people think making healthy meals takes too much time. Do you have any tips on how to make healthy quick and delicious?

Holly:  Spending several hours one day a week can make the rest of the week much easier. I like to soak beans and quinoa one day; then the next day cook them along with a big pot of brown rice. Also using this time to cut veggies for the week can save time each day.

Spending 30 minutes making a meal plan will save hours throughout the week. It seems unlikely but we spend a lot of extra time running to the store for missing ingredients, procrastinating cooking because we don’t know what to make, then ultimately making poor choices because we are unprepared. Here are a few examples of how a meal plan will save time and money. If you are eating meals that contain beans 4 times in one week having them scheduled will allow you to soak dried beans (saving money over canned) and cook a large enough amount so you only need to reheat them for other meals. Likewise if I need rice for multiple meals I can cook a large amount once and reheat it for other meals.

Dustin:  Do you miss any of your former foods?

Holly:  Most of our favorite foods have been adapted and made healthier. When I crave something like a chili dog I’ll just add vegan chili to a baked potato and top it with mustard. Usually the condiment or spices was what I was actually craving.

I still love chocolate but I’ve found healthier, yet still indulgent ways to satisfy my cravings.

Dustin:  Would you ever go back to eating the way you used to before adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet?

Holly:  I’ll never go back. My husband and I feel and look so much better than ever before. I won’t gamble with my family’s health by going back to our former ways. We don’t eat perfectly all the time and we could definitely do better.

Dustin:  Do you have any last words of advice or encouragement for families with kids out there about adopting a healthy plant-based lifestyle?

Holly:  Don’t give up! This is worth it! There is a big learning curve but it gets easier as you go. If you commit to make these changes a year from now (heck even a month from now) you will be healthier, happier, and more optimistic about your future. It may seem difficult, maybe even impossible, but you are worth it, your family is worth it, this is a decision you will not regret. Living a long life and enjoying your kids (and grandkids) will be an incredible reward. 

Dustin:  Thank you so much Holly for all the great advice! You are definitely an inspiration to so many out there, especially any parents wanting to improve the lives and health of their families. We need more individuals like you in this world!

Holly is a wife and mother of 2 crazy boys living in Mesa, Arizona. She enjoys helping others transition to a plant-based diet and navigate the world of food allergies. You can keep up with Holly and everything going on in her kitchen at My Plant-Based Family or Facebook.

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by Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
Clinical Pharmacist

Check out Dustin Rudolph's book The Empty Medicine Cabinet to start your journey towards better health. This step-by-step guide leads you through many of today's common chronic diseases (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more), giving you the facts on foods versus medications in treating these medical conditions. The book also contains an easy-to-follow guide on how to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet as a part of an overall lifestyle change, producing the best possible health outcomes for you and your family. Hurry and get your copy today!

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