Anyone convinced that vegans are all super skinny should really think again.
All the tempting vegan offers out there (vegan ice creams, vegan desserts, and of course all the vegan snacks invented just for us vegans) have taken their toll and I suppose it’s time to do something about it.
Now, I’m not really one for fad diets; been there, done that. I’d rather focus on health. Feeling fit and healthy is far more important to me than being skinny. So I’m thinking it’s simply a case of moving my butt a bit more and cutting down the fat and calories. This is easier said than done at the best of times (will power is not my friend!) but trying to lose weight and cater for vegan children who need a lot of healthy fats and calories in their diet can be problematic.
I’m guessing none of us have the time or the inclination to make separate dishes for every meal so I’ve formulated a few tips and tricks to make adapting meals a little easier for anyone who finds themselves in the same situation. It’s worth noting though that regardless of how much we weigh we ALL need some good fats in our diets so while you’re following the tips below please remember to add a little bit of olive oil or avocado to your diet, or a few nuts and seeds, all in moderation, to keep you feeling happy and healthy.
What better way to start the day than a big old smoothie? For the low cal, low fat version, blend up some berries, with some low glycemic index fruits such as peaches or grapefruite and a spoonful of chia seeds or ground flaxseeds. If you’re feeling very virtuous, try a green smoothie or some vegetable juice. The higher fat kids’ version is just as simple: blend a banana with some plant milk, some spinach leaves, flaxseeds and a spoonful of tahini. My boys are a bit strange with tahini – sometimes they love it, sometimes they screw their little faces up in disgust as soon as they see me taking the jar out of the fridge. I find a little agave syrup hides the tahini taste in a smoothie so even the fussiest of children should gulp it down.
We’re Scottish, so it will come as no surprise that porridge usually features as part of our breakfast and of course with their low fat, high fibre credentials, oats are a dieter’s best friend. A good bowl of porridge first thing can fill you up nicely until lunchtime. I cook the oats with soya or oat milk, neither of which has the fat content of cows’ milk so I just add a generous spoonful of flaxseed oil to the baby’s bowl. Alex, being a little older and fussier doesn’t like the taste of the flax oil so I sometimes have to mask the taste with a little maple syrup. I usually add blueberries or raspberries to our porridge but often add some dried fruit to the kids’ portions to bulk out the calories even further and give a good nutrient boost. Raisins, sultanas and dried cranberries are the boys’ current favourites. Dried fruits are higher in calories than fresh so stick to the fresh versions for your own bowl.
As with soya milk, soya yogurt doesn’t have the high fat content of dairy based yogurt (you can always check the label to remove any doubt) so I add ground almonds to raise both the fat and the calorie content for the children. This also has the added benefit of a calcium boost, and gives the yogurt quite a nice texture. For older children you could use chopped mixed nuts to give the yogurt a satisfying crunch. To bulk out the yogurt without the calories of the almonds or chopped nuts, I like to add fresh berries or a spoonful of no added sugar apple sauce and a sprinkle of cinnamon to my own portion.
Jacket potatoes with kidney beans.
Like the porridge oats, this is such a typical dieter’s dish; naturally low in fat and high in fibre and protein it’s a really a satisfying and filling meal. But the very attributes that make it great for me, mean that it’s not ideal for my growing boys. Here’s the answer.
For my own lunch, I keep the potato plain and just pour the beans on top. I serve it with a huge green salad dressed with vinegar and mustard dressing. For the children, I scoop out the flesh of the potato and mash, mixing together with a dash of olive oil for added calories and healthy fat. I give the kids a large helping of salad as well but add some avocado to theirs and sprinkle some sesame seeds. You could also try adding pine nuts and walnuts to the salad if your kids are a little older and past the point where nuts present a choking hazard.
Sweet potato, carrot and lentil curry is one of my favourite family dinners. The trick to making it suitable for the whole family is to remove a portion of the curried vegetables for you and then add creamed coconut or full fat coconut milk and a large spoonful of peanut butter to the pot for the kids’ portions. To add even more calories to the children’s’ meals, add a sprinkle of chopped roasted cashew nuts after serving (this is really only suitable for older children; remember younger children can choke on nuts).
Vegetable burgers, lentil burgers, cheackpea burger or any other kind of vegan burger is a good option for a mamma on a diet. It feels like junk food but is actually pretty healthy. Serve yours with a wholemeal bun and a little ketchup or chilli sauce and a large mixed salad.
The higher fat and calorie version for the kids is easy; spread the burger bun with vegan mayonaise and ketchup serve with the salad and a side of potato or sweet potato wedges which have been roasted with a some olive oil, and you got yourself the same meal in a different dressing.
We have to have a little bit of cake right? I often make cupcakes, brownies or muffins for the boy’s snack time. I tend to sneak in ground flaxseeds, ground nuts or dried fruits to up the nutrient levels. Now, one solution is just to exercise some willpower (some what?!) and forgo the sweet stuff but alas, I am not that disciplined so instead I half the cake mix so that I make fewer cakes in the first place. I make just enough for the boys, some for my husband to take to work and a solitary muffin for me. At least that way I don’t feel deprived but equally I don’t gorge myself on all of the baked goods lying about the kitchen!
The other option is to make two seperate batches. One like you would a regular cake, and another which will be sugar and oil free (substitue the oil and sugar for mashed bananas or other naturally sweet fruit puree).
Now for the most important tip; get moving!!
Not diet related but hugely important when it comes to losing weight and being healthy.
Happily, this is where Mummy and child are in perfect harmony. We need exercise to shed the pounds and the kids need exercise to build strong bones. Take advantage of this by running riot around the local park and getting out on your bikes or if the January weather makes you want to huddle up inside, stick some music on the stereo and dance like a maniac around your living room. You’ll have so much fun you’ll forget that you’re even exercising!
And remember, there are so many fantastic resources out there for well balanced and nutritious vegan menus which are constantly updating and improving (a good recipe website for low fat recipes is the Fat Free Vegan for example) . You can always join others in this journey (with online programs such as The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s 21 Vegan Kickstart program) and there are many other vegans out there in forums and groups that will always be happy to help with ideas for balanced meals or some words of advice.