Food choices and a plant-based buttered slice of analysis paralysis

A family to feed on a plant-based diet

I am trying to eat – and feed my family with – a varied, plant-based diet that is hopefully delicious and nutritious. Anyone that knows me may well be laughing out loud, as I have always found cooking… a challenge.

‘I’m trying, folks!’

I’d like to use all the colours of the rainbow to concoct dishes that my kids will also enjoy (or at least, eat).

Does that seem like a lot to ask?

It so is! In multiple ways.

Analysis paralysis

Firstly, there’s the eating more organic, local produce challenge. Here’s where it begins to become complicated.

If we buy locally, and eat seasonal foods, then that counts out a whole array of fruit and vegetables (that we can buy at the more, let’s call them, reasonably-priced supermarkets).

Bananas with 'Imagine life with no bananas' written on one
A staple for any plant-based diet

What, no bananas? Avocados? But aren’t they, like, superfoods? They’re certainly staples in my book, particularly as we’re making as many vegan food choices as possible.

avocadoes
Probably not local. Likely not organic. But avocados rock!

And then, we need to be looking out for palm oil (with good reason) in the ingredient lists on products. It suddenly seems to be in everything!

We could, of course, educate ourselves (and we try) – and then make informed food choices. But there is so much (mis)information and simply not enough time in the day to read everything, never mind make a meal plan, do the shopping, and then obviously, cook the food! On top of everything else that life involves (er, did somebody mention ‘work’?), providing a pretty good diet has suddenly become a nigh-impossible task. And you’ve got to do it every day!

So, wait a minute! Uh oh! The sheer volume of food news we are expected to sift through to get to that magical place of putting a good, equitable diet on the table has just become overwhelming.

dish of rice, greens and lentils
It looks tasty to me but will the kids eat it? Honestly, I doubt it!

For those of us with kids, let’s not forget we ‘should’ be getting the mini humans involved in this whole process too, to help them become self-sufficient as they grow towards maxi size!

monkey face pizze and normal pizza made by kids ready for oven
Monkey pizza by Lily (not plant-based) and Flynn’s slightly more traditional effort

Healthy lunch box – Easy snacks

Here in Belgium, they don’t have ‘school dinners’ as such. The schools serve home-made, reasonably-priced soup for the kids, and you provide sandwiches and three snacks.

Three snacks! Boy do I struggle here!

I mean, how are you supposed to find a variety of three things that are relatively healthy and bite-sized and not too harmful for the environment five days a week? These snacks also need to have just enough cool factor (which sadly means they have to include at least one ‘unhealthy snack’) for your kids not to undergo lunchbox shame.

My youngest child goes to a fantastic school where she is learning the importance of looking after our planet and our bodies. As she is actively encouraged to become an eco-warrior, according to her, one small ‘treat’ is (usually) enough.

My son doesn’t go to the same school and if he had his way he’d take in only biscuits, sweets and cakes. Maybe some chocolate.

I literally had no idea what to give the kids as snacks when school started, and I remember at one of the first open evenings, I asked the teacher if my snacks were okay.

rows of apple, orange and melon slices
Easy healthy snacks

The teacher looked at me, in a pitying way.

‘Oh yes, you always give him an apple, don’t you?’

She then said she peeled it and chopped it up for him. I wasn’t sure whether she (and I) felt more sorry for my little boy or for me.

Since then, I’ve tried to be more creative. Now and again I get my apron on and bake healthy and delicious chocolate and pear flapjacks, for example, or banana chia pudding with mango lime purée… but it sure ain’t every day, mamma!

A snowman-shaped biscuit tin
Very cool for Christmas cookies – Very rubbish for school snacks

I was also a late (parent) learner of the crucial lesson that presentation is key. In a money-saving, upcycling strategy that I’ve had going… forever, I finally realised it wasn’t working in this particular scenario after sending my 10-year-old to school with a snowman-shaped musical biscuit tin for his lunch box. In summer.

Well I had a good excuse. I’d run out of washed out ice-cream tubs.

Anyhoo…

Finally, now the kids have all-singing all-dancing beta boxes with shiny compartments and everything. They’re happy. I’m happy. Oh, except when I’m trying to fit the largish sandwiches into the smallish compartments… but that’s another challenge that I’m just trying to big up to!

A green 'beta' lunch box containing mini peppers and cucumber, raspberries, chocolate brittle and sandwiches in the various compartments
Healthy lunch box success

My child – My teacher

So just when I think I may have it nailed, my youngest comes home with the cherry tomatoes still in her beta box and declares that we must no longer buy tomatoes in winter!

Today, she’s been learning about organic, local produce.

I inwardly scream.

But then I pause. And I breathe. And I think…

…actually, this is a positive outcome. There are solutions. We can tweak our behaviour and ultimately, be kinder to ourselves, and the planet. In this case, a weekly shop to the organic shop would do the trick.

Yes!

This does fall within my Circle of Influence.

Although it may sound simple, it can be hard to do the right thing. When we have too many food choices analysis paralysis can take hold. Here’s to making kind, informed choices whenever we can because they do make a difference. Baby steps in the right direction add up, and even if they only affect our own small life in the immediate, there is ultimately a rather wonderful ripple effect.

At the same time, let’s take the pressure off a little – and be happy to do what we can.

An almost empty baking tray with a few pieces of raspberry and chocolate brownie left
The raspberry and chocolate brownies were a popular snack

Today started well. There was a giant sharing pancake ready for breakfast, oat and raisin biscuits in the lunchboxes and home-made apple compote in the fridge. Magic!

I’ll try to keep that magic going a while longer, and there’s so much inspiration out there. I’m off to check out some recipes 🙂

Am I the only one who with struggles with food choices? I would much appreciate any shared wisdom on how to make it easier 🙂

7 Comments

  1. See there you go again highlighting the bonkers lives we are all expected to live to achieve perfection in this world that tells us to do better, be better, whilst telling us this is bad, so go on treat yourself….

    Your blogs always make me laugh out loins and breathe a sigh of relief to know I’m not alone in this constant scrabbling….

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. Oh that makes me so happy to know that somebody relates 🙂 I sometimes don’t know what my posts are ‘about’ really but if they make you laugh then that has to be a good thing. Thank you!

  2. Oh, boy. Do you know what my first thought was? “I better learn as much as I can beforehand from her”, haha. Your kids are amazing, I’m happy they are environmentally proactive. I know nothing about such things and I couldn’t stop giggling because the exact same reason I haven’t fit veganism in my life is the never-ending label analysis paralysis. I admit it’s a habit and a willingness to stop being lazy but it’s already difficult not to get overwhelmed by the never-ending products and corridors at the supermarket 😄 You’re doing amazingly and we really do need to be content with doing the best we can every day. I’m amazed by those lunch boxes, they really are handy and make meal prep more appealing. And that monkey pizza? Creativity runs through! xx

    1. It makes me laugh to think that anyone could learn anything about food from me 🙂 Tonight was pasta and peas again – oh dear! But yeah, those boxes are great, right? And there are quite a few bite-sized fruit and veggies hanging around the kitchen to be nibbled on since my supermarket trip yesterday. Trouble is, all the grapes, mini cucumbers and berries are gone in a day and then I’m back to Square One scrabbling around trying to find something vaguely healthy… or at least edible 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment – it helps to know I’m not the only one with (supermarket) aisle overwhelm 🙂

  3. Oh Eilidh, I think I best have that recipe for those raspberry and chocolate goodies!!!! Palm oil, Grrrr. It’s a huge bugbear for me to know that it wasn’t in everything but now is, I do avoid it like the plague and over here the store Iceland, have no Palm oil in anything they sell but their Christmas television advert was banned because they were accused of causing a bias in the food industry because the won’t sell anything with Palm oil in.
    I think back to my childhood and the fact that I hadn’t eaten a single fish finger until I was about 18 – 40 years ago, aarrgghh…. our Mum cooked and baked everyday, everything we ate, she made, she was a superb cook, we had a vast garden where she and Dad grew all our veg, so many countryside producers of natural products, living in the countryside way back when, had many advantages. We ate so healthily with an occasional bought gateau for Easter!!!
    Fabulous blog as always, you never fail to make me smile.
    S x

    1. When did life become so complicated, eh? When did it speed up?
      So that’s what the controversy was about with the Iceland ad… I remember reading just a snippet but not going further to find out. Honestly!
      Thanks so much for your comments. Lovely to read about you living ‘The Good Life’ during your childhood.
      It absolutely makes me smile that I make you smile 🙂 We all deserve a smile and you deserve many, many! X

I'd love to hear your thoughts