The school holidays begin this week and the elder girls are off to visit family for a few days. At seven we try to let her make her own food choices when not at home and I’m more comfortable with this when I know the majority of options being presented are ones I am happy with. I know this is something many families struggle with, plant-based or not.
Here are a few of the strategies that we have found to make this less fraught for everyone involved.
1. Send a care package: This time, I sent Apple Hemp Muffins, Muesli Bar Slice, Double Choc Biscuits, oat milk for her porridge and some fruit. All the baking is oil free and the Muesli Bars have no flour or added sweetener. For us, the best way to keep the girls full of energy is to base snacks on carbohydrates and fruit so this care package should get them through the first day or so.
2. Communication: While our family respects our choices in relation to the way we eat it is understandably difficult for them to know what to feed the kids sometimes. It helps to be very clear about what we don’t want her to be offered, we also find this varies depending on who they are staying with. In most circumstances we can very specifically say ‘no meat, eggs or dairy’. In others, we have to accept that it’s a work in progress and they’re not able to go that far. So for now, we’ve compromised at ‘please give them as little meat, dairy or eggs dairy as you possibly can’. (2 years after writing this post, I can happily say that we no longer need to compromise on this. It just takes time for everyone to feel confident with it.)
3. Write a list of favourites: Writing down a list of her current favourite foods for meals and snacks takes the guess work out of it. Things that are easy to make and not too unusual are the best suggestions. Providing a list of options means that she feels invested in the experience and will make them feel more confident in offering her food she enjoys.
4. Give it time: This is where the work in progress part comes in. It is good for us to keep in mind that my husband has only been vegan for two years. Prior to that he and the kids ate meat and dairy when not at home so the ‘what to feed them’ question is still fairly fresh for people. Most people put in a lot of effort and end up really enjoying the results. We appreciate it!
5. Letting go: Sometimes knowing that the girls eat the way we would like the majority of the time has to be enough. Letting go ties in closely to communication as well, we have to discuss what we are comfortable with and where we are willing to compromise before letting them stay somewhere.