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(Article originally appeared on The Well Nest)

More and more families are discovering the wide range of benefits of choosing a plant based lifestyle, so we reached out to Katie Dall, personal trainer and owner of Activate Personal Training Brisbane, for her tips for families transitioning to a plant based lifestyle. Whether it be for health reasons, environmental factors or ethical reasons, it can be difficult to convince your family that this way of living is not extreme and not just another diet fad! It can also be daunting working out where to start, and what meals and snacks to prepare for your family, and fussy children!  Here are her top five tips. 

Plant Based Family

1. Recipe apps are your best friend

When our family first went plant based three years ago, we watched the documentary ‘Forks over Knives’.  I then discovered an amazing recipe app called the ‘Forks Over Knives Recipe App’, which was pivotal in our transition to plant based living.  The recipes are broken down into categories and it has an inbuilt shopping list.  I sit down on the weekend to plan family dinners for the week ahead.  Once I have selected a meal across the range of categories (such as Pasta & Noodles, Soups & Stews, Amazing Grains, Baked & Stuffed, Wraps & Burgers, etc) I go into each recipe and click on the ingredients I need to buy, which then goes to the shopping list.  You can then tick off your ingredients as you pop them into your shopping basket when doing the weekly shopping.  The recipes are all super simple, healthy, tasty and family friendly.  I also like that they don’t use cooking oil in their recipes, so they aren’t laden with extra unnecessary calories (very handy if you are trying to loose weight). The app also has a favourites list, which I regularly share with friends.  Some of our favourites are: Curried Tomato Lentil Soup, Fabulous Un-Fried Falafel Burgers, Split Pea Soup, South-of-the-Border Pizza, Pesto Pasta with Beans (my daughters favourite), Lentil, Chard & Sweet Potato Curry. 

2. Shop at your local fruit and vegetable markets

Take you family to your local weekly markets and reconnect with exactly where your food comes from. We go to the Northey Street Organic markets most Sunday mornings as a family, and enjoy the relaxed vibe of selecting in season, organic fresh produce direct from the farmer, and sitting and enjoying a coffee outdoors with the locals.   It is lovely to chat with them and hear them speak so passionately about the food they have produced to provide to local communities.  Most of them are up at midnight to travel from their farms to the city, so it really makes you appreciate what you are buying and then eating.  It is produced with love, and a lot of hard work!  The food these farmers provide is local, in abundance, and because is it in season, it tastes absolutely amazing and is enriched with amazing nutrients. It’s a win win! I take my trolley bag along with my reusable produce bags and love the fact that the produce has literally been pulled from the ground and is covered in soil still.  It lasts a whole lot longer too.

Going Plant Based

3. Keep school lunches simple

Get rid of all the packaging and processed foods, and go back to basics (think about what you had in your lunchbox as a child!).  My daughters lunch is packed in the wonderful environmentally friendly stainless steel bento box and nesting containers, and usually consists of a Vegemite and Nuttelex sandwich on multigrain bread, carrot and cucumber sticks, popcorn (homemade sprinkled with salt and nutritional yeast flakes), sliced apple and other in season fruits, and some multigrain crackers. If you are concerned about meeting daily nutritional requirements, think about covering the following food groups: whole grains, coloured vegetables, green vegetables, legumes and soy products.  Homemade hummus with crackers and carrot sticks is a great example of getting some legumes into their daily intake. 

4. Don’t give up on fussy kids at dinner time

It can be challenging getting your children used to different flavours, and they are fussy at the best of times!  It takes a child up to 12 exposures for them to accept a food, so keep putting it on their plate and ask them to try just a small amount each night.  We have a great plate for our daughter that our nutritionist gave her, which is broken up visually into the four food groups: Legumes & Soy Products, Whole Grains, Coloured Vegetables, Green Vegetables & B12.  It is great reminder to include a food from each of the food groups at each meal.  I will sometimes serve up a small amount of whatever meal I have prepared from the FOK recipe app, and then cut up fresh vegetables for the rest of the plate.

Plant Based Family

5. Get your family & friends involved in making tasty plant based versions of their favourites on the weekends and when entertaining

The whole process of discovering and sharing the amazing flavours that plant based food provides, is actually really satisfying and enjoyable.  We often have dinner parties where we make it pot luck, and have our friends bring a plant based dish along.  Most enjoy the challenge of coming up with a delicious plant based version of their favourites, and are surprised at how good it tastes, and how good they feel afterwards!  We have a long list of favourite meals to make on the weekends, and I was recently gifted a wonderful recipe book from my sister called ‘Feed me Vegan’ by Lucy Watson, which provide comforting recipes for all your favourite meals.  Some of the best ones we’ve tried so far are: the ultimate cheeseburger, spaghetti bolognese, black bean chilli and spinach and pesto pasta.  It feels pretty amazing preparing these meals from fresh and local ingredients, sharing it with family and friends knowing that your environmental footprint is very small, you are supporting your local farmer, and looking after the health of you and those around you.  There are also some amazing restaurants around now serving up amazing plant based options.  You would be surprised and how accommodating chefs are, if you just ask! 

A plant based lifestyle is actually really easy, when you think about it! I highly recommend sitting down with your family and watching the Forks Over Knives documentary too.  It is an eye opener and can be just the gentle nudge you and your family need. Check out your local vegan grocery store for all of your plant based options and pantry staples too.

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