Hello! It’s been such a long time since I’ve been here. I have to admit, it took quite the nudge to get me going again. You’ll notice that the lighting in the video is a bit off and the sound too, but I decided that perfect could wait. I hope you will forgive the imperfections and consider trying this plant-based pesto. It’s the same recipe that is included in my free ebook; I thought I’d turn it into a video to show you just how simple it is to put together.
I also wanted to spend a couple of minutes talking about family dinner. I hope you enjoy the video, try the recipe and perhaps even more importantly, enjoy dinner together with your family. I’d love it if you would share your thoughts, suggestions and ideas for future conversations. It’s good to be back .
Are you the parent of a tween or teen? Do you worry about your child’s weight? Does your child worry about their weight? Have you ever heard your child say “Ugh! I’m so fat!”? Did it leave you speechless and panicked? Are you worried that your child has an eating disorder or is over-weight? Are you at a loss when it comes to talking to your child about health, weight, and the importance of being active? Well, then I suggest you grab a cup of tea, get comfy, and have a listen to this wonderful conversation I had with Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a researcher and professor at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of “I’m, Like, SO Fat”: Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices about Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World.
Over the summer I read an article in the NY Times which hi-lighted the importance of avoiding commentary on your child’s weight. Dr. Neumark-Sztainer was featured in the article, and it reminded that I had read her book a while back. I decided to reach out to her to see if she would be willing to chat with me. Of course, I was thrilled when she said yes, and excited to share our conversation with you. We discuss how to talk to your teen, how to create a health-promoting environment at home, how to approach teens that want to be vegan, the importance of family meals (of course!), and much more.
I hope you enjoy our conversation, and as always, I welcome your comments, feedback, and suggestions.
I’ve gotten a lot questions around this topic over the years. The short answer is an absolute YES! In this video I tackle the one main obstacle that most people come across in answering the question of whether a plant-based/vegan diet is safe for kids. This video will give you a nice overview of the topic, but in upcoming videos, I hope to answer questions on specific nutrients, common parent concerns, as well as to share useful tips and tools to help guide you.
The standard American diet, in my opinion, is NOT an optimal way of eating. Getting more plant-based foods into our diets is not only safe and doable, but also health promoting.
I’d love it if you would share your questions and comments with me below. What issues around food and nutrition do you struggle with in your family?
p.s. here’s the link to the position statement on vegetarian and vegan diets mentioned in the video:)
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. Ours was spent with family in a non-traditional setting. My dad turned 70 this fall and we decided to celebrate by spending the holiday in Mexico. It was an easy to get to destination for all, filled with sun, sand and togetherness. I find that when I travel or come through a holiday with a heavy focus on food, the following days require a bit of a reset. For me, that means refuelling with simple whole foods. Green smoothies and juices are a great way to reset, but as the weather cools, I want something a little warmer. This green soup fits the bill for sure. I made I nice big pot of it on Sunday and it will be great to have on hand throughout the week for a simple lunch, snack or even breakfast.
This recipe really is about as unfussy as you can get. Think of it as a green smoothie in soup form — use what you have on hand, create a nice texture, and try to balance the flavors. Start with some aromatics (garlic, onion, maybe ginger?!), fill it with as many greens and other veggies as you can, and consider adding in something to give it a creamy, hefty texture (potatoes, cannellini beans, etc.). This basic recipe will give you a way to access “green soup” but, really, add your touch to it. I kept things simple for this version, but you could certainly spice it up with additional seasonings, toppings, and condiments.
To serve the soup, I recommend topping it with a few toasted pumpkin seeds or even some roasted chickpeas for a more substantial meal. You can store the soup in the refrigerator and just warm up a bowl or mugful at a time. I don’t mind having a bit of texture to it and flecks of broccoli, so I don’t purée it for too long. It also packs very nicely in a thermos.
I wanted to end this post by sharing a personal story. A bit of an “emotional reset” it you will. As parents, we tend to worry about our children in all the many aspects of their lives. School, friendships, homework, safety, happiness — you mention it, we are capable of fretting over it. Over the last few weeks, I faced some professional challenges of my own, and what I realized is that how we behave and how we handle things are perhaps the most powerful lessons we can provide our children. There is such a push to teach our kids to be resilient, graceful under pressure, not whine and somehow manage it all. We lose patience when they can’t seem to be ready on time, fuss over homework or complain about chores. But, what I learned from my 13 year old (soon to be 14, yikes!) is that sometimes our quiet presence, a few simple words in place of a lecture or lengthy discussion, and just a bit of time and space work wonders.
I can no longer say that we “just” moved to California. It’s been nearly 18 months, and the truth is, it’s been challenging at times. After a year of getting settled and exploring options, I had decided it was time to get back to work. I looked at various opportunities and found one that I thought would be a good fit. The job ended up not working out and it threw me for a loop — a big one. After months of effort, I would have to begin again. I was in the car with my daughter, and she was acutely aware of my mood. There was a lot of silence in the car. She waited for the right moment to ask what was going on. I explained. She waited some more. Somehow she found the words to reassure me, to encourage me, and to remind me that how we handle adversity not only shapes who we are, but how we move through life. I needed a few days (ok, maybe more than a few) to fully feel the disappointment and upset. There was no pressure to make an immediate decision. She didn’t fill the silent spaces with lots and lots of words, nor did she demand that I immediately look on the bright side of things. She had the confidence that I would figure things out. How did she get so smart?
It’s hard to believe that the start of another school year is already here. Summer travel and a loosened schedule contributed to the sparsity of my posts over the last few months. But, as the kids head back to school, I’m preparing for my own new schedule as well. I’m hoping to return to clinical practice soon and will continue to write and explore about family health and well being. Some upcoming projects that I am looking forward to include a workshop on family meals, attending the Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference and an insightful talk on how to better understand our teens being given by Dan Siegel (Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain).
As the busy weeks start to replace summer days without homework and soccer practice, this tofu tikka masala can be just the thing you need to ease into back to school mode. It takes advantage of summer tomatoes that are still at the market and can be made ahead of time. If you set your rice cooker, dinner will be ready right between piano practice and that last little bit of homework.
You may have eaten a dish similar to this at one of your favorite Indian restaurants. A few things make this version different. First of all, it’s entirely plant-based. Most restaurant versions include chicken or paneer and a generous helping of heavy cream. This tofu tikka masala obviously has tofu instead and a scant half a cup of coconut milk is all that is needed to give it a rich and creamy flavor. It’s not quite as rich as the restaurant version, which is a welcome change for an every-day, weekday meal. If you’ve never used sprouted tofu before, consider giving it a try. It can be used in pretty much the same way that firm (or extra-firm) tofu is used. It is made from sprouted soybeans and the texture is a bit spongier. The sprouting yields tofu that is more easily digestible, higher in protein, calcium and slightly higher in fat.
1 green chili, cut in half lengthwise and de-seeded (keep the seeds if you are brave!)
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, minced
4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped or pulsed in food processor to fine consistency
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground red chili, depending of level of spice desired
1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon of garam masala
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 cup frozen peas
Drain and press the tofu for a couple of hours. If you have the time, this step really does make a big difference in the overall texture of the dish. To press the tofu, simply wrap the drained tofu in a dish towel or paper towels. Place a small baking sheet or cutting board on top and weigh it down with something heavy (can of beans, etc.).
Once the tofu has been pressed, cut into roughly 1-inch cubes. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and bake the tofu at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. The tofu should firm up but not become browned. Set the tofu aside.
As the tofu is baking, begin to prepare the sauce. Warm the olive oil in a medium-sized pot (I love a Dutch oven for this recipe).
Once the oil is warmed, add the cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf. Cook for just about a minute, until fragrant.
Next, add the onions and sauté until just beginning to brown.
Once the onions are golden, add the garlic and ginger and sauté for an additional minute, being careful not to let the garlic and ginger brown.
Add the tomatoes and sauté until they are cooked down a bit (about 5 minutes).
Next, add the remaining spices, including the salt, and cook until fragrant and the spices have been incorporated into the mixture.
This next step is optional, but I recommend it to create a smooth and creamy sauce. Carefully fish out the cloves, cinnamon, green chili and bay leaf. Allow the mixture to cool and transfer to a food processor or blender. Carefully purée the mixture until smooth.
Return the mixture to the pot. Add about a cup of water to your food processor or blender and swirl it around to capture the bits of sauce that are clinging to the side. Add this additional water to the pot. (This a little trick my mother taught me to make sure you don't waste one bit of the flavorful sauce.)
Bring the sauce (including added water) to a simmer and stir in the coconut milk.
Add the tofu and frozen peas. Cook on medium low heat for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
As with most of the recipes I feature, this one welcomes your substitutions and additions. Chickpeas, potatoes and cauliflower would be wonderful or maybe even some colorful bell pepper or generous handfuls of baby spinach. Served over a steaming bowl of basmati rice and maybe a simple green salad, it’s sure to clear your family of any back to school blues, not to mention that the leftovers are perfect for lunch tomorrow.
As we all begin the start of a fresh, new school year with all of its hustle and bustle, I encourage you to make family meal time a priority. Setting the table, sharing a meal and sitting together for the 20 minutes that most families spend at the dinner table is a simple ritual with often complex results. Research has shown that shared family meals are associated with improved academic achievement and language development as well as decreased rates of substance abuse and greater physical and emotional well being. Though there may be quite a bit of work behind the grocery shopping, meal prep and co-coordinating of schedules to make those 20 minutes a reality, I would argue that those 20 minutes are well worth the effort and often the best part of the day.
I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas for the upcoming school year. Feel free to use the contact page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.