Challenges of a Plant Based Diet

Hello healthy New Mexicans! It has been quite a while since my last post. Traveling for work and endless basketball tournaments are part of the reason, however I’m delighted to say that the main reason is that my family has made a major shift to a plant based diet that has thrown my cooking skills a serious curve ball.

For years I have been trying to get my family to move away from animal products. I’ve told them about documentaries and books that expose animal cruelty, human rights violations against people working in the industry, environmental consequences as well as the health benefits of abstaining from animal products. They never wanted to watch the documentaries but they placated me to a point. They would at least try my more exotic, vegan dishes but didn’t really care for them. One compromise though, was that we would have bean burritos every week but they had to have cheese. I would also cook a meal 2 or 3 times per week that had chicken for them and make myself an entirely different meal. Yes, lots of work..

In the last few years, thanks to epidemiological research, climate research and human/animal rights violations, the conversation of why we should shift to a plant based diet has increased. More people are talking about it. And I really have to thank my son’s basketball coach who mentioned the latest documentary about moving to a plant based diet to my husband and son. This held some weight because it didn’t come from me (Argh!). So, they were curious and decided to watch the documentary. It didn’t have anything new in it and I was actually disturbed by some of the content. There were some dramatic personal examples of people who appeared to be severely sick, and after 2 weeks on a plant based diet, were miraculously healthy and off all of their medications. These included some pretty important ones such as anti-depressants and inhalers among others. This seemed irresponsible to me but despite the dramatization, the movie struck a chord. I heard the words I had been waiting to hear for 27 years from my husband…”I’ll give it a try” and my oldest son said the same. My younger son refused to watch the movie but was so shocked by his dad and brother’s decision, that he came on board too. I just want to mention that my uncle, his grandson, a few of my cousins and some of our friends have all made the switch. I have never been so excited! For years, I have just soldiered alone and I have given in a lot, especially when I was cooking with cheese. Having everyone on board has made my life so much easier and I am ecstatic.  However, these commitments do not come without challenges.

Challenge #1:

The kids’ friends.

As I know well, it is really hard to eat completely plant-based and eat out. Eating out is a big part of post-game celebrations and other events.   The kids have done extraordinarily well but have cheated on occasion which I think is insignificant. If they just ate completely plant-based a few times a week, I would be happy.


Challenge #2:

Modifying my recipes but not making them too exotic.

I have been eating meat and cheeseless dishes for a long time and I enjoy creative efforts to mimic traditional dishes as well as dishes that are just weird. I have found however that the boys do not care for many of the cheese substitutions, so my goal is to find a substitute they like. They also want to be assured they are getting enough protein and they just want to feel full (not easy with an active teenager trying to build muscle).


Challenge #3:

Family get togethers

We have a long tradition of watching football and eating meals that are representative of the teams we play that week. That usually includes a very meat centered meal. Luckily for us, there are about 8 of us that have gone completely plant-based so these events now always include options.

So, I have been experimenting with my regular dishes. I have had many failures but I have also had many successes. In addition, my kids seem to be more open to some of my experiments. They are also eating a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. My husband never understood why garnishes were so important for me, and now he says lettuce, tomato, onions, olives etc. are his new ‘cheese’. The boys eat these items now too! Well, not all – but it is a process.

I hope you’ll join me in trying my new modified recipes and/or offering your suggestions to make them better.

Here are a few vegetarian recipes with more to come!

Vegetarian Tamales (Just in time for the holiday)

Mixed Grain Casserole

Calabacitas Soup

Vegetarian Taco Night




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