Dear Holly: You Now Love Mac and Cheese!

1 year, 11 months.

Dear Holly,

It was just a few weeks ago when Nonna came up for a week to take care of you while I was on my Toyota trip in Atlanta, that you began eating Ramen noodles.

Well, it’s no surprise to me that you now eat mac and cheese too.

Last week you overheard your brother tell Mommy that’s what he wanted for dinner.

You repeated, “Chee?”

(Each week, we’ve kept a little snack-size block of cheese for you in the fridge; as you occasionally ask for it. You’ve treated it more like a teething toy more than food, though.)

I then asked you, “Holly, cheese noodles?”

“Yeah, chee!”

So Mommy brought you your own dish of mac and cheese, along with your brother’s. You went to work right away.

Though you had never eaten it before, you instantly loved it.

My favorite part about this story is that you took it upon yourself to request mac and cheese and try it for the first time.

As you are now less than a month away from your 2nd birthday, I am starting to see you naturally transition into your upcoming age.

You’ve mainly been eating snack-type foods until recently. Now that you’re actually asking for and eating pasta, it shows me that you are growing up.

And while I am very particular about letting my kids have “screen time” before their 2nd birthday, I have been letting you watch Elmo a little bit most days.

So yes, you love mac and cheese. You ask for it. Granted, they are currently being referred to as “cheese noodles” for now, but that’s okay.

I just love being able to see you eating something besides fruit-&-veggie pouches and Cheerios.

My little girl is starting to eat real food now!

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Holly: Your Brother Feeds You Yogurt Better Than I Can

1 year, 6 months.

Dear Holly,

While I am extremely grateful we are past the days of preparing and cleaning bottles of milk for you, I will admit: It’s not one of my favorite things, to feed you yogurt.

At least twice a day, you’ll walk over to the fridge, pull on the door, and speak in your language what would translate as, “I want yogurt, Daddy.”

That’s when I respond with a face palm and, “Ah man, really?”

By the time I am finished feeding you, you have a fu manchu of Trader Joe’s yogurt, which seamlessly blends in to your runny nose.

You also love for me to prepare you organic instant oatmeal twice a day as well, to accompany your yogurt.

After I clean you up, the stains on both of our clothes consists of a mysterious mix of “Is it yogurt, mucus, or oatmeal?”

It makes me think of the DNA test I did this summer, but instead of ethnicity, we would be testing the stains on your clothes:

43% yogurt

27% oatmeal

10% mucus

Fortunately though, we stumbled into a wonderful discovery:

Not only does your brother love to feed you the yogurt, but he’s much better at it than I am. You respond better to him. You think it’s more fun to eat the yogurt when he feeds you.

And somehow, none of the yogurt seems to make its way to either of your clothes.

If it were up to me, I’d always have your brother feed you yogurt. He enjoys doing it, too.

It makes me wonder what else your brother could do more efficiently than me. I recognize the special relationship the two of you have- and I respect it.

So even though I didn’t immediately think it was a smart idea to let your brother feed you yogurt while wearing one of his brand-new shirts, the two of you quickly proved me wrong.

Love,

Daddy

 

 

Are American Restaurants Still Ignoring Vegans as Potential Customers? As a Millennial Vegan Daddy Blogger, I Say Yes.

Today I was contacted by a brand promoter for Applebee’s, who invited me to participate in their newest campaign, “There’s No Shame in Being a Meat and Potatoes Man.” I would have received a gift card for my family to dine at Applebee’s, as I promoted the following options for the modern Meat-and-Potatoes Dad:

Topped Steaks & Twisted Potatoes Line-Up:

  • 3 Steak Choices:  6 ounce USDA Choice Top Sirloin, 8 ounce USDA Choice Top Sirloin, 12 ounce USDA Choice Top Sirloin
  • 3 Steak Topper Choices:  Tavern Mushroom & Onion, Savory Herb & Butter Sauce, Creamy Horseradish & Gravy Topper
  • 3 Twisted Potato Side Choices (pick 1):  Twisted Tots, Loaded Potato Casserole Back, Loaded Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • 1 Perfect Side: Fresh Broccoli

Hey, I would have appreciated the free meal for my family and would have had a lot of fun promoting Applebee’s here on my blog. One small problem, though…

I am a vegan and my wife and kids are vegetarians.

It’s not that big of a deal that I don’t eat meat. Not eating meat or animal products (for health reasons, not necessarily for animals’ rights), is becoming somewhat normal. In fact, this past summer Moe’s Southwest Grill actually hired me as a freelance writer to promote how vegan-friendly and vegetarian-friendly their menu is.

Some restaurants, like Moe’s Southwest Grill, are able to perceive a shift has occurred in the eating habits of health conscious Millennials, like myself, and how that has an effect on my family’s spending habits at restaurants.

When you Google “how much of the American population is vegan?”, one of the top answers that shows up is an article from onegreenplanet.org, which claims that there currently 6 million vegans in America!

And that in itself is a 6% increase since 2014, when only 1% of the American population identified as vegan. That’s a significant increase!

Isn’t 6% of the population significant enough that restaurants would at least try to cater to folks like us?
My guess is, apparently not. Apparently there are people who are better than I am at math (and who have done enough market research) and have decided that vegans aren’t worth the trouble to get in their restaurants; even though we currently account for 6% of the American population.
Imagine all that collective money that American restaurants aren’t making from families like mine. Oh well.
With that being said, here’s my casting call to any restaurants out there who would like a Millennial vegan daddy blogger with good SEO on his blog to promote the “vegan-friendly” aspect of their restaurant.
Any takers?

If Vegans Don’t Get Enough Protein, Why Can’t I Fit into My Size 31 Pants Anymore? 5 Ways To Get Rid of My New “Dad Bod”

Amazingly, in the year 2017, there are still people who still assume vegans don’t get enough protein. They should just take a look at me then.

For the first time in the 4 and a half years I’ve been a vegan, and more than a year of being a vegetarian before that, I can no longer fit into my size 31 pants, which is the size I moved down to when I converted to the plant-based lifestyle. Even size 32 is becoming an issue now.

It would be one thing if I never exercised, but that’s clearly not the case. I have been very vocal about how for years now, I have been mountain biking, walking a minimum of 30 minutes a day, doing pull-ups, and even adding skateboarding to the mix this year.

Plus, all this summer, I have been running 2 miles, at least twice a week; even in 93 degree weather or rain.

Even this past Saturday while our family was on fall vacation, I ran down and then back up the mountain our cabin was on (the equivalent of 2 miles), without ever stopping. Later, I saw a very muscular guy who looked younger than I am, attempting to run the same course, but he had to stop to walk.

I’m healthy and I’m physically fit, especially for a 36 year-old… but I’m also gaining weight.

For a guy who consumes 0% of his daily cholesterol allowance, and who gets all his protein and nutrients from simply vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, it would be easy to believe that a guy like me would have no issues with my pants no longer fitting.

Clearly, I’m getting enough protein. And enough exercise.

The fundamental problem? I’m simply consuming more calories than my body actually needs; even with all the exercise and my 0% cholesterol vegan lifestyle.

If I am to get back to size 31, I suppose it’s a matter of deliberately changing my lifestyle again, in addition to remaining vegan and continuing my regular exercise routine:

  1. Eating smaller meals and not going back for seconds.
  2. Not having vegan desserts anymore, like cashew ice cream and vegan chocolate bars.
  3. Eating whole fruit after dinner, to take the place of going back for seconds or dessert.
  4. Using balsamic vinegar for salad dressing again, so I can further cut out oils from my diet.
  5. Nearly nixing alcohol intake all together.

I am currently 167 pounds, which nearly puts me in the “overweight” category. I am 3 pounds away from being overweight. I am not okay with this. For me, it’s an attack on my identity. I have control over my weight… my weight doesn’t control me. I don’t have to settle for an expanding waistline just because, “This is just what happens when you start getting older.”

It’s funny because, in theory, I don’t eat a lot anyway:

My homemade smoothie and black coffee in the morning, my oatmeal or vegan ramen noodles at lunch, and a solid meal at dinner consisting of whatever Italian or Mexican dish my wife prepares along with a dark green salad. And the equivalent of a glass of wine or two.

No meat, no fish, no eggs, no milk, no cheese, no yogurt.

But it’s time to reduce my intake, so that I can also reduce my waist size and comfortably fit into my size 31 pants again.

I am not a victim. I am victorious. I shall overcome!

So yeah… I think it’s safe to say that as a vegan, I’m getting enough protein.

Dear Holly: Sharing Spinach Snacks with Your Brother’s Dinosaur? Or Simply Making Them Disappear Another Way?…

1 year, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

Tuesday when I came home from work, the first thing you and Mommy and your brother did was check out our new ride for this week, the 2017 Toyota 4Runner. Twenty minutes later, we finally made our way back into the kitchen.

While Mommy made pizza, and your brother made fossils from his dinosaur toys and Play-Doh, I helped feed you a new bar that Mommy picked up last weekend at Kroger: Happy Tot Organics Fiber & Protein Soft-Baked Oat Bar, Apples and Spinach flavor.

I told Mommy, “Wow, look at Holly! She really likes this apple and spinach snack bar. We need to keep buying these!”

As I was pinching off little clusters for you so that could easily consume them, I noticed you were really intrigued by what your brother was doing with his dinosaurs.

So I borrowed one that had an open mouth, and stuffed one of the clusters in it. You loved the challenge of using your little fingers to remove the green food from the Triceratops’ mouth. To heighten the theatrics of the event, I made low-pitch growling sounds, in an effort to convince you that he dinosaur was wrestling you for the food.

You growled back and you ate the bar, cluster by cluster.

Finally, the bar was gone and I had to open a 2nd one for you!

A few clusters into it though, you finally had your fill. At that point, I took you out of your high chair and we played on the carpet with your toys until dinner was ready.

Fast forward to about an hour and a half later, after you and your brother were asleep, and Mommy and I were finishing up cleaning the kitchen.

As Mommy was wiping down your high chair, she commented, “Either Holly dropped a lot of these bits from that bar… or she was hiding them down here the whole time!”

Hmmm…

Holly, you may have done an excellent job of successfully convincing me you were actually eating those apple and spinach bars. Perhaps I was so caught up in playing dinosaur with you, that you were secretly just dropping the clusters beside you without me ever realizing it.

If so, nicely done!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You Hunted and Gathered Some “Baby Biscuits” for Breakfast Saturday Morning

1 year.

Dear Holly,

These are the days of you scouting underneath the kitchen table for any Cheerios you may have dropped earlier. You’re very good at finding them, by the way. And every time you discover a forsaken Cheerio, you proudly extend your little hand and pick it up like a crane machine lifting a toy out of the machine at Mellow Mushroom.

It is very obvious that at your school, you are learning to eat with your hands. I’ve noticed here recently that when I try to feed you veggie and fruit puree with the spoon, you’re starting to resist my help.

As if to sternly yet politely tell me, “Thank you, Daddy, for trying to help me eat dinner. But as you can see, I am actually able to feed myself…”

Often this leads to you cupping your hands to scoop the food out of the bowl. Yeah, it makes a mess, but I’m happy to see you attempt to be a girl her who can feed herself.

But you don’t simply snoop around for Cheerios to feed yourself, as I learned this past Saturday.

As Mommy was shopping for groceries at Kroger, you and I were upstairs in the bonus room with Jack, who was watching a dinosaur documentary on Netflix called Dinotasia.

For a while, you were content to just walk between the red footstool and the couch, as you braced yourself when necessary. You were so quiet, as to respect the fact your brother was in the zone as he learned more about dinosaurs.

Then I heard the rattling of a plastic wrapper for the non-GMO fig bars your brother eats: Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars. I didn’t think much of it. I just figured you liked manipulating the sound that an empty wrapper could make.

But then the rattling ceased, and I saw your little fist clenching one of the bars, and I saw how it was soggy on one end…

You had taken it upon yourself to find your own breakfast! I continued to watch you, and sure enough, you were able to successfully download the food you had found, just lying there.

Since you did such a good job finding and eating your own “baby biscuit”, I ran downstairs and got you a new pack of them.

Without surprise, you were able to chew and slobber your way through those baby biscuits as well, with just those two teeth on bottom and three coming in through the top.

Holly is a hunter-gatherer!

Love,

Daddy

Top 10 Reasons My “Diet” is Consistently Successful (from a Non-Vegan, Non-Vegetarian Perspective)

I have a healthy relationship with food. I eat all throughout the day and I never choose to go hungry. I am happy with my weight. I am perfectly in the proper BMI range for my height, weight, and age.

Clearly, what I am doing is working, when it comes to my diet and lifestyle. But as I share my strategy today, I am deliberately not going talk about being a vegetarian or a vegan, in an effort to help more people. True, I can not deny that much of this info is what I taught myself about a healthy lifestyle only after I became a vegan in March 2013. Still, I promise to refrain from specifically mentioning not eating meat, eggs, or dairy…

Here are the top 10 reasons my “diet” is still successful:

1) I never choose to go hungry. If I’m hungry, I eat. Going hungry means I would subconsciously choose to fill up on empty calories later to make up the difference.

2) I know the difference between being healthy and being overweight. Our American pop culture has confused us, making us belief that as long as we accept our bodies and find beauty within, that we can ignore the fact we still may be physically unhealthy on the inside too; beautiful or not.

3) I know the sources of protein that contain 0% cholesterol. Vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds all contain protein, yet do not contribute any amount to the daily percentage of my daily cholesterol intake.

4) I chose good fats instead of bad fats. Cutting out all fat or even most fat is not healthy, as the human body thrives on fat consumption. However, fat from plants like avocados, almonds, and sunflower seeds contains 0% cholesterol.

5) I chose good sugars instead of bad sugars. Throughout the day, I am consuming fresh fruit, which is packed with natural sugar, along with fiber and some protein. That is good sugar. Bad sugar is any kind of sugar added to or processed with other food.

6) I find a way to exercise daily. Forget the gym. I don’t need it. I run, I ride my mountain bike, I walk, and I even skateboard. I do one or more of these things on a daily basis. I am always on the move.

7) I focus on a healthy lifestyle, not on losing weight. I have learned that by having a healthy relationship with food and exercise, I naturally have maintained my 20 pounds of weight loss from several years ago.

8) I am black and white about the gray areas. When I do chose to eat something unhealthy, I know how often and when- for those truly special occasions. In other words, I don’t keep potato chips, soda, or Oreos in the house. And no, a “truly special occasion” is not “whenever I’ve had a bad day.” I do not eat my feelings.

9) I have realistic standards and reasonable expectations. I don’t need 6 pack abs. I don’t need to compete with the looks of Hollywood. Instead, I focus on actually being healthy, not winning a beauty contest.

10) My “diet” is permanent. Going on a diet to lose to lose weight is an obvious set-up for the weight to return, once the diet is ended. The only way a diet will provide consistent results is to make it a permanent lifestyle, instead of a diet.

All of that information sounds reasonable, right? Who would actually argue with any of those 10 habits? It’s all legit stuff.

I’m not a physician. I’m not an expert. But I am healthy and I do know what I’m talking about.

My life, year after year, is the proof.

True, I am the Manly Vegan… but I can help non-vegans too.