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.

This is 36: Can I Just Eat My Garlic & Pepper Ramen Noodles in Peace?!

After we put our kids to bed last night, as my wife and I were finishing up doing the the dishes, we were discussing how apparently impossible it is just to eat lunch in peace while at work. Seriously, it’s difficult!

Though we work in offices about 20 miles apart from each other each day, my wife and I live by the same daily habits when he comes to our eating routines: We typically just eat snacks during the work day: I make a smoothie each morning, then have oatmeal during lunch. My wife takes cut up fruit and veggies and hummus.

Then after work, we come home and have a good, solid, healthy meal each night for dinner. That’s what our norm is.

So when we occasionally have a “fun day” and take Ramen Noodles to work, it freaks people out. They can’t handle it. Chaos always follows:

“What’cha eatin’ there? Ramen noodles?”

“Mmmm…. something smells good. Let me take a look in your bowl…”

“Oh, what’s that smell? It’s so strong. It smells like onions or something. Ugh…”

“You can eat Ramen noodles? I don’t know vegans could eat pasta!”

“I thought you ate healthy food. What are you doin’ eatin’ that?”

I think the solution is that I need to acquire some kind of secret military grade invisibility cloak.

That might be the only way to get people who are so easily entertained by the sight of another human being eating Ramen noodles to keep just walking by.

I’ve already lost my ability to listen to CDs in my car each day on my 2 hour round trip commute. I feel like I don’t ask for much at this point.

Ramen noodles. In solitude.

Don’t take this away from me. I need this.

No commentary. No questions. No fascination.

Just let me eat my Ramen noodles in peace.

This is 36.

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

Thanksgiving 2008 was the last time I ate ham, bacon, or any kind of pork; or shellfish of any kind- like shrimp, lobster, crab, or scallops. In other words, since the day after Thanksgiving 2008, I became and have remained kosher. That’s been 8 years now.

Since then, I only further slid down the slippery slope; eventually becoming and remaining a vegetarian in December 2011 and a vegan in April 2013.

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

What makes this particularly interesting is that I am a male. Our American culture teaches and accepts that eating bacon and beef is a particularly masculine thing to do. Most American vegetarians and vegans are females. So therefore, my being a male vegan is especially counter-cultural.

Granted, I feel no less masculine despite what I (don’t) eat.

It was exactly five years ago today I decided to adopt an American alternative lifestyle: I stopped eating meat. Somewhat to my surprise, my wife immediately joined me in my crazy decision. And our 1 year-old son got thrown into it as well.

Now he’s 6 years-old and has no interest in eating meat. I should also point out my wife and I also have a 7 month-old daughter now, who currently is a vegetarian by default.

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

I have to say this, though: Becoming a vegetarian is not a choice I want you to make- nor do I need you to become a vegetarian either. I want to be very clear about that.

Instead, I beg you to keep eating sausage, bacon, burgers, and fried chicken. In fact, I cordially invite you to stop reading this immediately and eat a big juicy McRib right now. Yes, I endorse that…

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

Why wouldn’t I? What other families eat has nothing to do with me- just like I could care less which candidate anybody else voted for in the recent election. My emotional state of being wouldn’t change no matter the outcome.

I’m like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive: “I don’t care!”

Proving that being a vegetarian is the better way of life is no agenda of mine. In fact, I envy eat meaters. I seriously do.

If you’re part of the majority of America, meaning that you are not a vegetarian, then you get to eat meat. Whenever you want. As much as you want. You have much more freedom than I do- and you have a certain kind of happiness in your life that I’ll never again enjoy: the scandalous feeling of devouring a cheeseburger.

As for me, I have learned I can’t be trusted with such responsibility.

I have learned that when it comes to eating meat, I have never nor would I ever just simply eat the maximum 4 to 7 ounces serving per day that nutritionists recommend. I always ate least double that; each meal, every meal.

Mentally, I’m not strong enough to overcome the desire to keep eating meat. I was never truly satisfied with meat… there was never enough no matter how much I ate.

The irony is that by restricting myself to no meat at all, I can be in control of my desires and my appetite. Because that way, there’s not room for gray. There’s no possibility of eating too much meat if I can’t have meat at all.

My protein comes from 6 main sources: vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.

I will openly admit to having very selfish motives to becoming a vegetarian: It’s an easy way to manage my weight, I never have indigestion issues anymore, and it led to me becoming a vegan; which ultimately wiped out my ongoing eczema, sinus issues, and pet allergies.

Those personal issues have nothing to do with the rest of the world. Instead, my reasons are self-centered. So there is no need to try convert anyone. I’m simply selfish in my reasons for being a vegetarian.

Perhaps I would be a better human being if I did care more; if I did spend some efforts in trying to convince people to be healthier by cutting out meat from their diets.

But I’m simply uninspired. I learned early on that most people are still convinced that by becoming a vegetarian, they will not get enough protein in their diet.

Manly Vegan: Today I’ve Been a Vegetarian for 5 Years (and Clearly, I’m Getting Enough Protein)

Clearly, I’ve proved that theory to be false in my own life. After all, I’ve lived this for 5 solid years. I would know!

Sure, I lost weight when I became a vegetarian. But look at me now. I’m not a skeleton. I look healthy. And I am healthy- my doctor confirmed this.

Even it means I am selfish, I would rather other people keep believing they need to eat meat to be healthy; even though I know it’s not true in my own life. By me trying to convince them against what they’ve been taught their whole lives, it endangers me of reinforcing the stereotype that vegetarians are judgmental and overzealous.

So now at the risk of sounding jaded instead, I invite absolutely no one else in the world to join me by becoming a vegetarian.

(Of course, it’s a whole different story if you approach me about becoming a vegetarian or vegan. In that case, I will be honored to guide you!)

Now, please- go to the McDonald’s drive-thru and order a McRib. It’s not too late. They’re still open. Actually, I hear you can get 2 for $5 right now…

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

You’re likely reading this because you fall into one of two categories: Either you’re a fellow vegan like me… or you’re simply curious to see what a Thanksgiving looks like without the traditional turkey and dressing.

Well, I can’t speak for most plant-based families out there, but I can definitely tell you what our family did for Thanksgiving this year.

We had a very vegan, and Mexican, feast.

Why Mexican? The main reason is because it was the easiest menu for my wife to plan and prepare; not to mention, we were travelling with the food for 3 hours from Tennessee to Alabama.

The other reason, though it could arguable be a coincidence, is that my side of the family is part Mexican; so it simply seemed natural to do so.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

When we drove in the night before Thanksgiving, my mom made some homemade Michoacán style “tacos” for my wife and me to try. The recipe was one that my Grandma (who was full Mexican) passed on to my mom.

Plus, we made vegan pancakes. Not to mention, avocado toast. And some breakfast muffins, using chia seeds as part of the recipe.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

The next day for our actual Thanksgiving Day feast, we had a taco bar. My wife cooked up 3 pounds of Beyond Meat (made from pea protein) for the main filling. Plus, my mom prepared black beans, pinto beans, and refried beans. We of course had veggies to dress the tacos, as well as avocado, which serves as a high-fat cheese substitute. There was also some really healthy black rice with almonds; so hearty!

My mom also made some bean salads for sides and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

There was so much food that we still had enough left over to have the meal again the next day. Both times we had the meal, we had guests over. We didn’t tell them it was vegan, but they seemed to enjoy it just the same.

So, there you go. That’s what we had for our Thanksgiving feast. And it worked so well, we plan to repeat our menu again for Christmas!

Whatever brings you to this blog post today, please know that you are welcome here. No pressure at all for you to adopt the wildly strange and counter-cultural lifestyle I have lived for many years now.

Just enjoy the scenery and scratch your head in wonder. It’s okay. This is a safe place.

Our Very Vegan (and Mexican) Thanksgiving Feast

Meet the Shells: The Plant-Based, Road Tripping Nashville Family

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

In case you’re just now tuning in to Family Friendly Daddy Blog, I figured it would be a good idea to present a synopsis of what our family is all about.

While in many ways we are just the average all-American nuclear family, we have our quirks as well.

The most obvious one is that we are a plant-based family: I am a vegan while my wife and kids are vegetarians. And this is no hipster phase… We have lived this way for years now.

On top of that, we are a road tripping family. That is our thing.

Based out of Spring Hill, Tennessee (a bedroom community south of Nashville), we find ourselves travelling throughout the year to places like Asheville, NC; Destin, FL; Pensacola, FL; and Atlanta, GA.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Not to mention, since my wife is from Sacramento, California, we head out there once a year as well; though this year, we’ll be making our way to San Diego instead.

https://familyfriendlydaddyblog.com/2016/05/03/motormood-classic-review-a-fun-emojicon-for-emotionally-intelligent-drivers-giveaway/

Because of my volume of viewership, and based on the fact I am a daddy blogger (which is a unique demographic), I have the privilege of being able to “review” brand-new vehicles on these road trips.

Gluten-Free Vegan Road Trip to Atlanta, Georgia in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited

And while we’re on location, I often am able to score complimentary tickets to events in exchange for exposure here on my blog.

Not to mention, I regularly cover events that come here to Nashville.

When we’re not travelling or going to big events, sometimes my son and I like to make videos. In one series, my son is a super hero and I am the villain; that’s Jack-Man.

I also do a series where I am the host, sort of like an outdoors version of Mr. Rogers, in Uncle Nick’s Enchanted Forest. Both shows contain all original songs and music.

We have been approached multiple times about being on reality TV shows, but in the end, it has never worked out- I think mainly because I was very straight forward to the casting directors that we are into having fun, but not into getting into arguments for the world to see.

Ultimately, my agenda as a daddy blogger is to positively demonstrate fatherhood and married life, as both are often negatively portrayed in pop culture.

Dear Jack: Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium

Thanks for choosing to visit our corner of the world today. If you like what you’ve read today and would like more positive family vibes coming your way, I invite you to subscribe to my blog (see the button above) or follow me on Facebook.

We are the plant-based, road-tripping family of Nashville.

We are the Shells.

Meet the Shells: The Plant-Based, Road Tripping Nashville Family

Vegan Confession: I Don’t Miss Meat, Eggs, or Dairy, But I Do Have Fast Food Fantasies…

Vegan Confession: I Don’t Miss Meat, Eggs, or Dairy, But I Do Have Fast Food Fantasies

Fact: I am the only married man you know who is a vegan. We are a rare breed, as I am well aware.

A question I get sometimes is this: “Don’t you miss it? Don’t you wish you could just bite into a juicy steak sometimes?”

My answer is always a quick, “No, not at all.”

I know it’s easy for an outsider to assume that vegans are secretly hungry because they don’t get enough protein.

Granted, I think I am easy proof that I actually get more than enough protein. After having been a vegan for over three years, a vegetarian for 4 and a half years, and kosher (no pork or shellfish- yes, that includes bacon!) for 7 and a half, you can easily see I’m not withering away.

In fact, I’m currently working on shedding the last 5 of the 7 pounds I gained while supporting my wife in her pregnancy cravings. (Organic tater tots and vegan chocolate candy bars do more damage than I previously thought!)

My wife and I have discussed what would happen if she ever ate meat again; as she’s been kosher and a vegetarian as long as I have. I explained that if she ever went back, it could easily tempt me to do the same, which would mean I could have the freedom to eat fast food again.

As I explained to her; it’s not the good, healthy, organic, non-GMO meat that she would cook that I would be so excited about. I could care less about that.

Instead, what I psychologically miss is the glory of fast food.

I miss being able to spend so little money on food that is unnaturally tasty (thanks to the addictive trio of high fat, high sugar, and high sodium).

I miss the convenience of dollar menus and drive-thru’s.

I miss not ever asking myself where my food is coming from, beyond a Sysco delivery truck.

I miss not worrying about the future effect of fast food on my body.

I miss not associating eat red meat with the increased chances of getting diabetes or prostate cancer.

The thought of me ever eating fast food again disgusts her enough to the point where I’m pretty sure she’s won’t ever be tempted to go back. (I used to sneak fast food when she and I first got married 8 years ago.)

Life was easier when I ate fast food. I admit, I miss that.

The place I miss most is Captain D’s. Ah, their greasy, crunchy, fried mystery fish of the sea; made complete with tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. Wash it down with sugary sweet tea… I miss that place more than any burger joint.

But here’s what I don’t miss:

I don’t miss having “untreatable eczema” on my hands, to the point I could barely type on the computer keyboard.

I don’t miss the daily headaches.

I don’t miss the constant sinus pressure, or getting sinus infections every couple of months.

I don’t miss the acne.

I don’t miss being my pants size being size 34; where as I’ve remained size 31 for the 3 years I’ve been a vegan.

So yes, being a strict vegan takes some fun out of life. It’s true.

And I do miss fast food.

But for me, what I psychologically miss isn’t worth more than how I am physically benefiting from doing without the fun stuff.