I’m excited to have Melissa Trinidad here today!
Melissa has a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell University and an Master of Science degree in Kinesiology (Exercise Science and Health Promotion). She is also certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist. She has enjoyed wearing many hats including health educator, plant-based cooking instructor, blogger, exercise physiologist, health coach, Zumba instructor, home cook and lifelong learner. She currently lives on California’s central coast with her plant-strong husband and two tofu-powered kids.
To find out more about Melissa, check out her blog www.melshealthykitchen.com
What inspired you to become a vegan?
My friend Julieanna Hever, MSRD, was the one who persuaded me to read The China Study. I was skeptical at first, but the evidence was so compelling. The more my husband and I educated ourselves, the more convinced we became that a plant-based diet was the right thing for our family.
How long have you been a vegan?
Since April 2009, so about 5 ½ years now.
What was your biggest challenge in becoming a vegan?
Cheese! My husband and I used to look forward to simple dinners that consisted of wine, a baguette, olives, fresh fruit and a small sampling of cheeses. Those casomorphins in cheese really are addicting! But, we manage to do just fine without it now. 🙂
You have two young kids, do you feel a vegan diet is healthy for kids?
Absolutely! Obviously, you have to be smart about it and make sure they are getting a variety of foods in their diet and enough calories. Disease Proof Your Child by Joel Fuhrman, MD was a big help to me in making sure my kids were getting what they needed. It’s a great resource for any parent. It’s so funny to me when other people are so concerned that my kids aren’t getting enough nutrients. Trust me, if my kid is eating Kale and chickpeas, instead of chicken nuggets, they are getting plenty of nutrients!
Any tips for feeding vegan meals to kids, especially picky eaters?
Don’t give up, keep trying and get creative. If you are feeding newbies, don’t start with anything too far off from the ordinary. A great minestrone soup with rustic bread or a hummus, pita and veggie platter are often enjoyed by the masses.
Also don’t be afraid to get your kids involved in the process. It may help you to better understand their aversions and get them more interested in what they are eating. The more involved they are in making it “their” meal, the more likely they are to enjoy eating it. For example, one time I was teaching a group of kids (mine included) about Brussels Sprouts. We looked at them on the stalk and then they each took a raw sprout and did what kids (or curious adults) do. They looked at them all the way around, and started taking them apart. Next they asked “Can we eat it?!” They enjoyed the experiences of tasting them in their raw, natural state, preparing them to roast, then eating them roasted (the maple glaze didn’t hurt, either). By the end I had 8 new Brussels Sprouts eaters! To this day, my son still prefers them raw.
Any advice for people wanting to make the transition to vegan?
Baby steps. If you want to make this a permanent lifestyle, you need to take it at your own pace. The thing that helped me the most, was transitioning my pantry; getting rid of the animal and highly processed products and stocking it with vegan replacements. That way, when it’s time to cook, I already have most things right there. There’s nothing worse than finding a recipe you want to try and not having what you need. That being said, it’s also super helpful to make a weekly menu and grocery list. Sit down for a few minutes and figure out 3-4 recipes you really want to make that week and write down what ingredients you will need. If you take care of that at the beginning of the week (and go shopping) then figuring out what to make during the craziness of the week will be so much easier, since you’ll already have a few options and everything you need, right on hand.
Your go-to spice:
Nutmeg – it’s a great addition to greens or salad dressing)
Cloves – when you want to bring out the depth and earthiness in a dish
Kitchen tool you can’t live without:
Cast iron (skillet and Dutch oven)….and sharp knives
Favorite vegan product:
Right now it’s tempeh! It takes any marinade really well, is super easy to prepare, and packed with protein and fiber. We use it to make smoky tempeh “bacon” (amazing in a sandwich or a vegan Cesar salad), and as the base for a vegan ruben. It’s even good browned in a skillet with a little teriyaki sauce. Serve with some coconut rice and steamed veggies and you’ve got yourself one tasty meal!
Can you share one of your favorite recipes with us?
This is a great time of year for winter squash. This recipe for Apple and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash is so easy and delicious. You know it’s a winner, when my whole family will give it a “thumbs up”! Since posting this recipe, I’ve started moving away from vegan margarine and using coconut oil instead, but in this recipe you can use either or neither, it’s totally optional.
Apple and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash http://melshealthykitchen.com/2011/11/12/apple-and-walnut-stuffed-acorn-squash/
Thank you so much Melissa for sharing with us today! Look forward to trying your Apple and Walnut Stuffed Acorn Squash!