Growing up and into in my late twenties, I ate what the USDA food pyramid said I needed to eat daily: grains, milk and other dairy, meat, fruits, and vegetables. I really liked ice cream, milk chocolate, and other candy and processed foods. Grains were cold cereal, bread, and pasta that wasn’t whole grain.
My journey to a whole foods plant-based diet probably began in 2007. My husband and I had been married for three years and were new parents. Our baby girl was ready, at five months, to eat “solids.” My stepmom had given me a recipe book for baby food, and I liked it. I understood that we would save money by not buying baby food if possible. I made our daughter a variety of foods by steaming foods and using a mini food processor, or just mashing if it was banana. Some of the foods were vegetables that I personally didn’t grow up eating, or didn’t remember enjoying, including spinach and some kinds of squash. I know I had tasted cooked spinach but didn’t like it. I discovered that I didn’t hate cabbage, I only hated the ingredients in coleslaw sauce! I loved the ratatouille, other simple combinations, and the plain steamed cauliflower that I made for her. I did get pre-made jars or containers sometimes for convenience. The ones with meat in them didn’t smell so good, and I knew there was a difference between the pre-made veggies and my freshly-made veggies. I remember thinking one day, “Why am I feeding her a jar of lamb? We don’t eat lamb.” (And now I wonder why anyone would want to eat a baby sheep.) But we did eat a pretty typical American diet with other meat in it.
When our daughter was almost a year old, and not quite done breastfeeding, we started having her drink whole cow’s milk, like we thought we were supposed to in order for her to be healthy. By the time I took her for her twelve-month doctor appointment she had pretty bad eczema. Eventually — I wish I would have kept a journal of all this! — I read that dairy has been shown to be connected to skin problems, and I realized that her eczema had started at the same time as her introduction to cow’s milk. However, the doctor had said nothing about diet, only to bathe our daughter in plain water and put a specific ointment on her skin. Later, when I stopped giving her cow’s milk, cheese, and yogurt, the eczema went away. A few times it seems that her arms have gotten a little eczema again, after she has chosen to eat some dairy when away from home.