"This is not yet vegetarian, is not it? Can not we have normal food, please, like lasagna?"
That's the reaction of my 13-year-old Louisa daughter, with a teenager sigh, when she introduces bean enchiladas, a healthy vegetarian recipe from BBC Food.
To be fair to her, beans have been very present in recent family dinners.
We follow the new planetary health diet, or Eat-Lancet diet, designed by 37 scientists around the world to improve our health and save the planet at the same time.
The diet is largely herbal, although it allows a serving of red meat, a serving of chicken and two servings of fish a week. However, most protein comes from legumes and nuts. Dairy products are limited to one glass of milk a day. Eggs are limited to one and a little per week. Bread, pasta and rice should be brown and half of our plates should be fruits and vegetables. Added sugar should be limited.
It does not seem extreme, but for most of us, our average consumption of meat and dairy products is much higher. In fact, Europeans should consume 77% less red meat and 15 times more nuts and seeds to comply with the guidelines.
- What exactly is the diet of Laurel's family?
Our family is not exactly typical because my husband, Johnny, is a vegetarian and his veggie stew is a staple of the week. Which does not mean that kids are fans of this stew. They prefer to eat white pasta and sauce, sausages and fries, hamburgers and fish fingers.
At school, their diet is even worse. School dinners are considered "disgusting", so their average day is made up of bacon pudding, chips and "pizza" chopsticks in the middle of the morning. After school, snacks can be an English muffin with white flour, a roll, toast and jam, or a cake. More illegal sweets on the way home.
As for me? I eat a lot of vegetables, but I also eat meat too often and, as a lover of cheese, yogurt and latte, my consumption of dairy products is well above the recommended range. Obviously, there is still a lot to do.
Healthier snacks after school
Afternoon tea, but no cake
My first mission is to see if I can improve what girls eat after school. In my local store, I'm looking for healthy snacks. I install on lightly salted popcorn, brown rice crackers, hummus, herbs, nuts and olives.
I placed them in bowls around the kitchen, ready for the children's return.
Josie does not like seaweed
Louisa, 13, eats popcorn while doing her homework
"Awesome! Popcorn!" says Josie, 11, charging into the kitchen. This snack is a winner because it reminds him of treats in the movies. She ignores nuts, does not like seaweed, but eats the whole bowl of olives and some rice biscuits.
Until here everything is fine.
For dinner, I prepare mushroom chili, a recipe from The Food Medic's website, which uses mushrooms to replace hash. If you bend your eyes, the finished version looks almost like hash. It's good too. Everyone eats it a little reluctantly. After, Louisa says, "Can I have a hamburger on weekends?"
The next morning, however, she makes her porridge with oatmeal, without even asking for it. And at school, she opts for dried fruit rather than chips.
It's like bacon without flavor!
Clearly, some elements of the healthy eating message are sinking.
That evening, I prepare tofu steaks with ginger and sesame from a recipe from the famous Irish vegetarian chef The Happy Pear. I'm not a big fan of tofu, but this recipe is delicious and quick to prepare.
What do the kids think?
"It's like bacon without flavor," is Louisa's verdict.
"I'm going to eat what I like at school," says Josie.
Still, their plates are clear, so I'm going to take that for a win.
Laurel expands her veggie dinner repertoire
As the family's consumption of beans increases, I reduce my spending on dairy products.
I now drink coffee with oatmeal, a tasty and lasting substitute. I stay away from yogurt and cheese most of the time, and I feel lighter and brighter, although it may also be due to my new diet rich in vegetables and less cake.
Keeping in mind the health of the planet, I also buy more locally, cooking from my box of organic vegetables every week and making sure to buy British meat and fish, if possible.
Our family is far from being a devoted follower of the global diet, but we have focused on it, it has allowed us to make healthy and useful changes: we are eating more fruits and vegetables and we have reduced our expenditure on sugar meat.
Children sometimes cry only "raw" at the sight of vegetable stew.
My husband Johnny, already a vegetarian, has generally welcomed the diet: "It was not a big problem for me. But it was interesting to see that even a vegetarian might have to give up something with this diet – I'm thinking of the egg-and-a-little-a-week rule. It smelled a little like the hair shirt. "
Giving his verdict on the diet, Josie described it as follows: "Interesting and disgusting.This is bad for a child because it is not allowed to eat fat but pleasant things all days but I liked healthier snacks, like corn and raisins, and these enchiladas were good. "Whole wheat spaghetti is acceptable."
For my part, I learned that it is possible to live with less cheese.
I am determined to continue with regular vegetable dinners and continue to search for family recipes.
On the last day of the diet, I offer the kids a choice of organic steak or curry aubergine.
It is not surprising that they choose the steak and eat it with enthusiasm.
It's their portion of red meat for the week then.
What did they have for lunch at school?
"The diet is over, sausages and fries," answers the answer.
Pictures of Phil Coomes. To follow Laurel Ives on Twitter