blog post

Helping Families Navigate Plant-Based Eating: an Interview with Robin Coarts

Robin Coarts, founder of Plant-Based with Robin, earned her M. Ed. in Humane Education with IHE in 2019 and has since started teaching an online course titled “Plant-Based Parenting in a Fast Food World.” Bringing her graduate program experience to her work, Robin provides support and education to families who are navigating a plant-based journey.

IHE: Since graduating from IHE you have created a web-based course and are currently teaching families about plant-based parenting. What has been the most rewarding and most challenging part of this journey?

Robin: I built a platform to teach families both the how-tos and benefits of plant-based eating, while also talking about other aspects of food and parenting. The most rewarding part of this journey is meeting with and interacting with families and being able to provide guidance and assistance to them. So many parents are in the all too familiar position of packing school lunches, planning birthday parties, sending kids to camp, etc. and want to ensure their little ones are eating the healthiest foods possible without feeling ostracized if their family choices are different from other children. Being a mom of two I can identify with the worry and frustration that can come with these challenges. My course, Plant-Based Parenting In a Fast Food World, touches on topics from school lunches to family gatherings and everything in between. 

When I think about the more challenging parts of this journey, it really comes back to how can I reach more parents and help more families! I built my website, and I utilize Facebook to help with the discussion posts, so using more familiar platforms helps those taking the course feel confident posting and replying to posts. One thing I have learned, which answers a challenge, is that there are so many families who are asking the same questions: “How can I get my kids to eat healthy foods?” or “What is being served at their school that meets their nutrition standards?” By bringing these like-minded families together we can build a strong community to help all of us move forward in the world of plant-based parenting.

IHE: What would you say to a parent who is interested in plant-based foods and isn’t quite sure how this affects parenting as a whole?

Robin: First, I would say yay for asking questions and being interested in plant-based foods. Second, I would say I have personally experienced this, and through my course, I’ve also learned so much from parents moving toward plant-based eating that has created a rich knowledge base to help around the larger impacts of this decision. For example, we talk about social gatherings, including birthdays and holidays. For some parents, their move toward plant-based foods stems from a desire not to harm animals. For these families, being invited to a birthday party at the local zoo becomes a concern – a natural spillover into other aspects of their lives as a result of their food choices. I want to provide support and help families navigate those spillovers. For me, it’s about more than just food choices, but also clothing and products brought into the home. This spillover can result in many small changes, which we discuss in my courses.

IHE: Tell us about your personal experience with plant-based parenting. What inspired you to create your platform as well as your course, and what helped you feel prepared to help others?

Robin: Many years ago, I made the choice to stop eating meat, but not fish, dairy, or eggs. It wasn’t until after I met my husband, got married, got pregnant, and had our first of two children that I started questioning my food choices again. Shortly after my first son was born, my husband faced serious health issues. After experiencing a handful of doctor appointments that did not go well and watching a few documentaries including Forks Over Knives and What the Health, we decided to move toward a vegan/plant-based diet, and we brought our newborn along with us. Fast forward almost six years, and we are all plant-based and thriving.

What inspired me to create this course was my own personal experience of wanting to eat better, feel better, and do better, coupled with not really knowing where to start. I spent a lot of time researching foods, and between books and documentaries, I made a plan for my family on how to move our journey forward. Parenting can be really overwhelming. Like other parents, questions such as:  “Am I doing the right thing?” “Will my kids be okay and healthy?” “Will other parents judge me?” ran through my mind. Parenting is hard enough, and making changes that force you to step outside the norm can be scary. That’s why I wanted to create a space where people felt the support and confidence to make such changes. Between my graduate work at IHE, the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate through eCornell, and my own personal late-night research I feel I can be helpful to those looking to make these changes.

IHE: You mentioned the graduate program as being a useful part of your preparation to teach about plant-based parenting. How did it influence you?  

Robin: I had already made the transition to plant-based foods and was firm in my feelings towards animals and the environment, so finding the IHE graduate program, which was so wonderful, felt like it was meant to be. It allowed me the space to really explore the layers of questions and issues surrounding each topic (environmental ethics, animal protection, human rights, and culture and change), and having the opportunity to meet with the instructors on such a personal level was a gift. The residency humane education immersion week at IHE was really life-changing for me. It was the first time I stood in front of a room of strangers and really told my story and shared my journey. I was also pregnant with my second son at the time and feeling vulnerable, and it was the warmth in that room and the reaction of the other students that really encouraged me to keep going. 

The other major influence on me has been my two boys, William and Holden. IHE not only provided such a special place to explore these ideas but also provided the knowledge to adequately teach this material. I feel strong and confident when speaking to my kids about some hard questions.