Mom of four grows online plant-based food community after decades of processed meals
Eight years ago, Alyssa Curvan-Malaba didn’t know how to cut open an avocado.
The plant-based mom of four from Ontario, Canada, grew up on processed foods. She was focused on getting full rather than nourishing her body.
Her perspective toward food changed when she had her first child in 2012.
“I saw proper nourishment as a vital thing and spent much time trying to figure out the best way to feed him,” Curvan-Malaba told Hey, Black Mom! about her now 7-year-old son. “Jarred food targeted to children was not an option that I wanted to explore.”
She started a personal Instagram page to display what she was feeding her firstborn as he weaned. It began as a means to motivate herself and to follow others for food inspiration.
Curvan-Malaba didn’t expect it to grow into what it is now: Baby Food Ideas, an online community showcasing colorful, plant-based meals for little ones. The 36-year-old social media manager has a branch for infants 6 months and older and one for toddlers.
She manages meals for her four children ranging between the ages of 5 months and 7.
Her Instagram pages boast a combined 54,000 followers. There, she regularly shares unique meal ideas and inspiration without meat or dairy.
And the photos are beautiful.
From rich, vitamin-packed smoothies and purees to a balanced serving of beefless hash with a side of roasted seaweed, Curvan-Malaba makes it look easy.
It only takes a few minutes to assemble the plates, and she tries to keep it simple. But cutting food into fun shapes really jazzes up her Instagram.
“I find it easier to consume a more balanced diet when I focus on adding produce of different colors, as each plays an important role in strengthening the body, and in fighting off or preventing many health issues,” said Curvan-Malaba, who’s been eating a high raw food diet as she continues breastfeeding her youngest.
Though she has focused on healthier food for several years, she transitioned completely to plant-based only two and half years ago. At the time, she had two children who also had to make the switch.
A combination of complications from her gallbladder removal and seeing older members of her family suffer heart attacks and strokes motivated her to make the change. Since she offered her two children primarily fruits and veggies at the time of the switch, it was an easy transition for them.
There are few modifications Curvan-Malaba, who spends about two hours a day preparing food for her family, makes from child to child. The three older children aged 3, 5 and 7 eat similar things, which she can, if necessary, modify by swapping out some produce. She can also always add more fruits, vegetables or oatmeal.
Overall, the children are simply accustomed to their way of life.
“It means everything to me,” Curvan-Malaba said about her children enjoying truly good food daily.
If families are looking for beginner tips to plant-powered meals, Curvan-Malaba suggests letting your children cook with you so they can be part of the process and focusing on the variety fruits and vegetables offer. If your little ones don’t like one thing, perhaps try another.
And Curvan-Malaba admits she isn’t perfect. In fact, she still has takeout on Fridays; Pad Thai is her favorite.
“Just to put things into perspective: eight years ago, I had never touched an avocado,” she said. “I actually went online and watched a video of how to know when (they) were ripe, and how to cut them open and what parts of them could be consumed. That’s how far away I was from a primarily plant-based diet.
“If I can make the switch, anyone can. When you see how good you can feel physically and mentally from living off what mother nature provides for us, it makes a world of difference.”