Mayim Bialik, PhD, is an award-winning actress, neuroscientist, and author—but above all, she’s a mom. A mom who was inspired by her two young sons to author her new cookbook, Mayim’s Vegan Table: More Than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes From My Family to Yours, to help busy parents discover fun, healthy, and easy vegan meals for the whole family.
With help from her children’s pediatrician, Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP, Mayim was able to take her idea for this cookbook and make it into a reality.
“It was something that he and I had talked about as, you know, a mom and doctor. It wasn’t until this book became a reality that I really needed and wanted his nutritional expertise,” said Mayim.
Mayim hasn’t always been a vegan. She grew up on the standard American diet—also called SAD, a diet characterized by red meat, high-fat foods, and lots of carbs. It wasn’t until she was around the age of 19 when she decided to stop eating meat and become a vegetarian and, finally, ditch the eggs and dairy to become fully vegan six years ago. In Mayim’s Vegan Table, she outlines the health, environmental, and ethical reasons for choosing her vegan lifestyle.
“It started as feeling weird about eating things I really liked—meaning I was an animal lover and it felt weird to eat animals,” she said. “Once I cut dairy out, I’ve not had a sinus infection, nor have I been on antibiotics. I was dairy-allergic in a way that was not typical; it was definitely not healthy for me to be eating dairy. Finally, as I learned more about veganism and the lifestyle, ethics became a large part. My final decision to become completely vegan came because of Jonathan Foer’s book ‘Eating Animals’, which talks a lot about the ethical implications, not just for animals, but the workers who work in the factories that produce animal products.”
Her decision to raise her children vegan was made easy when she noticed that her oldest son would become fussy and show other allergy symptoms when she consumed dairy products and then breastfed him. After Mayim cut out dairy completely, he stopped. Now she says both of her boys are happily vegan. Mayim’s Vegan Table is centered on not only the recipes her kids most like to eat, but also the recipes for people who are not vegan that she thinks they would most enjoy. Her kids’ favorite recipes from the book include the baked ziti, the shepherd’s pie, and “any form of cookie,” of which the book has no shortage.
“They don’t live a deprived life. They don’t get to have all the sweets they want all the time, but even if you’re not vegan, some people make choices not to give their kids sweets. They get to eat vegan pizza and vegan chicken fingers, and all sorts of things that are yummy,” said Mayim. “Their dad and I make sure to frame it that way. This is the way we eat, this is how our doctor recommends we eat, and it’s good for our bodies.”
Mayim says it’s important to go slow and present things in a fun way if you’re trying to get your kids on a vegan diet. She also says it’s not an overnight decision: “I think it’s about realizing that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but rather that the notion of incorporating more whole foods and more foods in their natural source into your diet is a smart thing we should all be doing—no matter what kind of label you fall under. I think there are ways to wean children from the default and the processed tastes that they’re used to, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Also worth noting about children: their love of the ability to “dip” things.
“Children, especially toddlers, like food if they can dip it in different things. It’s amazing what they will eat if they’re presented in fun ways,” she said.
Mayim also references a point made by Dr. Gordon in Mayim’s Vegan
Table in which he says, “You don’t have to finish it before dessert,” suggesting making rules about food can have a lot of basis in other arguments you might have with your children.
“I think recognizing where your children are fighting you about food and where else they’re fighting with you is important,” said Mayim. “A lot of times it might take the help of a counselor or a third party to help figure out if your child is fighting with you because it’s about food, or because they’re unhappy about something else and it’s coming out there.”
However, along with her children, Mayim says she doesn’t personally miss out on any of the foods not within the framework of a vegan diet: “There’s pretty much substitutes for just about everything. I happen to not be a fan of vegan ice cream, and I used to really enjoy Baskin Robbins’ Peanut Butter and Chocolate; I haven’t tasted anything that rich since, but it doesn’t feel like a huge loss because there’s so many other fun things that I do eat that are vegan.”
When it comes to cooking vegan, Mayim says the product that changed the game for her and her family was the discovery of Daiya vegan cheese. She swears by its deliciousness, functionality, and uncanny resemblance to the traditional variety.
“I talk a lot in the book about how we don’t eat a lot of processed food, but a lot of the recipes are kind of fun recipes that I make once in a while. Daiya cheese has literally changed the face of a lot of vegans,” she said. “It’s a non-soy cheese product—I’m not a spokesperson or anything, I’m just a normal vegan who uses their stuff—but even my ex said he would not be able to eat vegan if it weren’t for Daiya. We use it on pizza; it melts into mac and cheese. It’s an amazing product; it lets you have that cheesy rich flavor. Again, we don’t do it all the time, but it’s delicious.”
And if you’re wondering how she stays the course when she’s on set of “The Big Bang Theory,” she has an answer for that, too.
“I eat simply when I’m away from home,” said Mayim. “One of the great things about being vegan and encouraging your palette to recognize simple flavors, is that fruits and veggies in their natural form can be satisfying, so I do a lot of that. And sometimes they order in on the set, so it really depends.”
To get your family started on the road to veganism, or if you just want to expand your palate, try a few of Mayim’s kids’ favorite recipes. Be sure to pick up her cookbook, Mayim’s Vegan Table: More Than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes From My Family to Yours, to experience more delicious, health-conscious recipes, and check out her Emmy-worthy performance as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.”