Pure and Simple: An Interview With Veronica Bosgraaf

Interview by Kristin Bjornsen

When Veronica Bosgraaf’s 6-year-old daughter, Anna, became a vegetarian, it created one main problem: what to pack for school lunches? “Most sandwiches wouldn’t cut it,” says Bosgraaf, 38. “I needed something nutritionally complete, easy, and good tasting—to a 6-year-old.” So she started experimenting in her kitchen, throwing together dates, walnuts, brown rice syrup, fruit, and other organic, raw ingredients, and—voilà—the Pure Bar was born. Its popularity spread through the playground, the family’s hometown of Holland, Michigan, and the state. Today, some 2 million bars are sold each year nationwide. Natural Solutions sat down with Bosgraaf to discover the secrets of good nutrition—inside and outside the lunchbox.

On becoming a vegetarian: One night at dinner, Anna asked what we were eating. “Chicken,” I said. “You mean like chickens on a farm?” Anna asked. She didn’t understand. I explained that meat comes from dead chickens. “You mean we wait until they die and then eat them?” Anna probed. “Well, no, not exactly,” I answered. It was one of those uncomfortable parenting moments when I just had to tell her the whole truth. She’s a real animal lover and took it hard. Then she told me she wanted to become a vegetarian; she’d heard about it on Animal Planet. I said, “OK, I’ll go vegetarian with you, but let’s research it first.” Through that research, we discovered not only the health benefits of vegetarianism, but also the benefits of eating organic, raw food. Now, five years later, Anna’s still vegetarian, and I’m mostly vegetarian—I eat salmon occasionally.

On curbing food cravings: I’ve found that being vegetarian and eating more raw, organic foods—like creative, substantial salads—has changed my cravings and helped me maintain my ideal weight. It’s not even an effort to say no to ice cream, bread, muffins, donuts, and cake. Now I crave foods like guacamole and hummus, and I have more energy.

On getting kids to eat healthy: With my three kids, I’ve learned several key tricks:
1. The most important thing is to expose them to fruits, vegetables, and grains. When my son was a toddler, for example, I would put one little leaf of baby spinach on his plate and say he had to eat it. I would progress from there to two and then three leaves. Now he eats spinach all the time and likes it. I did the same thing with hummus. My kids all said “Ewww” at first, and now they love it. My theory? If they’re used to seeing it, they’ll get used to eating it.
2. Choose foods that are healthy but also taste good. Strawberries, bananas, carrots—there are so many options out there. Find out which ones your kids enjoy the most by offering them lots of choices. For those other healthy items they don’t enjoy, you can disguise them. For instance, sneak some greens into a smoothie with yogurt, orange juice, and fresh fruit. They’ll never detect it!
3. Don’t be a food Nazi. I never say, “No sugar in my house!” because I’m convinced that tactic backfires. Right now, we have dark chocolate kisses in the snack drawer. Some treats are OK. One thing I never buy, however, is soda, because I’m really against the added sugars like corn syrup.