Happy Monday everyone! I have been itching to write another post all week but have found it difficult to find the time. Hubby is out-of-town on his annual boys golf trip (much-needed, he works so hard!) so it’s pretty much been me and kiddo for the last 5 days. We’ve had a blast hanging out but I’ll be thankful to have my hunny home for sure. Kiddo is finishing up his last week of preschool and I’m planted across the street at a coffee shop finally getting some writing time in!
I have been wanting to write on the subject of whether or not a plant-based diet is safe for children since before starting the blog. Of course when we started on this journey 3 years ago the first time, we were met with a lot of questions and skepticism from our families and friends. At the time kiddo was only 6 months old and was just starting to experiment outside of formula. We started our journey as vegetarians (me a pescatarian) and slowly started eliminating dairy for ourselves, but not kiddo. After 3 years of research and talking to naturopaths, other vegan parents, watching several films, and speaking to handful of pediatricians I am now confident in our decision to raise our son on a whole foods plant based diet.
Recently we had a very good (omnivore) friend of ours send us an article written on the subject of vegan kids being able to get enough nutrition. I’ll be honest, at first I was PISSED. Unsolicited parenting advice is never welcomed warmly by me. That’s just my own shit. I do a bang up job (If I do say so myself) educating, researching, and finding answers to make sure that we are raising our son the best way possible (that satisfies our personal beliefs, because he is OUR son). I read the article, laughed hysterically (at the content, not the intention), and decided that when I had time I would blog about it and debunk the myths that are commonly surrounded by articles like this one.
So if you don’t have time to read it, the article kind of went like this…
There is a preschool serving vegan food to it’s 1-6 year olds…the author ponders, can this really be healthy??
She starts with…
“You have to be super knowledgable.” Nope. You sure don’t. Here is what you need to know…Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, healthy fats, nuts, seeds and water. Seems pretty basic to me. If that is too hard to understand let me provide a picture. I would also like to mention all these foods are affordable, not specialty and can be purchased at any grocery store.
“Vegan kids may not consume enough calories making them weigh less than their peers” Uh, yeah!…In a nation where the childhood obesity rate is 1 in 3, the American Heart Association website states that the number 1 health concern among parents in the United States is childhood obesity, topping drug abuse and smoking. So yeah, vegan kids tend to trend lower in weight and consume fewer calories than their omnivore friends, but let’s be honest…this might actually be good thing. The studies aren’t leading to the idea that vegan kids are malnourished, but that they eat less calories and weigh less AKA not being obese. Duh.
“Vegan kids may not consume enough protein” (here we go with the protein again!)
I don’t know why we are still so obsessed with protein. It is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to be deficient in protein, on any diet. I have asked EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR I have come in contact with over the last 3 years…Ever taken your child to the doctor and heard that they need more protein? Unlikely. Maybe you have heard of Kwashiorkor or Marasmus? I’m guessing not, I hadn’t until I started looking into this whole protein obsession.Those are protein deficiencies found typically in under developed, third world countries. But for some reason Americans are obsessed with making sure they are getting “enough”. The recommended daily grams of protein for a child aged 4-9 is 19 grams, and 34 grams for age 9-13. Broccoli has more protein per 100 calories than beef. So if you are a parent that has a protein deficient kid, feed them broccoli over beef. Just sayin’
“Kids have food neophobia,” or a fear of trying unfamiliar foods”
Kids are products of their environment. If you start them out on the right path by setting an example yourself, exposing them to different foods/flavors they are more likely to accept new foods into the mix. Some kids are picky, whether it be texture, flavor, spiciness, it doesn’t matter. Continue to offer them the things they do enjoy (the healthiest version possible) but throw in something different too. Keep exposing them and eventually they will catch on. Just don’t EVER get into a power struggle over food. That has the potential to create far worse issues down the road, like overeating and eating disorders.
“B12 deficiencies are more prevalent in vegans and vegetarians”
Okay. They are also common in omnivores as well. So if you start your child’s life as a veggie kid like we have then there may be a need to supplement B12. So you do that. Do you give your kids a multivitamin? Problem solved.
“When kids get their hands on food they’ve been banned from eating, they eat more of it.” Does this same logic apply to drugs and alcohol? Should we not forbid our children to drink until they are 21? Does that make them want to binge? How about teaching limitations, guidelines and moderation. How about education? As a family we indulge from time to time. What is more important, is to teach self-control. If you want to enjoy a cookie then enjoy it. If we never indulged in anything then yeah, we’d see a package of cookies and want to eat the entire thing. Does this mean that it’s okay to give an underage kid beer? No, it’s not. That is the education piece.
If the author is suggesting that a vegan kid is more likely to binge on a bunch of cheese burgers because he can’t have beef at home than it’s absurd. Our son eats burgers, made from plant sources of course. He also eats “nuggets” and other substitutes for traditional animal based foods. It’s not as though he is being deprived of the traditional “American” cuisine. He is being deprived of saturated fat, cholesterol, growth hormones, steroids and all the other crap found in your typical beef burger.
“Vegans may struggle to consume enough iron and fat”
Another one that I just love…allow me to explain this simply with an infograph… and the fats…avocados, flax seeds, nut butters, coconut oil. BAM!!!
“Calcium and Vitamin D deficiencies”
You must consume dairy to have strong bones…you will not get enough calcium without dairy….Got MILK?….Uggghhhhh!!! All paid for by the dairy farmers of where ever….Look at the facts. Vegetables contain more calcium than dairy. Provide your kids with veggies and they will have plenty of calcium. As for the Vitamin D, unless you are lucky enough to live in the land of the sun you will probably need to consume a fortified source of Vitamin D, but it doesn’t need to be from a cow. You can easy purchase fortified orange juice, and almond milk (which does not come from lactating almonds, FYI) or just give you kiddos a Vitamin D supplement like this one (you could even put the drops into that fortified OJ) Problem easily solved. BTW…mushrooms provide Vitamin D2, they make a great meat substitute in spaghetti sauce, “meat” loafs, and as burgers.
“Yes, you can raise kids vegan that are healthy, but it’s REALLY HARD”
Last time I checked raising any kid was really hard. When your TV is inundated with commercials promoting food that is slowing killing us, our public schools are serving food that is completely void of any nutritional value (did you know that pizza is considered a vegetable) and the Golden Arches are glorified as being a Happy Place for kids to eat “balanced” meals, no wonder our kids are fatter, sicker and as unhealthy as they have ever been. But as this article states, “It’s really hard” to raise healthy vegan kids. So lets just keep doing what we have been, because that is just working so well. “If it’s hard it isn’t worth it” said no one ever (that has really done something hard lol!)
I say lets start educating ourselves. I’m not saying everyone should be vegan. That is our personal choice. Did you know that the USDA is in charge of the standard Food Pyramid? Did you read that….The UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of AGRICULTURE. When did they become experts on nutrition? It’s NOT doctors, nutritionists or health experts advising what you “should” be eating.
One other little tidbit I loved was this:
“As the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics puts it, “nutritional balance is very difficult to achieve if dairy products and eggs are completely eliminated.”
I bet you didn’t know that the dairy industry is one of the biggest financial contributors to the AAP. Weird.
So there you have it…I obviously cannot spend my existence going thru the internet and dissecting every one-sided article that confuses people into thinking that we vegans live “really hard” lives trying to be nutritionally balanced. Or that we are struggling to have “healthy” kids because of the degree of difficulty compared to the Standard American Diet (also known as S.A.D., for real though!).
So, while I was a little pissy about getting this article sent to me in the first place, something positive did come from it. I was able to get some truth out there. And friend, if you are reading this, I love you and know that you were coming from a good place. I guess I’m just a sensitive vegan.