Recently, there have been growing concerns regarding the vegan diet since a one year old boy was removed from his parent’s custody after he was found to be malnourished. This of course gave those who are already fiercely against veganism one more reason to be wary about raising their children vegan. However, what I would like people to take into consideration is that while there may be one story in which parents clearly neglected their child’s diet (and therefore the problem here is with the parents, not the vegan diet) there are a thousand stories of children on a primarily animal product based diet that tell the same tale, and I can bet you for every one story we hear in regard to a child being malnourished due to veganism, there are hundreds of stories that provide us with evidence that the traditional western diet does more harm than any other on earth. If we were to hear of all of the parents that raise their children on processed food, fried food, copious amounts of dairy such as yoghurts filled with sugar, flavoured milks or chicken nuggets, burgers, pizzas and other animal products, I can assure you that there would be thousands of stories published all over the net each day discussing the detriment and damage that raising children on animal foods can cause. But since this vegan child’s story is unique and the odd one out, of course it was bound to get all of the attention, causing those already adament about raising their child vegan to have a greater attitude of opposition towards it believing it to be inappropriate and dangerous for a child. But this could not be further from the truth. Let us take a look at the number of children currently obese in the UK as well as the US ;
In the past 30 years, Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents [https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm]. In the UK alone, 25% or boys and 33% of girls aged between two and 19 years are overweight or obese. Children in England and wales are currently suffering from type 2 diabetes, [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/15/more-than-500-children-with-type-2-diabetes—just-16-years-afte/] and obesity currently costs the country around £47 billion annually [https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/20/obesity-bigger-cost-than-war-and-terror] and shortens lives by nine years, due to the associated health problems. And in the US, Children who are raised on the “traditional” American diet which consists of cholesterol and saturated fat laded animal products, have an increased risk of heart diseases ; currently the no.1 killer of american adults, [https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm]. According to www.heart.org, Around one in three American children and teens are overweight or obese and obesity rates in children has tripled from 1971 to 2011, [http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ChildhoodObesity/Overweight-in-Children_UCM_304054_Article.jsp#.WIAvobYrI_U] Of course, animal products are not entirely to blame for ill-health. Fruit juices, sodas, breakfast cereals and bars, pasta sauces, soups, tinned baked beans, breads, salad dressing, reduced fat yoghurts and any other product that needs to be marketed to be sold to the public and does not come In the form of a fruit, vegetable, or whole-food, can be loaded with anything from 5-30 tsp of sugar, [http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262978.php]. So other factors such as sugar, lack of exercise, and carbs obtained from pastries, pastas and breads oppose to healthy whole-food plant based sources can be contributors to obesity, but even if sugar was a primary culprit, the difference with the plant based diet is that people who transition to veganism seem to be far more conscientious about everything they put into their bodies, which means not only animal products are excluded but also many of the sugary and processed foods we typically indulge in. Vegan parents raising Vegan children tend to make sure that processed foods and artificial ingredients are avoided, and consequently vegan children tend to form wiser eating habits and make better food choices into adulthood. Not only are they more conscious to the pain and suffering inflicted on animals, and the devastation it causes to our planet, but they are also more conscious to their own bodies and how everything they consume can either aid their body in fighting diseases or contribute to a lifetime plagued with ill-health due to the consumption of milk, cheese, eggs, meats and any other produce which the human body is simply not designed to digest as countless studies confirm. Here are some examples to back this statement up :
When your diet consists of a good combination of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and a few grains, you are obtaining all of the nutrients that your body would typically feel deprived of, and less over-eating and unconscious eating patterns occurs. And when the body is deprived of nutrients or fibre (which helps us feel full) cravings begin. But because these cravings can be combated by eating in a way in which all vital minerals, vitamins and nutrients are obtained, there is often no desire to reach for a candy bar or a can of coke. Perhaps in the beginning when one transitions to the vegan diet, there may be cravings for one’s old diet, however the body adapts very quickly and once wholesome plant nutrition is provided , it would be a rare case for one to still feel the need to consume animal products. It is important to note that it is often not the cravings for nutrients we desire, but rather the our addiction to the added sugars, salts, taste enhancers and modifiers that we crave the taste of oppose to the actual meat and dairy itself. Both adults and children may mistake the desire for these things for being nutrient deficient. It is important to be aware of this since a growing body of research demonstrates that meat and particularly cheeses are physically addicting hence why they, along with sugar, are such a primary course of obesity in both children and adults. It is very very rare for one to be deficient in protein, iron or indeed most other nutrients if consuming varied whole-foods plants.
“In a recent study, vegans had higher intakes of sixteen out of the nineteen nutrients studied, including three times more vitamin C, Vitamin E, and fibre, twice the folate, magnesium, copper and manganese, and more calcium and plenty of protein. Vegans also had half the saturated fat intake, one-sixth of the rate of being overweight, and, while vegans were shown to be at risk for deficients in three nutrients (calcium, iodine and vitamin B-12) people eating the standard American diet were at risk for deficiencies in seven nutrients (calcium, iodine, vitamin C, Vitamin E, fibre, Folate and Magensium”-Will Tuttle, The world peace diet.
In regard to weight, vegans on average have a healthier weight than health-minded meat-eaters. According to two large studies in the UK and US, vegan obesity rates are under 2% compared to over 5% in health-conscious meat-eaters. Obesity significantly increases the risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Vegans also have the lowest body mass index (BMI) of any group, ranging between 22-23.5, [http://nutritionfacts.org/video/thousands-of-vegans-studied/] This compares to BMI of 23.5 to 29 for health-conscious meat-eaters. Meat and dairy and other animal products are usually less energy dense than fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes. Food groups such as these are rich in nutrients that most children in the west currently lack such as vitamin C, Good omega 3 and 6 fats and fibre. There is no dietary fibre in animal products. Fibre is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes such as lentils, peas, beans, soya protein, oats, potatoes, brown rice, whole grain cereals, nuts, seeds, and some dried fruits such as prunes and apricots. Fibre is fundamentally important for the health because it eliminates waste from the body which is vital in order to prevent constipation, IBS, an under-active thyroid, haemorrhoids, heart disease, weight gain, poor blood sugar control, cardiovascular disease, a weak digestion, an unhealthy gut (which can start an entire plague of health issues), depression, cancer and other chronic diseases.
Foods containing fibre can provide other health benefits as well, such as smoothing our digestion and absorption of glucose and fats in the small intestine, providing fuel for good bacteria in our large intestine which helps the body to make vitamin B12, lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease and helping us remove waste and toxins from the body ; meat and dairy eaters are more prone to suffering from constipation and irregular bowel movements [https://www.forksoverknives.com/animalproteindangers/] which can cause the build up of toxins in the body and lead to chronic illnesses and disease. Other benefits include lowering cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar which reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, aiding in one achieving a healthy weight since high-fibre foods are more filling and more energy dense and preventing diseases of the colon [https://www.forksoverknives.com/7-things-that-happen-when-you-stop-eating-meat/]. The academy of Nutrition and Dietetics state that vegan diets done in the correct manner, meaning carefully researched so that one understands where to obtain all of one’s nutrients from, provide one with more than enough sufficient nutrients, since plants are an excellent source of protein, iron and calcium and can be easily absorbed by the body and do not contain any artery-clogging fats which animal products are renown for containing dangerous amounts of.
Perhaps the biggest concern is where to retrieve ones protein. It is virtually impossible to be protein deficient on a plant based diet and protein deficiency is only common in developing countries. There are sufficient amounts of protein in oats, brown rice, pasta, nuts, seeds, tahini, hummus, peanut butter and legumes such as tofu, lentils and beans. Iron can be obtained from soy-based formula with added iron and iron foods such as raisins, almonds, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses, fortified grain cereal. For calcium, dried fruits, kale, broccoli, tahini, fortified orange juice, plant based milks are all excellent sources. Unknown to most, cows obtain their calcium from the plants they consume. So it makes no sense that we obtain the nutrients that cow’s obtain from plants, from dairy, when we could go straight to the source and consume it from there instead. Contrary to popular belief, cow’s milk does not naturally contain vitamin D [https://www.forksoverknives.com/milk-myth-why-you-dont-need-dairy-for-calcium/]. It is added in later. There are plenty of Vitamin D-enriched soy milks that provide this nutrients without animal fat. It can also be obtained from mushrooms, fortified non-dairy milks, Fortified vegan cereals Vegan D3 supplements and Vegan multivitamin. Vitamin B-12 is found in fortified plant milks, some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast, blue or green algae tofu, sea vegetables and chlorella, but taking a Vitamin B-12 supplement will provide both adult’s and children with the amounts they need.
In the past few weeks, I got in touch with 30 vegan parents and managed to interview 12 of them briefly in regard to raising their children vegan. I think it’s vital that people are given the correct information in regard to veganism and raising your child vegan, oppose to picking up bits of information from bias sources that have absolutely no knowledge in regard to this way of living, and clearly have an agenda to turn people off of veganism for their own reasons. I am only concerned with the facts and science. And facts and science can clearly provide us with enough evidence that a whole-foods plant based diet is the way to go, not just for adults, but for children as well. Diet aside, it is absolutely vital that we raise child with values that enable them to become educated about the importance of doing our best to live as sustainably as we possibly can and in harmony with the planet, animals and our own bodies.
One of the parents I interviewed was Rich Lysloff. Here are just some of the food’s his daughter consumes :
Fruit smoothies. Sometimes with greens and/or vegan protein powder added.
Oatmeal: with different variations of ingredients including, nut milks, ground flax, chia and hemp seeds, cinnamon,walnuts, hemp and pea protein powder, berries, coconut sugar or maple syrup.
Smashed peas: (lightly smashed green peas with a fork) with a little vegan butter, and tamari. Sprinkled with a little nutritional yeast (B vitamins!) and hemp seeds. (Omegas!)
“Polentils” This is a dish I made up. I combine polenta (corn meal) with some sprouted lentils (which cook in five minutes due to being sprouted). Once cooked but still on stove in pot I turn off the heat and I add nutritional yeast, sea salt, chopped fine kale or greens, ground flax and chia seeds, and some nut or coconut milk. I too with sprinkled hemp seeds.
Tofu scramble: with nutritional yeast, tamari and with variations of sautéed veggies or sometimes plain.
Quinoa flakes with buckwheat: makes like a hot grain free “porridge” to which I add cinnamon and maple syrup.
Pancakes or waffles to which I add some vegan protein powder to the mix. Serve with a little vegan butter or coconut oil and some real organic maple syrup.
Rice and beans.
Quinoa and sautéed veggies with tamari and sesame seeds.
Lunches and dinners:
Peanut butter sandwiches (with or without jelly or smashed berries).
Soups made with vegan “chicken’ stock with all sorts of chopped veggies, quinoa, chopped fine greens, lentils and beans.
Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or broccoli sautéed in water and vegan butter. (Just until soft and slightly caramelized).
Pan fried tofu: Dredged in a little corn starch and nutritional yeast and sautéed in a little coconut oil.
Lentils: I like to make them with a bit of apple cider vinegar, tamari and miso paste.
Sweet potatoes: our favourite is the Japanese variety with a little vegan butter.
Rice and bean burritos or wraps with salad greens and vegan cheese.
Pasta and made from lentils and edamame. I usually just add some garlic and a bit of vegN butter.
Avocado toast with balsamic vinegar and tomatoes.
For snacks she loves vegan cookies, crackers, chocolates, cakes and cup cakes (in moderation of course). She mostly snacks on carrots, snap peas, flax crackers, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, apple slices with cinnamon, oranges and all types of fruits.
For supplements we give her some vegan protein powders, vegan DHA for kids, vegan calcium and vit D fortified nut and seed milks, and some B12 drops. Also some vegan probiotics for kids.
She mostly gets her nutrients from whole, fresh, mostly organic foods but we give her some supplements to augment her intake of certain nutrients to insure she gets everything a growing child needs.
She is three years old and has never been sick yet and her check ups are always great with no deficiencies.
Again I could go on and on with even more foods she eats but this is a fairly good representation.
Love and blessings,
About the author
Jwaydan Moyine is a classically trained Film Composer, Pianist, Cellist, Singer/Songwriter, and a Writer and Entrepreneur. She founded Earth Children to bring awareness to matters regarding the Environment, Animal welfare, Sustainable & Conscious living, Wellness & Humanitarian issues. She is heavily involved with activism for animal welfare in the UK and Egypt and child welfare in Syria, Thailand and Romania. She resides in Berkshire Running an organic food farm, an organic skincare company, and an online platform called Vegans & Elephants, bringing awareness to matters regarding the Planet, Plant based nutrition, Cruelty free living & the necessity of adapting to Veganism for the sake of Sustainability, Animal welfare and our Health. She has several qualifications in nutritional therapy, culinary medicine & holistic healing. You can find out more on what she is doing over at the Earth Children Facebook Page!
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