“Raising your Child Vegan, isn’t that Illegal?” ~ Emily Alex

Via on Aug 11, 2011

carrot and parsley, carrot for lunch

Let me start this way: I have an agenda here. I’m vegan and, like most ethical vegans, do really wish everybody in the world would get on board. After my first ever encounter with a vegan mother who is raising her children vegan, my aim was to write an article affirming the viability of veganism as a lifelong lifestyle choice.

Although my personal experience with the vegan diet has given me little reason to question its healthfulness, I have always harbored doubts about veganism’s appropriateness for toddlers and infants.

One reason for this is that I haven’t had much experience with little little ones. To me, a parent’s ability to successfully turn something as fragile as an infant into a thriving toddler is nothing short of miraculous. I hardly trust myself to hold a baby and, if I were responsible for nourishing one, am not sure that I would be ready to do anything that could be called alternative or experimental.

Vegan baby-killers

A second reason for my long-time uncertainty is that when I made the transition from vegetarian to vegan in 2004, the Atlanta couple Jade Saunders and Lamont Thomas were all over the news. The two — vegans, first-time parents, crackpots — had attempted to support their baby on a diet of soymilk and apple juice, exclusively, and at six-months old, their son died of starvation.

In 2007, after a years-long deliberation, Saunders and Thomas were sentenced to life in prison for involuntary manslaughter. I would also charge the couple — along with a handful of other careless vegan and raw food vegan parents — with giving veganism a bad public image.

Early in our conversation Vicki Warfield dismissed the claim that her lifestyle is a risky endeavor. Regarding the above-mentioned infanticide, she said, “Yeah, a lot of people said, ‘Isn’t that illegal? Haven’t babies died from that?’ but I say: ‘Listen, the baby didn’t die because of the vegan diet. He died because all they gave him was soymilk. You’d be in pretty bad shape too if all you ate was soymilk!’”

Following my talk with Vicki I was excited about the possibility of vindicating veganism. I was rapidly able to get in contact with two other vegan mothers, who were equally enthused about the project.

The three interviewees, with varying amounts of experience with veganism (from 18 years to just 7 months), all have children sub four years of age (between them: three 3-year-olds, one 18-month old and one newborn). They shared experiences and tips, and speculated on some of the challenges they’ll face as their children grow more independent.

Overall, the interviews went as hoped. As our talks progressed, I became more and more convinced of what I’d been hoping to be convinced of.

It all sounded so great, in fact, that I almost glossed right over one knotty point, which came up in my final interview. Admittedly, it wasn’t until I received a follow-up email from that mother, requesting that I allow her testimony to be anonymous, that I realized the significance of her story. In deference to her wishes, I will use the aliases Debra (for the mother) and Daisy (for the child) throughout this article.

Veganism in Kidspeak

I met with Vicki Warfield in a community park in East Boulder, early last Friday. Just as I folded open my steno notebook and asked question number one  (“So, how long have you been vegan?”), her son Ben zipped over from the playground and said, “I’m very hungry. I want my lunch.” It was approximately 10 am, but Vicki acquiesced.

vegetarian diet

He clambered onto the picnic table between Vicki, her infant Adele, and me and opened his lunchbox. His lunch was neatly separated into four compartments, covering the most important food groups: grain, fruit, vegetables and protein. Ben started with the “chicken.”

“Chi-cken!” he said to himself as he picked up a nugget.

Vicki giggled and, in her quiet, gentle manner, corrected him: “Veggie chicken nugget — right Ben? Veggie chicken?”

“Yah. Real chicken I can’t eat it?”

“Right.”

Ben is three years old and Vicki laughed, telling me: “That’s about the extent of his education in veganism for now.”

Ben ate a chicken nugget, a corner of Rudi’s organic raisin bread and menaced a steamed carrot with his tiny fork before asking if he could please stand up from the table. He then spent approximately twenty minutes catching dandelion heads in his hands and bringing them over to his mother to ask,  “Want to see a reew firefly, ma?”

While she didn’t feel the need to correct his botanical misidentification, Vicki admitted that — especially with school approaching  — she really needs to get Ben accustomed to using the right words (mostly just the prefix “soy”) for the foods he eats, so that he can distinguish them from the ones he cannot.

Never having discussed veganism with anyone under the age of thirteen, I had never been made to reflect on this before, but terminology isn’t self-evident here. The hierarchy implied by adjectives like “real” versus “fake” or “faux” is clearly to the detriment of the latter, vegan options. And a similar issue arises with “normal” or “regular,” because, normal by whose standards? Normal milk to a vegan is not synonymous with cow’s milk. Alternately, I’ve observed that some vegs take the metonymy route — using Boca and Silk as one often uses Kleenex or Band-Aid.

Guess what I ate at school today!

The necessity of communicating veganism to one’s child is not lost on recently-vegan mother Mary Chiancola.

After his last day of preschool, her three-year-old son Nicolas — who made the transition to veganism this past January along with Mary and her husband —  came home with the vegan snacks she had prepared for him, untouched, and happily reported: “Mommy, guess what? We had Pizza Hut at school today!”

Nicolas has only been a vegan since the start of 2011, and so Mary didn’t make a fuss. It was an honest mistake. After all, Nicolas and his brother Zachary still have pizza all the time at home, now prepared with fake cheese. I mean real soy cheese, vegan cheese, Daiya. (You see what I mean?) She acknowledges the fact that this sort of occurence is inevitable so long as he is too young to totally grasp the concept of veganism.

Still, she says that her son does understand, on a basic level, his parents’ ethical motivations for avoiding all animal products. If you ask Nicolas Chiancola why he doesn’t drink cow’s milk, he will say, “because it makes calves sad.”

“Mommy, what’s meat?”

For Vicki’s Ben, a vegan from birth, a slip-up of this sort is a graver concern. For example, when Ben accidentally got his hands on some non-vegan cheese around 18 months, 24+ hours of digestive distress ensued. This was due to the fact that his body has never developed (and, likely, will never develop) the enzymes necessary for the digestion of animal proteins.

For this reason, Vicki is glad to be sending her son to a preschool in Boulder. Although he is the only vegan in his class, there is a general high level of awareness about dietary concerns such as gluten-free, peanut allergies and vegetarianism in Boulder, and consequently the teachers enforce a “no snack swapping” policy to the best of their ability.

While Vicki imagines that her son will one day be a “vegan ambassador” of sorts, she is also cautious about inculcating him too soon.

“What’ll I do when he asks me: ‘If it’s wrong to eat meat, how come my friends do it’? I don’t know; that’ll be a challenge.”

It is important, she feels, that he does not judge his classmates and their families for their consumption of animal products.

Additionally, discussions of veganism can quickly turn gory (consult PETA’s “Meet Your Meat” or basically any of their propaganda, if you don’t believe me). Vicki isn’t too hot on the idea of explaining death, let alone factory farming, to her son.

She has, therefore, answered his queries delicately thus far. For example, when Ben and his classmates were introduced to the food chain and Ben wanted to know what wolves eat.

“Meat,” said Vicki.

“What’s meat?”

“Well, meat is… Meat is what wolves eat.”

Vegan parents know their vitamin ABC’s.

 

The China Study
Book by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.

While Vicki aptly dodges questions that put her son’s blissful innocence/ignorance in jeopardy, she very ably and readily responded to my questions regarding veganism’s nutritional merits. She even listed off some of her favorite sources for legitimate, up-to-date scientific findings that support her plant-based lifestyle (including the Mayo Clinic Online, the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization).

Mary was likewise able to answer all of my nutrition inquiries without pause. She expressed annoyance at the fact that vegans are quizzed so often on nutrition, whereas people eating the typical American diet don’t seem to worry. She said, “I see some parents sending their kids to school with, you know, those Uncrustable things. White, white bread… ugh! Why aren’t they asking themselves, ‘Is my kid getting enough vitamin A, vegetables, vitamin C?’ I just don’t get that.”

She remembers with amusement the response of one of her husband’s friends — himself overweight — when they had shared their plan to go vegan. “Wow. So like, what will you get when you go to McDonald’s?”

Mary observed that vegans in general are more aware of nutrition than your average adult. In my small survey, this contention held true; all three of the interviewees had studied nutrition during college.

Here are the mothers’ responses to some of the most common nutritional “pitfalls” of veganism:

The Chiancola boys drink a lot of B12-fortied soymilk. Since his weaning Ben W. has enjoyed a daily cocktail of Earth’s Best Organic Soy Formula mixed with DHA oil and Brewer’s yeast, which Vicki says is “super healthy, but indescribably awful-tasting. I mean, the DHA tastes like algae, for starters. But he loves it, I don’t know.” Debra is unconcerned about her daughter’s B12 intake, as Daisy eats heaps of nutritional yeast.

  • 2. How about calcium?

Vicki (sic): “We don’t ever have to take our cats or dogs to the vet for their osteoporosis, do we? And did you ever think about gorillas? I know we aren’t the same as gorillas, but it makes you wonder. I mean, they are vegan and they are big, muscular animals! What is so very different about humans that we are the only animal that drinks milk into adulthood? Are our bones really so different from those of every other mammal on earth?”

  • 3. And protein?
gorillas are vegan
Photo: happyherbivore.com

Vicki: “Oh, beans, nut butters, tofu… When I was pregnant, my thing was Amy’s freezer burritos — lots and lots of ‘em. But did you know that Americans actually get way too much protein? And that getting too much — since your body needs B vitamins to process it — getting too much protein, you get low on B vitamins! Plus, too much protein inhibits calcium absorption too.”

Dieter’s dream: toddler’s nightmare?

I also learned that another “problem” of the vegan diet is that it is calorie poor. “Where’s the problem?” you might ask. While this may sound like a boon to anyone of a Hollywoodian dieter mentality, it does complicate matters for vegan parents with toddlers, as children at that age are notoriously picky eaters.

Mary assured that her sons were dealing with this well and told me that her oldest was actually overweight for his height and age.

Vicki says that Ben eats very frequently — a fact that I was able to observe firsthand, since he returned to his lunchbox three or four times during the course of our interview. She commented: “So he has to eat more often, so what? You know, I’ve never seen a toddler starve to death from not eating. They know when they’re hungry and they will eat ’til they’re full.”

Most versed on the struggle to pack on the calories was Debra. At nearly three years old, her daughter Daisy weighs a mere 20 lbs.

20 pounds. That’s the weight of a car tire or an overweight cat. Or an average American child at just nine months.

off the dartboard
Photo: Michael

In her follow-up email Debra claimed to have misspoken; she wrote (sic):”i think she is 33 inches tall and her weight is actually about 24 pounds, now that i’ve checked (contrary to what i said on the phone!)”

At around 12 months, due to her exceptionally slow development, Daisy was diagnosed with the growth disorder “failure to thrive” — a diagnosis that Debra downplays as a “ridiculous scare diagnosis.” She insists that, “children come in a wide spectrum of sizes.” While this may be true, it is not as though Daisy’s measurements are just a smidge left of the 95th percentile bull’s eye. At 33 inches and 20-24 lbs, she is missing the dartboard entirely, falling below the fifth percentile for her age.

When asked about the potential consequences of her daughter’s condition, Debra responded, “I actually don’t know the answer to this!” Kidshealth.org provides the following prognosis:

“Most diagnoses of failure to thrive are made in infants and toddlers in the first few years of life — a crucial period of physical and mental development. After birth, a child’s brain grows as much in the first year as it will grow during the rest of life. Poor nutrition during this period can have permanent negative effects on mental development.”

Although Debra is dubious about the diagnosis and cannot tell me much about it, she and Daisy do make the trip to Denver every few months to see a pediatric dietician.

Debra admits that her daughter’s diet has been a “real hard time.” Although she knows other vegan children, she doesn’t know any who are faced with F.T.T. and she attributes Daisy’s unique condition to the convergence of three factors.

carton of eggs
Photo: Andrew Comings

First of all, she mentions her own diminutive stature (5’3” and 115 lbs) and the fact that she too was a tiny child. “It’s in her genes, I guess.”

Another factor is the fact that she is a strong believer in “self-weaning” and therefore continues to feed her daughter breast milk twice a day.

Lastly, and begrudgingly, the longtime vegan admitted that the lack of calorie and fat-dense animal products — eggs, for example — in her daughter’s diet may exacerbate the issue. Her exact words were: “Yeah, I know that if she were eating eggs, we wouldn’t have this… problem.”

While most of her friends don’t bother to raise the issue with her, one question she often gets is: “Well, what if you just gave her an egg from a hen you know?” Her usual reply is:

“I’m simply not comfortable with taking an egg from a chicken without her consent. Anyway, protein content is the only benefit of egg consumption, and the same amount of (or more) protein can be found in plant-based foods easily, without the added negatives (like cholesterol). There’s just no reason to eat an egg!”

The main struggle for her is to encourage Daisy to consume iron and zinc, both of which are contained in breast milk, but not absorbed by the nursing child after ten months. According to her “wonderfully supportive” nutritionist, iron and zinc are all the more vital because they act as appetite-stimulants. Finding an adequate source of these is a daily struggle as the three-year-old “won’t touch leafy greens” nor supplements.

Her staple food is noodles doused in Earth Balance buttery spread and topped with Bacos. Debra says, “I’m trying to load on the fat however I can.”

The vegan witch-hunt

shame on you
Photo: Marc-Andre Lariviere

As I sorted through the information the three mothers had provided me, I couldn’t stop thinking about Debra’s plea for anonymity. Her email read (sic):

“hi there - now i’m a bit nervous about making all this info public – mostly because i don’t want anyone coming after us for having a very small child who is vegan! wondering if there is a way you can write it so that either it is anonymous, or her physical stats aren’t given? (…) sorry, i just remember hearing stories of vegan families being hunted down by local authorities!”

What had motivated this? Embarrassment? Guilt? Fear? In particular, I was disturbed by the line, “vegan parents hunted down by local authorities.” Was Debra really afraid of Child Protective Services? Or was she concerned that Daisy’s difficult development could be used as an argument against the lifestyle she, a former vegan activist, feels so strongly about?

Looking into it, I immediately came upon an article published on naturalnews.com this past March. Shockingly enough, its author, Mike Adams, actually encourages vegan parents to lie to Child Protective Services:

“They really are out to get you. [...] Never admit to state authorities that you are raising your baby on a vegan diet.”

If observing happy, healthy Ben Warfield and bearing witness to Vicki’s and Mary’s attentiveness to their sons’ nutritional needs had bolstered my original argument, the above article and Debra’s unwillingness to go public as a vegan mother were like ugly cracks, zigzagging down to my argument’s very foundation: namely, the basic assumption that any parent — vegan or not — would put his/her child’s well-being first. Ergo, if vegan children exist, then vegan child-raising must be sound.

I wondered: how many vegan parents out there have followed the advice of “Health Ranger” Mike Adams and are keeping their child’s veganism a secret? Meanwhile Vicki’s “I’ve never known a toddler to starve…” and Debra’s “I don’t know any other vegan children with this condition” reverberated in my head.

How does guardedness about the difficulties involved in vegan parenting serve the vegan cause? As Debra is knowledgeable and certainly not neglectful towards her daughter, wouldn’t it be beneficial to others for her to admit openly that the vegan diet does indeed require special attention?

It seems that this argument remains divided between those omnivores who think the vegan lifestyle and children don’t mesh, versus the vegans — parents or not — who are ignorant of the difficulties the vegan diet can incur because those facing them are hesitant to come forward or because they themselves are willfully turning a blind eye to an issue that brings their lifestyle into question.

It would seem that Debra stands somewhere in the middle, and I am grateful to her for having contributed the story of her and Daisy’s struggle to this debate.

I encourage any readers who are vegan parents to share your thoughts in as non-partisan a fashion as possible. Anonymously, if you must.

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65 Responses to ““Raising your Child Vegan, isn’t that Illegal?” ~ Emily Alex”

  1. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Great to read an unbiased article on such a thorny subject.
    I have to say, I cannot imagine raising my child vegan.
    I was vegan myself for 2 years. (Have been Vegetarian for 12 years.) At the end of those 2 years, when I ate some cheese, I felt every cell in my body celebrating. It was the clearest indication I could ever receive that I (my body) need more than I got from my vegan diet. And let me be clear – I ate very, very well as a vegan. A wide range of nuts, seeds, oils, pulses, veggetables, fruits, seaweeds, soya products, etc.
    Do I believe that veganism is a wonderful, ethical, highly moral lifestyle? Yes. But I also know firsthand that it is not healthy for everyone.
    Now my baby boy is 8 months old. He still has breast-milk twice a day or so, but also is starting to wean, and eating some solids. His favorite is yoghurt (ok, not very solid I know but hey!). He fucking *loves* yoghurt. When I eat a yoghurt, he can barely contain his excitement. Waves his arms around and gurgles and jumps up and down.
    So, I cannot imagine depriving him of yoghurt, and I honestly imagine that many kids are like he is. Their little bodies are growing so fast it sometimes hurts, and they need what they need.
    I'm also thinking of seeing if he wants some meat, but that's another issue…
    Ben

    • keepwaiting says:

      Consider the following as the reason for your cell celebration: "all milks, cow or human, contains casein which is a protein that when digested causes the release of opiates (for those of you unsure of what an opiate is, it is a form of narcotic). Cheese has the highest concentration of casein. These “feel good” chemicals are necessary for newborns so they will nurse and ensures a bond between mother and child. This is a natural entity between mother and newborn, but in the case of cow’s milk and human consumption it is unnatural (we are the only mammals that drink another mammal’s milk), but still causes the same “feel good” and almost drug-like effect. Cheese also has phenylethylamine, an amphetamine-like chemical. Thus the reasons for the addiction.
      Dairy is meant to grow a 90 lbs calf into a 1,500 lbs cow, and quickly. It is designed to allow a calf to double its weight rapidly and create a sense of fullness in their four stomachs. It has the same fattening effect on humans."

      • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

        Thank you, and duly considered!
        By the way… the 'humans are the only mammals that drink another mammal’s milk' argument is one of the things which made me become vegan. However, after further thought I realized this: it's only one of many, many unnatural things we do. Do you cook food at all? Because we're the only animal that does that too. I don't think that in itself it's necessarily a bad thing.
        Of course, there are many other reasons why vegetarianism and veganism are good, which is why I wrote this: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/the-3-reas

        • keepwaiting says:

          I remember reading that! Cooking food, like drinking milk, is an adaptation. But humans also have a well-developed prefrontal cortex. We should use it and make choices based on many variables including logic, compassion, health and planetary implications. I really do believe that vegans are pushing the envelope on food choices and will end up doing more to highlight the connection between health and the food we choose to consume, than anything else has in the past. It will take some time…but in the meantime, vegan options will become more and more palatable, cheaper and more widely available. I’m really looking forward to watching it continue to unfold!

    • lisa says:

      thank you Ben. I am a holistic nutrition consultant and educator and my education is based on the basic tenant that we each have our own particular needs…biochemical individuality. and yes, not all people, probably not even most people, are best suited to be vegans. I was a heavy, lethargic raw food vegan for years, thinking I was doing my body and the planet much good. And I avoided all the horrible processed faux-meat products and UNhealth-foods that many vegans (not all) live off of. Processed wheat gluten/tofu/grains…often lots of refined flour, white sugar (which uses cow bones in the processing according to Waylon's recent post here on Elephant Journal), MSG, etc… the lectins and gluten are a big part of our current health crisis. I am not a big fan of dairy or eating mass quantities of animal products, and I do believe that nearly ALL humans would benefit from basing their diet predominantly on plant based whole unprocessed, preferably as organic as much as possible, foods. And if one does eat meat or chicken, avoiding factory farmed sources and moderating servings (3-4 oz is a serving, maybe 5 or 6 if it's a big dude!) can be very healthful and kind to the planet.

      We each have our own metabolic needs and not everyone thrives as a vegan. period.

    • Jenna says:

      As a mother, vegetarian, and lactation consultant I have to say nutritionally, for our children up to the age of 3years old <gasp> the only way to ensure ALL their needs are met is breast milk. It changes according to the needs of the child (ie high in fat until they start to more than it crank up the protein for muscle strength.)

      Unfortunately breastfeeding in the US has expiration date…

  2. Kathleen says:

    I’m mostly vegetarian, not vegan. Very concerned about nutrition, my health, planetary health. Looking for answers, have many questions. Actually prefer veg diet, but believe that human beings are omnivores.

    http://www.lierrekeith.com/vegmyth.htm
    http://www.theecoblogger.com/soy-is-not-a-health-food-part-1
    http://www.theecoblogger.com/soy-is-not-a-health-food-part-2

  3. Rob Reitz says:

    That carrot looks vaguely familiar … anyway – this is the USA – you should raise your kids anyway you see fit because if you tell me how to raise mine I will feed you to my pet sharks – who are strictly carnivores..

  4. mira says:

    Please note that the recommendation from the WHO, and the American academy of pediatrics for EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding is 6 months, babies still need breastmilk (or artificial milk) in addition to the introduction of solids until at least a year of age (aap), 2 years (who), or as long as is mutually desired. The world wide average age of weaning is over the age of 2.

  5. Manda says:

    Thanks Mira – I was just about to post that myself!

    Being a veggie mom (not vegan, but close… we eat eggs and the kids eat some cheese), I can relate to this article. I'm preparing to send my oldest off to school next month and I'm anticipating all KINDS of struggles. Thanks for the interesting read.

    • Emily Alex says:

      Thank you Manda and Mira for that correction! Especially interesting to know that the world-wide average age of weaning is over the age of two. I was not hoping to disparage breastfeeding in writing that — I admit I know little about nursing — but merely mentioning the "self weaning" method as one of three factors possibly contributing to Daisy's small size.

  6. ucallmedr_jones says:

    I think it's fine to responsibly raise a child as a veg AS LONG AS they're not being fed these fake chemical laden "meat-like" "cheese-like" frankenfoods or being pumped full of GMO soy. Unfortunately, when children see their friends eating pizza, chicken nuggets, ice cream and whatnot they want it too, and although those foods are unhealthy, sometimes the veganized versions can be even worse.

    • candicegarrett says:

      This is my conclusion too: veganisms is great. Processed fake meats and cheeses? Not great. Bad. Chemical soup even. Don't feed your kids that stuff. Feed them real, whole food.

    • ARCreated says:

      amen!!! real food. I'd rather see a person eat organic animal products than processed crap…I also would rather have us think in terms of local food than imported food, but that's a whole other oprah…

    • Frankie says:

      Yes! Actually I'd much MUCH rather have my children (and myself) eat eggs and even meat from locally sourced animals fed a healthy natural diet, than give them processed, packaged, colourless, and doubtlessly shipped mystery protein.

  7. Nic says:

    LOL…freudian slip. "…to conslusively prove…"

  8. Nic says:

    OMG! I'm hopeless…"…to conclusively prove…"

    Sorry to spam this thread.

  9. Wyatt says:

    The best brain foods are animal-sourced. DHA, Omega threes, choline, all the essential amino acids, all of these are best found in fish, eggs, and pastured meats. Our brains are made up of fat. Children need lots of healthy fats, especially saturated fats, to thrive. I know a lot of people disagree with this, but just think about what humans are genetically programed to consume in evolutionary terms – it ain't veggie nuggets. I respect all the vegetarians out there, but do your kids a favor and feed them lots of healthy (pastured or wild) meat and eggs.

    • NotSoSure says:

      Wyatt: The brain is not made up of fat as your post erroneously claims. The brain largest "ingredient" is water (78%).

      Also, human has evolved with the characteristics of herbivores. We chew with a sideways motion, have large stomachs and have extremely long intestines. All characteristics of plant eaters. The human canine tooth lacks the size, strength and sharpness of a true canine tooth.

      If you used nothing but the physical skills given to you by your genetics you would be unable to chase,catch, kill, rip apart or digest any animal. The only reason we can eat meat is that we have developed tools such as ballistic weapons for killing, knives for slicing and fire so that meat can be chemically altered in order to make it digestible.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Isn't it refreshing to read a balanced, unbiased article on such a controversial issue? (intro+link via Ben Ralston)
    #
    Matt Warnstedt But if I don't eat that cow, someone else will!! And damnit, steak is so damned delicious!!! I'm making one this weekend with a marinade I've never tried before. And if I had the money, I'd buy a cow at a local farm I respect here in Boulder.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    #
    JoDee Mitchell My mom raised me to be a curious, precocious, intelligent girl. She gave me the tools to do my own research. I became a vegetarian when I was a 8 and vegan years later. by her faith in me, love and just being mom, supportive and honest, she just let me be. I'll always love her for that! I love you, mom! ♥
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 4 peopleLoading…
    #
    Dustin Sullivan Calm down people. Everything in moderation. Animals have been eating each other for hundreds of millions of years. That doesn't mean we have to eat meat every meal, or even every day. But we are omnivores. I don't have an agenda to make vegans eat meat. Let go of your agenda to make people fit with your framework. It's selfish. It's not kindness. Everyone just do what you feel is right, and allow others to do what they feel is right. please.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading…
    #
    elephantjournal.com Calm down Dustin. Read the article before commenting. Please. ~ Ben Ralston
    7 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    #
    JoDee Mitchell LOL sorry Ben, I commented and I haven't read yet! I'm on my blackberry so I can't! :(
    7 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    #
    Rachel Bosch Gotta love those knee-jerk reactions!
    7 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 1 personLoading…
    #
    elephantjournal.com Hey, you don't have to read anything to tell the world how much you love your Mum! Ben
    7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personRachel Bosch likes this.
    #
    Dustin Sullivan You're right. I got preachy for a second. My apologies. Everyone be well and be happy. Much love Ben!
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    #
    elephantjournal.com No problem Dustin! Much love to you too my friend! ~ Ben
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    #
    Christina Soble I believe WHO actually recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and then for a minimum of two years in addition to solid foods. Interesting article.
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading…
    #
    Mira Clark I commented in the article, but the author is mistaken about breastfeeding recommendations – 6 months exclusive and then at least a year with the intro of solids (from the AAP), or at least 2 years (from the WHO).

  11. NNL says:

    You are completely misunderstanding the WHO's recommendation on breastfeeding. If you read your own link, you will see that they recommend EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding for 6 months – that means breastfeeding with no other food at all, not any and all breastfeeding. WHO, and every other organization I'm aware of, though, recommends continuing breastfeeding beyond that though. WHO I believe recommends breastfeeding AND giving other foods for at least 2 years, and to continue beyond that as long as mutually desired by both mother and child.

  12. Liz says:

    Great thought provoking and informative article Child rearing choices always hit a nerve. It is most important for any parent to be educated and informed about dietary choices for their children. The author brings up the very real fact that our current American meat-based diets are not very healthy for many reasons. Knowing what to feed a developing child is essential for physical as well as brain growth.

  13. Michelle says:

    What about PETA's Meet Your Meet is propaganda? It looks like the same facts about factory farming that any other organization shining a light on those practices puts out there.

  14. justvegan says:

    The answer to Daisy’s size needs to come ASAP, after a real check-up from a plant-based RD or MD (some were mentioned in these comments). Only Daisy’s guardian(s) can now make this happen. I hope they’re reading this.

    In terms of letting kids eat what they want I ask, Would you let them partake in enslaving, torturing, raping or murdering another human? No? Then why a non-human? If it’s based on intelligence, than why not the mentally handicapped? This rationalization may seem harsh only because we’ve been taught to treat non-humans as vastly different from us, but our true logic knows better. They’re individuals with unique personalities that deserve the freedom to live their lives as they see fit, the same that you and I want for our kids. And no one says they have to eat veggie chicken & GMO soymilk, just follow this rule, “If it has a label it ain’t healthy.”

    • Mia says:

      "If it's based on intelligence, than why not the mentally handicapped? This rationalization may seem harsh only because we've been taught to treat non-humans as vastly different from us, but our true logic knows better. They're individuals with unique personalities that deserve the freedom to live their lives as they see fit, the same that you and I want for our kids."

      Wow I love you, I had that thought just the other week, I rationalise the same way !

      Haven't voiced it though because most wouldn't understand the logic. Shame.

  15. Max says:

    Poor Daisy, what a sad and depressing story. A chicken's psychological welfare is NEVER more important than your daughter's physical well being.

  16. Suri kate says:

    I dont understand why someone would impose such. An extreme diet on their kids…. Is it really because it is "healthy"? How manu of those parents who think a vegan diet is the right choice are completely lost in their ideological thinking and threfore dont realize they might actually be harming their kids? Why not choose a more balanced diverse diet? What about the kids they dont get to choose? What Will happen if they choose not to be vegans when they grow up? Will their bodies adjust? What if this kind of diet turns out to be detrimental to their health and the consequences can only be seen in the long term like 10 years after? Why experiment with your kids just to get to say i'm vegan , my kids are vegan?!

    • marychiancola says:

      Do you realize the the ADA along with many other prominent member of the medical community (who probably know a little more than you), endorse a vegan diet as healthful and disease preventative? Meat, dairy and eggs have been show over and over and over again in loads of peer reviewed studies published in major medical journals, to cause a variety of problems. I'm certainly not "experimenting" with my kids just to get them to say their vegan. Get a clue. http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=835

    • Amanaceo says:

      because your "balanced diverse diet" requires killing and animal suffering. the world will be a more peaceful place if kids grew up learning this instead of gorging themselves on meat by default. FYI, generations of people have lived just fine with Vegetarian diets in India, and they are smarter than carnivores in general. Vegan is Vegetarian minus milk – think about it, it is unnatural to eat milk from another mammal.

  17. Karen says:

    There is an eight year old girl at the kids school who wears a bra because she is so developed and wears the same size clothes at our 14 year old……I wonder if her parents are likely to come under the same scrutiny and abuse as vegan parents cop all the time.

    Our kids (range from 4 years old to 16) are smack in the middle of the healthy range, are the fittest kids in the school and are very rarely sick…yet people question whether our vegan diet and lifestyle is a healthy choice.

    Eating meat kills more than the animal that died to be flesh on a plate…we're all looking forward to a long happy healthy life free from heart disease, bowel cancer and obesity.

    • Cat says:

      "There is an eight year old girl at the kids school who wears a bra because she is so developed and wears the same size clothes at our 14 year old…….I wonder if her parents are likely to come under the same scrutiny and abuse as vegan parents cop all the time. "

      Excuse me, but coming from a woman who at age 8 also wore a bra and adult clothing due to her size, that is NOT child abuse. For you to insinuate that is beyond insulting, both to me and my parents. That girl is already going to have a childhood filled with adults who shame her for the size and shape of her body, and she doesn't need you to add to it. Her body is none of your business.

    • boulderwind says:

      Growing acres and acres of soy to make your tofu and soy "meat" is not ecologically sustainable. Just another factor in the equation. http://www.foodfirst.org/node/1662

      • Sansara says:

        Well said, boulder. Monoculture is one of the most destructive forces of civilization and an abomination against nature.

    • boulderwind says:

      I know many overweight vegans who are overweight because they eat too many carbs because their body is so protein starved that they crave sugar and are always hungry. Their family may be vegan for all you know, so stop being so self righteous!

  18. Leslie O'Brien says:

    Interesting article since I am still breastfeeding my 11month old and plan to for a couple more years…. But he eats food and all kinds of food ……….If you restrict their diets at such a young age they will rebel and I personally would not subject my child to my rigid beliefs….. You gotta do what's best for the kid, man!!

  19. Rachel says:

    Great article. I have been vegan for years, but just recently started thinking about how it will work when i have children of my own. This was very informative, thank you!

    • Emily Alex says:

      Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. Is it your plan to raise your children vegan? How did the article and/or comments affect your thoughts on vegan parenting?

  20. boulderwind says:

    Looks also like the "Vegan Trolls" are out thumbs downing anything that does not coincide with their rigid belief systems. And for anyone who wants to know. I was vegetarian for 20 years, 5 of them vegan. I now eat meat and feel better than ever and no longer suffer from fatigue and excess weight which I did when I was veg and vegan and eating too many carbs. I am not against vegetarianism, but imposing veganism on a helpless child is unconscionable.

  21. [...] He brought fame to his family and was nicknamed, “Little Hercules.” However, beyond his bulging muscles, was a little boy that suffered lots of [...]

  22. EstrogenResearcher says:

    I don't have a problem with raising your child vegan, but it scares me that vegan and vegetarian children consume so much soy. Soy–GMO or not–is laden with phytoestrogens, compounds naturally found in plants that bind to estrogen receptors with various affinities. There is a grave lack of research examining elevated levels of phytoestrogens prenatally and through childhood, but they could influence everything from genital tract, brain, and bone development to precocious puberty, gynecomastia, and later cancers in both males and females. The National Institutes of Health have taken notice and recently awarded millions of dollars to research the potential detrimental effects of soy and other estrogenic botanicals, receiving staunch opposition from the food industry (ADM is even paying academic scientists to refute findings). If you or your child consume a diet high in soy, I urge you to look at the relevant research. And there is a ton of junk online, don't just google; go straight to the original research (PubMed, Web of Science, etc). Of course, the choice is still yours to consume soy, but at least be an informed consumer–for the sake of the health of you AND your child

  23. Yogamamam13 says:

    We are not vegan parents(mostly out of laziness and living in a small center without a lot of food options) but we are vegetarian parents who feed our kids very little in the way of dairy. They are both strong and healthy not to mention very smart. They eat a much wider variety of foods than any other kids we know, and we know a lot. Because they have been raised veggie they have been exposed to foods from lots of different cultures, with many different flavours. The kids ask for avocados and veggies as we wander the isles in the grocery store. I don't believe that it is okay to replace meat with processed soy products and in fact we don't eat much in the way of soy at all. We do eat lots of legumes, nuts, and sprouted grains. And like any healthy diet recommends we center our diet around vegetables.
    I believe that one of the best things you can do for any vegetarian or vegan child or any child for that matter is to give them the milk that was intended for them(breastmilk) for as long as you can. Both my kids self-weaned.
    I think it is refreshing to see kids that are thin, strong, energetic, healthy and happy raised on a plant based diet. Shouldn't we be working towards teaching our kids compassion for other living things including themselves and a huge part of that is eating consciously.

  24. claudia says:

    some people may be interested in this article http://www.shazzie.com/life/articles/raw_vegan_ch
    it's about raising children raw vegan food. it's scary the amount of lies people tell themselves in favour of their ideologies at the cost of their own children. there's just too much ego mindedness that people won't let go of. i think raising vegan kids can be done, but you NEED to supplement or make sure they're getting enough of everything.. vitamins B12, K2, D and DHA especially.. and no processed soy! unless it's fermented, like in natto, tempeh or miso.. same goes for adult vegans, personally i think those fake soy meats taste gross. i'm not fully vegan but vegetarian and don't really eat a lot of dairy because it gives me cramps (i think i'm lactose intolerant), and there are lots of yummy alternatives to soy milk like coconut milk, hemp or oat milk… vanilla coconut milk plus bananas put in a blender? dangerously delicious. throw in some super green powder and you've got a smoothie made of hyper bliss happiness. but that's just me- people just need to listen to their own bodies instead of some other self proclaimed authority. they may be telling their truth, but everyone has their own version of that right? anyway, this is such a rant, i apologize to anyone who actually cared to read this far.. :P

  25. special k says:

    Hi, Neat post. There is a problem with your website in web explorer, may test this? IE still is the marketplace chief and a huge part of people will pass over your wonderful writing due to this problem.

  26. Diet Plans says:

    I do love that more writers would make such meaningful writeups more often.

  27. mikeluque says:

    Can we please END THE MYTH that gorillas are vegans. ALL great apes, including gorillas, eat some small amounts of animal product. In the case of gorillas, it's usually termites, ants and grubs. Among our closest genetic relatives, there isn't a single vegan. It is unnatural to great apes. We're great apes.
    You sure may choose to be a vegan if you wish, but stop spreading unscientific misinformation.

  28. ken says:

    My kids eat meat and are healthy.

    They eat lots of veggies as well.

    Humans are omnivores, so there are many paths…..

    Most vegans I know look pale and seem to need a good feed. (Had one in a class who was always stealing food from other kids to "supplement" his diet. )

    My only quibble with vegan easting is the need for so many supplements to make up for the vegan diet, which seems to suggest a vegan diet is lacking in many nutrients for a child. (I can eat cardboard and supplement to stay alive).

    I like animals, so reducing animal intake is good, and treating animals raised for food with respect is important. (Wait a minute, that last sentence has my cat looking at me funny).

    Anyway, go vegans. Go vegetarians. Go meat lovers.

    Food can become a very political topic….to me it is no big deal. Pass the watercress.. and the hamburger.

  29. ale says:

    I'm not a mother yet but i am a teacher and i see how kids struggle to adapt when their classmates are not vegetarian/vegan. Not only is it socially awkward for most of them (they sometimes can't understand why they cannot have cake at a party!), but it also upsets their tummy :(
    I think i would personally not raise my children vegetarian or vegan, but i respect the people who choose this lifestyle for their children. I think it's easier to start children off with a balanced and healthy diet that includes meat, dairy and such and let them make the choice once they are able to understand the different lifestyles and benefits, but to each their own. For veggie and vegan moms out there: Most Montessori schools are very understanding of these lifestyle choices. They are, obviously, a more expensive schooling option, but the academic program is amazing and they will respect your lifestyle and supervise that the child doesn't go crazy for his or her classmates' twinkies…

  30. Emily Alex says:

    "You also need to reference that the alternative, i.e., animal based foods, accelerates or promotes growth and is of little or no detriment to health. "
    I do not believe that animal products are of little or no detriment to health.

    ""It remains a fact that general underdevelopment also entails slow brain development." — may I please have a reference?"
    Sure. From the US Nat'l Lib of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH00019
    "Expectations (prognosis): If the period of failure to thrive has been short, and the cause is determined and can be corrected, normal growth and development will resume. If failure to thrive is prolonged, the effects may be long lasting, and normal growth and development may not be achieved.
    Complications: Permanent mental, emotional, or physical delays can occur."

  31. Emily Alex says:

    What you said about growth hormones pervading the typical American diet and skewing the developmental milestones is a great point, and I totally agree. That is why it is important for vegan parents with small children to be comfortable sharing that information.

  32. Emily Alex says:

    "I actually find this article to be quite biased. Despite the fact that Emily is herself vegan, she begins by telling us that she is skeptical about veganism for children."
    Are you implying that, as a vegan, I must necessarily agree with everything that other vegans do? If so, that is ridiculous. Skepticism is not a bias; it is a questioning attitude, and that is the fundament of journalism.
    I think, also, that you are coming to the wrong conclusion about my conclusion.
    For the most part, I am in agreement with what you and some of the other respondents who have come to the defense of veganism have written. As I say in the article, two out of three of my interviews supported the argument I'd originally wanted to make: that, as you say, "eggs are not the answer" and so on. Only the third gave me pause. I am not discouraging vegan parenting. I am not concluding that your decision to raise your children vegan is the wrong one — not at all. Nor am I implying that Debra's staunch committment to her ethical views is irresponsible parenting. I was merely looking to open up an honest, open and informative dialogue that would not immediately slip into a defensive tone.
    I recognize that it is difficult to have your lifestyle come under scrutiny. As Jenifer says above,"being a mom — you get judged for EVERYTHING, all the time."
    That said, I am truly glad that you were willing to take part in my interview and that I was able to include your input in this debate. I also thank you sincerely for expanding on that in your above comment, and especially for providing that excellent citation from the A.D.A.

    Best,

    Emily Alex

  33. Nic says:

    Thank you for your links and your reply! :)

  34. eve says:

    Thank you for your comment.
    In 2011 do you really believe that we are in danger of being food to another animal? Not only do humans eat 65 billion animals a year, we also destroy their habitats and kill them in numerous other ways.

    A "circle of life" – to me this seems like a comforting old myth that does not apply to the modern world. we have dominated the planet. there is almost 7 billion people on the planet. We are using 1.5 planets worth of resources. In 2050 there will be 9 billion on this planet, over 1 billion humans will suffer malnutrition as there is already a food shortage.

    Livestock agriculture is an incredibly wasteful use of water – even if it is grass fed and "humane". It wastes 90% of plant proteins to cycle them thru an animal. you can feed 10x the number of people on a plant based diet.

    Even at "humane" organic dairy farms, cows are kept constantly pregnant, calves are removed from their mothers and male calves are turned into beef or veal. They are still hung upside down, have their throats slit and bleed to death, often while fully conscious.
    I could never as a mother, steal the milk of another mother, along with her calf so I could feed my child milk after they were weaned.
    "Humane slaughter" is an oxymoron.
    I applaud your self-education but encourage you to keep your heart and mind open.

  35. marychiancola says:

    I'm not sure why anyone would want to look to wild animals for lessons on morality…do lions, tigers and bears "morally consider whether or not an antelope requires freedom"…probably not, but why in the world does that excuse humans from behaving ethically. Wild animals don't have a choice… they kill and eat other animals for survival. We have a choice. Humans are endowed with the cognitive capacity to understand that all animals experience pain and suffering, we know that there are healthy, cruelty free options available to us.

  36. marychiancola says:

    While there may be others paths to health, in addition to being proven as a healthful and possibly disease preventative lifestyle, veganism is a truly compassionate choice that seeks to not cause unneccessary pain, suffering and death. Why should we kill when there is a proven healthy alternative? Do animals have so little inherent value that it is acceptable to kill them simply because we like the way they taste? By the way, no offense taken about your breastfeeding comments, I never told the interviewer anything about breastfeeding my own kids, it just never came up, so the mother(s) in the article talking about breastfeeding weren't me.
    All the best,
    Mary

  37. marychiancola says:

    While you're correct that the word propaganda doesn't necessarily mean spouting untruths…it is commmonly used to describe information that is of a "biased or misleading nature".

    prop·a·gan·da/ˌpräpəˈgandə/Noun1. Information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
    2. The dissemination of such information as a political strategy.

  38. Max says:

    Perhaps you didn't actually read the article, according to the mother (perhaps on advice from her pediatric dietician); “Yeah, I know that if she were eating eggs, we wouldn’t have this… problem.” However, “I’m simply not comfortable with taking an egg from a chicken without her consent."

    My comment stands.

  39. boulderwind says:

    If Daisy's health and FTT is an issue, then OBVIOUSLY something is not working. Nutrition is often the first place to look to make adjustments as it is the cornerstone of health. Even if they find a chronic infection as a factor in her FTT, bolstering her nutrition with more protein, animal if necessary would be a rational place to start to support the immune system, for an example. A good parent would be willing to change up and experiment with a less rigid diet. A negligent fundamentalist vegan parent would keep doing what they are doing expecting different results. That is the definition of insanity.

  40. lisa says:

    Hi Bea…thanks for your feedback..however, there is no such thing as ONE healthy diet that is best for all on the planet. period. even The Dalai Lama eats fish now due to health concerns. My diet has evolved for many years to one that is optimally healthy and compassionate to myself and other living beings. I can only speak for myself when I say that a vegan diet is far from healthy for me. In fact, according to some studies, only about 1/3rd of people truly thrive with optimal health as a 100% vegan. Mercola.com is one of many websites which have many articles with backed up research to cite sources. If one is lectin intolerant in general, then consuming adequate nutrients as a vegan is virtually impossible.

    I do think factory farming of animals is cruel and inhumane and should be eliminated entirely…unfortunately, though, due to $$$ and demand, I sadly doubt that will happen any time soon.

    It is far from self serving, unwise, and unkind for me to work towards having a long and healthy life…and yes, that does mean ingesting some animal products (though VERY minimal, never factory farmed, and all organic with animal and plant food whenever possible). Putting my best interest first when it comes to these matters has enabled me to have a productive life and be a good mom, daughter, sister, aunt, and yoga teacher.

  41. lisa says:

    Bea…I have no agenda other than optimaal health for each person based on their own biochemical individuality. I am not a fan of "killing" though I know in the world, the natural flow of things generally result on plants and animals dying in order for others to live. It's a fact. Mercola is a scientist and researcher and offers great information. I also have brilliant professors, scholars, who are my mentors, who back up much of the science of Mercola, Weston Price, etc. Yes, the body DOES know. To help you in your "confusion" surrounding my comment differentiating chicken from meat..perhaps simply saying "red meat" would have clarified? I was just attempting to be clear to separate poultry from the red meat of cows. Sorry if that was so confusing for you.

  42. lisa says:

    Michelle..while I do not subscribe to all of what Mercola says, he is correct in many things…he is a salesman and I realize that. As is most everyone. He is correct in some of the info re. immunizations, skin cancer/sunscreens, and microwaves. Perhaps you need to read some of the studies from which he draws information…as for Wikipedia..now THAT'S a source I use quite rarely due to the misinformation it spreads. That said..I never throw the baby out with the bath water…there are pearls of wisdom to gleam from Mercola no matter what one thinks about some of his more alternative views. Even Dr. Oz had him on his show…a mainstream TV show at that. That says something..that people are starting to listen to him and take him seriously. even my school uses a few of his articles in its curriculum.

  43. Sansara says:

    Soy and grain should not be fed to ungulates. They should eat grass.

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