Are Vegan Kids Deprived?
I want to preface this blog by saying I love you all.
Everyone is deserving of love.
Everyone is deserving of love no matter what they eat, what they look like, how much money they make, what car they drive, their sexual orientation, their skin color, their species, or their lifestyle. Everyone deserves love.
The reason I am writing this blog is not to put anyone down, or to make anyone feel bad. The reason I am writing this blog is because there are parents out there who want to raise vegan families, but are afraid to. They believe that they will be depriving their children, their children will be underweight, unhealthy kids, and that they will be doing harm to them.
They believe this because of huge misconceptions out there in the media on the vegan lifestyle.
I am writing this blog to show my experience with this lifestyle, to debunk the myths, to answer questions from nay-sayers, and to encourage anyone who wants to raise their family this way.
If you think this blog will anger or upset you, please, I invite you to skip it. Don’t read it. This message may not be for you, and that is ok.
The majority of the comments that I receive on my blog, YouTube, and Instagram are encouraging, uplifting, supportive, and curious. Overall, it is a beautiful community that I enjoy being a part of.
However, lately, I have been receiving a few comments on my YouTube channel saying “it is awful to force Kaia to be vegan”, “you are depriving Kaia of yummy foods”, and “kids need meat and dairy to grow healthy.”
The comments have been mostly friendly. They don’t discourage or upset me, however, they have got me thinking… and so I am writing my thoughts down in this blog to share with you.
^ Look at how happy & healthy Kaia is!!
Today Kaia is exactly 2 years and 3 months old. She is in the 95th percentile for height and weight and has been that way since she was 1 month old. She was born at almost 38 weeks gestation weighing in at 7lbs 2oz, and 19 ½ inches long.
As a new born, Kaia was exclusively breastfed (meaning she had my breast milk + nothing else) until she was 9 months old. Her first foods were avocado, banana, and green smoothies at 9-12 months old. She has never eaten rice cereal, teether crackers, cheerios, cookies, or any thing that comes from a box, or packet, in the baby aisle.
Kaia has never had breast milk from a cow, never eaten meat from an animal, cow milk cheese, or chicken eggs. She’s grown from a newborn to a toddler on my breast milk, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes alone. That’s it!
To this day she has healthy eyes, ears, teeth (besides the one she knocked out during a terrible fall), clear beautiful skin, thick strong hair that’s grown longer than most kids her age, she is strong, has great muscle tone, she hits every milestone, she’s happy, healthy, and enjoys eating the foods we give her!
Also, she rarely gets sick. As a young baby Kaia was never once sick, never once had a cough, runny nose, eczema, ear infection, fever, or any of the ‘normal’ baby ailments. Her first cold wasn’t until she was over ten months old, and it only lasted for two days.
Kaia has a healthy, strong immune system, which even her wonderful (and meat-eating) doctor is impressed by.
That’s not to say that I think Kaia is super human. To be fair, I also want to list some of the ailments that she did have. When she was a few weeks old she had colic for a few days, she also had diaper rash (which coconut oil cleared up), and when she was one years old she had the common flu, and roseola.
I’m not trying to convince you that Kaia is in perfect health, or that everyone should raise their child this way. What I am trying to do is show my experience with raising a vegan child, and how it is possible for vegan children to be healthy. Of course, there are also tons of other things to consider when it comes to the health of a child. For instance, exposure to environmental toxins, air pollution, pesticide exposure, GMOs, genetics, exposure to disease, cleanliness, and the amount of care, love, and skin-to-skin contact a baby receives.
If you believe that humans can’t live (or thrive) off of plant foods alone Kaia is living proof that it’s possible! I am living proof that it’s possible! Along with many other families who live this lifestyle. There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of other families raising their children this way. A quick search of the hash tag #vegankids on Instagram will show you!
The truth is that eating animal products is NOT necessary to live a long and happy life! In fact, from my perspective, eating meat, cheese, milk and eggs is not healthy, or natural at all. (There’s research to back this up as well, but we will get to this later.)
It never occurred to me that Kaia would be “deprived” (as some people like to put it).
I, personally, was raised on processed foods, meat, cheese, milk, and eggs, and have been spending the past five years trying to rid myself of the addictions that I have to them. Does eating processed foods make our lives better? Or does it make it worse?
I see so many people struggle with ditching these addictive processed foods.
My family members, friends, past co-workers, and even my husband and I have all struggled to let go of the addictions we have to these unhealthy foods. So my question is- why would I want to start Kaia on them?
It’s no secret that processed foods are not good for our health. I think that most people know that now. Yet, we still feed them to our children, and then when they turn into adults doctors tell them that they need to change their eating habits to eat more fruits and veggies. Doesn’t that seem backwards?
When we eat these unhealthy foods in childhood we create emotional ties to them. In other words: We become addicted to them, and it becomes challenging to give them up as adults. Eating processed foods that are high in salt/oil/refined sugar changes the way that food tastes to us. Fruits and veggies suddenly taste bland. Our pallets became used to eating such unnaturally sweet and salty foods.
So, of course fruits and veggies taste bad to us! Of course we don’t want to eat them. Of course we will choose the processed foods the natural foods, right? It’s what our bodies were trained to crave.
Knowing this, how can I start my child down a path I believe will have her addicted to unhealthy foods, just as I was?
If you have an open mind I would like to introduce you to some research that may surprise you.
The China Study, and Whole are research books both written by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. In these book Dr. Campbell talks about the link between drinking cows breast milk and cancer cell growth. He also talks about how cow’s breast milk leaches calcium from the bones (even though cows milk has been marketed as a source of calcium).
Then there is Dr. Eilstein who has made a connection between meat consumption and heart disease.
If you combined these two doctor’s findings together they have found that a whole food, plant based (vegan) diet can reverse and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Isn’t that pretty amazing? What other thing on Earth can do that?
An amazing thing about these two doctors is that they both grew up on farms. Dr. Campbell actually grew up on a dairy farm, and then later was brave enough to come forward with the research that he found proving that drinking cow’s milk causes cancer cell growth.
If you don’t have the time to read the studies then I urge you to watch “Forks Over Knives”, its a documentary about these doctors on Netflix.
There is also the Physicans Committee for Responsible Medicine. This is a committee of physicians who are trying to educate other physicians on the importance of a plant based (vegan) diets for adults and children. (Read article here).
Although, more important than the research: What are our bodies telling us?
Our bodies are more intelligent that our minds. Our bodies know more than we think we know. When we eat certain foods, we can feel how bad they make us feel. You probably know the feeling- the gas, the stomach aches, the heart burn, the lethargy, the sluggishness, the weight gain, and so on. I feel that the reason our bodies respond like this to certain foods is because we are not meant to be eating them.
When I was eating a lot of processed foods I used to think that these ailments were simply a normal part of digestion. Now that I eat a whole food, plant based diet; I can feel the way digestion is meant to feel. It is painless, effortless, and I feel great.
So, what exactly am I “depriving” Kaia of? The answer, in my eyes, is food addictions, bad eating habits (and a lifetime of trying to break bad eating habits), obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
When someone comments on how Kaia should be able to choose her own foods, I try to find a way to explain the way I feel about this, but to put it into written word is difficult. So, I’ll try.
I think it’s important to say that Kaia does choose her own foods. Only…. the foods she chooses from are all from the plant kingdom. She enjoys all of the foods that she eats, and is happy when she gets her favorite foods, just like most kid are.
The way my husband and I feel about processed foods, meat, cheese, milk, and eggs is that they are not exactly human foods. I don’t feel that our bodies were designed to drink the breast milk of another species, eat the cycle of a chicken, or to chase down an animal and rip it apart with our teeth.
We know that eating animal foods causes dozens of health issues in the human body, and some of them as serious as heart disease and cancer. If we were designed to be eating animal foods, why would our bodies respond so poorly to them?
A few decades ago it wasn’t publicly known that smoking cigarettes caused cancer. Doctors were even telling their patients that smoking cigarettes was OK. So many people smoked cigarettes thinking it wasn’t harmful, even teenagers. In fact, teenagers in high school were allowed to leave their classes to go smoke a cigarette.
Today? We know better. We know that smoking causes cancer. So now, instead of letting our teenagers smoke cigarettes we put them in drug awareness classes, and teach them NOT to smoke cigarettes.
I truly believe that one day it will be common knowledge that processed foods, meat, cheese, milk and eggs are bad for our health.
Until then, I have to do my best to raise my daughter in a way that I feel is best for her. Even if others feel differently, this is the way that I feel, and I have to raise my daughter accordingly.
Other parents may feel different about eating animal prodcuts, and that is ok. They may believe that eating meat and dairy is good for human health, and if they believe that they should feed animal products to their children. Every parent should be able to raise their children how they see fit. As long as children are happy and healthy that’s all that matters.
Another comment I get is that it is “terrible” to “force” Kaia to be raised on the vegan lifestyle.
My response to this is that every parent guides their children to live a life that is a reflection of their own beliefs (or philosophies) on life.
For example, parents raise their children in religions, celebrating holidays, sending them to public school, being fed meat, and so on, because the parents believe that this is what is best for them. Are parents “forcing” their children to do these things as well? Or are they just being loving parents who want to raise their children up in the way they see fit?
Raising a child on a vegan lifestyle is no different. My husband and I are raising Kaia in a way that aligns with our philosophies on life, and because we believe it is the healthiest way to eat. Why would we raise her any other way?
I feel that it wouldn’t make sense for my husband and I to believe that animals are not meant to be eaten by humans, and deserve freedom to live, and then feed them to her.
I also feel it wouldn’t make sense for my husband and I to eat healthy organic fruits and veggies (and believe it is the healthiest way to eat) and then feed our daughter candy, cake, hamburgers, and French fries. Would it?
Parents are responsible for our children’s well being from birth to adulthood. We are only trying to raise Kaia in a way that we feel will set her up for a lifetime of healthy habits, respect for the Earth and animals, self love, and gratitude. These are the things that I am working on in my own life, and what I would love for Kaia to experience in this lifetime.
(Above photos: Kaia feeding and connecting with the lambs at Popcorn Park… a sanctuary for unwanted animals from lions to deers to dogs.)
Another comment that I receive is that Kaia will eventually eat processed foods when she gets older.
Yes, this is probably true. Unfortunately, processed foods are a part of our society, and Kaia will probably be curious about them.
Even now, Kaia is only two years old and random strangers come up to her and give her candy bars, lollipops, cheese crackers, ice cream, you name it. We can’t even go to the bank without lollipops appearing in the drive-thru tube.
Kids are famous for eating junk food, aren’t they? Why is that? Kids don’t naturally eat junk food. They don’t come out of the womb in search for candy. The truth is that they don’t even know what candy is until we introduce it to them….sometimes even forcefully. I have seen many times where parents force birthday cake into a one year olds mouth to get the infamous first birthday cake photograph. But why?
Once, our family went to an open house for an Acupuncturist. They were serving vegan food, and of course we were excited. Then, one of the women looked at Kaia and said to me, “She probably won’t eat any of these healthy foods, I can get her chocolate pudding from the back.” Kaia didn’t even know what pudding was, and instead went straight for the veggies, dip, and gourmet raw foods.
Kids don’t have to eat junk food. It doesn’t have to be this way.
For now, we’ve found a way to help Kaia get the feel of what other kids are eating without compromising her health. We give her raw vegan kale chips, home made raw vegan cupcakes (that I made at her 2nd birthday party), and raw vegan cookies made from dates.
I’m sure as Kaia gets older, she will experiment and try some processed, or animal foods; but there’s no reason I need to give them to her now. I would rather give her healthy eating habits, and a place to return to after she experiments.
I plan on educating her on where her food comes from, and allowing her to make her own choices. If she chooses not to be vegan, I will support her decision. I feel the most beautiful gift a parent can give their children is unconditional love, acceptance, and support.
(Above photo: Kaia eating a Brad’s Raw Kale Chip)
The last comment I want to talk about is that Kaia will be “deprived” of “yummy” processed foods and animal products.
I have found through my own experiences that fruits and vegetables taste really good.
The reason why kids, and many adults, don’t enjoy their fruits and veggies is because they were introduced to heavily processed, artificially sweet, high in refined sugar foods.
As mentioned above, these foods interfere with the way fruits and veggies taste to us. They make them taste bland, and crappy. So, of course we would think that kids would be deprived of yummy food. Because, we don’t know what REAL fruit can taste like!
To a child, everything is new, so everything tastes the way nature intended it to. To introduce highly addictive, over sweet foods will actually be depriving Kaia from tasting the natural sweetness of real foods.
This is what I have found to be true for myself. As a kid I ate a lot of fast food and candy, which I craved as an adult. After five years of transitioning to a whole food plant based diet I can taste the difference in my fruits and veggies. They taste so much sweeter, and savory, now that I don’t eat processed foods.
Furthermore, Kaia LOVES her fruits and veggies. She gets so excited when we open up a coconut. She does a happy dance and everything!
You can see her joy in the photograph above. She is not a “deprived” child.
Being happy and healthy is the goal in life, is it not? If Kaia is happy, healthy, and thriving that is all that matters to me. Debating which lifestyle is best is not helpful to anyone. Every family is unique, and will live their lives differently. I’m here to show you that this lifestyle can create happy, healthy children. Let’s not create unnecessary fear. The (whole foods plant based) vegan lifestyle works for our family. It can work for your family. It can work for any family who wants to try it. There is no reason to be afraid.
If we give our children breast milk, and a rainbow of fruits and veggies (+ love and laughter), they will be ok.
It’s what they were meant to eat anyway!
Disclaimer (because its 2015, and the world is crazy): I’m not saying that anyone should copy my lifestyle, and do everything that I do. Every person, and every child is unique and needs unique care. I am only showing that my daughter is happy, healthy, and thriving on this lifestyle, and that it is possible contrary to the popular belief that it is not. I encourage everyone to do their own research on this subject.