"The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” - Gandhi
***Disclaimer - for all the grammar nazi's out there, there will no doubt be mistakes in this blog post that you will come across, so if you want to help me, outside of criticising my writing, just message me on Facebook and let me know where I've made mistakes and I'll come back later and fix them up! :-) I'm currently racing against bedtime to get this out to you and I'm doing my absolute best but, I'm also a human mum currently negotiating with two small children as I write this up for you out of the goodness of my heart. Please be kind.
Ok, so I'm one of those weird non hippy, non hipster, misfits who feels completely out of my comfort zone identifying with any social group outside of maybe... 'Dorks'?..
But, nevertheless I went vegan for the animals, for my health and for the planet one morning at around 5:30am.
I remember it so clearly. I was lying in bed with my 5 month old snuggled in my arms breastfeeding. I was stroking his hair and feeling his teeny thumb wrapped around my finger, watching him closely as he looked so blissful and safe there in my arms. I remember thinking to myself: 'No mother has ever loved their baby as much as I love you'.
I laughed quietly to myself as I acknowledged the fact that ALL mothers love their babies as much as I loved my little Iggy.
As I lay there contemplating, I imagined mothers from all across the World lying in bed feeding their babies, hearts overflowing, so deeply in love with these tiny humans they had made. I imagined mothers from all races, all places and across all of history looking at their babies and feeling that love pouring from their hearts and it filled my heart with an overflowing sense love and compassion for these mothers I had never met.
These mothers suddenly became my sisters, my ancestors, my community in this incredible journey that is motherhood and in that moment, for some reason, I stretched that idea further...
If all mothers loved their children as I loved my son, then why had I left some mothers out?..
What about cow mothers?
They are pregnant for the exact same length of time as human mothers and it has been proven time and again that they connect with, care for and nurture their young when left alone to do so and that they grieve as we do for their young when separated.
As a breastfeeding mother, the thought of someone forcibly impregnating me and taking my baby immediately after its birth so that they could imprison me and steal the breast milk that had been intended for my baby that I had spent nine long months waiting to meet. I thought of that baby being sold off to veal farmers who would keep it confined for a brief period before slitting its throat when it was still only a few weeks old to ensure the meat was tender and perfect for human consumption. I thought of another baby that would be sold for beef and how it would be fattened with grasses or grains for a little longer, 12 months, before it too was sent to slaughter.
I imagined how twice daily they would force me into those milking sheds for the remainder of my life. The milk I made for those babies that I would never get to nurture, never get to watch play and frolic, the milk I made for those babies would be fed to humans, far past the age of weaning.
It seems so utterly barbaric, and yet, before that moment, these mothers had never crossed my mind...
I thought about the mother sheep who are bred to supply wool for human clothing and blankets and who get to spend around 1 year loving and nurturing their babies before those babies are sold off, still babies to have their throats slit, to become that lamb roast Australians look forward to each Sunday.
We all know 'lamb' means baby sheep.
It means baby.
A mothers baby.
And yet, these mothers and these babies had not once entered my thoughts before that moment.
I went on and on that morning thinking of all the mothers, ALL the mothers, raped, forcibly impregnated, confined, tortured, beaten and abused day after day, minute after minute, all across the world. These mothers who never get to nurture and love their babies, unable to protect them from their terrifying fate at the hands of slaughterhouse workers.
I imagined my son frightened and alone, taken from my arms and imprisoned in a cold, dark shed far away from me...
Did you know pigs have the intelligence of a three year old human child?
My son Theo is 3.
Theo would without question suffer if he was to be taken from me, he would feel terror. Theo would know I was missing, that he wasn't safe, that something awful was happening to him.
These mothers and babies may not be the same species as us, they may not look like us, communicate like us or desire to live in the ways that humans do, but that doesn't mean they don't love their babies like we do and desperately want to keep them from harm. These babies need their mothers, just the same as human babies need their mothers.
All creatures long to be safe, to be fed, to live in peace and to be free from exploitation and abuse regardless of species.
In the wee hours of that morning I stroked my sons cheeks and cradled him closer while I wept for all the mothers across the world, regardless of species, who are unable to nurture and protect their own little 'Iggy's'.
So that was the moment I became vegan, but it wasn't straight forward.
I assumed at the time that once I told my husband of my realisation, he would immediately make the switch with me, and although he supported my decision, he simply didn't feel the way I felt, he couldn't put himself in the place of the animals and he did not want to become vegan himself. I found this really hard initially as I had always thought him to be an empathetic man and I thought as soon as he learnt the truth of what was happening to these creatures, that his heart would break like mine had and he'd be on board.
I had to learn that not everyone comes to veganism the same way, that it can take time (sometimes more than you'd like) and that some people will never become vegan.
That was 6 years ago now and this year is the first year my husband has made the decision for himself, not to eat any animal foods. I'm not sure he'd classify himself as 'vegan' yet, but it's a huge and awesome step for him. But he had to take that step himself and the more I rammed it down his throat, the more I pushed him away from veganism.
Thankfully, he had supported me in raising out children vegan as he'd seen the benefits it had made with my Multiple Sclerosis and so he agreed to us living in a vegan household and ate vegan with us at home during those 6 years, which was where about 95 percent of his meals came from.
For 6 years my husband had been consuming a vegan diet 95% of the time and noticed during this time that his chronic hay fever slowly disappeared, his regular illnesses decreased, his weight went down and an he had an increase in energy. It was these improvements that played a big part in getting him to finally take a vegan diet seriously.
For him, his health improvements were the incentive he needed to make the switch.
For everyone it's different.
Some people go vegan as an attempt to take action against climate change, they want to live more sustainably and are wanting to make an ethical decision for the future of our planet.
For some they discover the suffering of the animals and they can no longer participate in this suffering any longer. They no longer want to pay for and perpetuate demand for these industries that prosper on the backs of imprisoned mothers and murdered babies.
They make a moral decision to live a kinder life, a cruelty free life for the animals.
I went plant-based n 2008 when MS had left me numb from the waist down (Note: 'plant-based' is different from Veganism, as you can be plant-based without any concern for the animals). I was still eating seafood and consuming egg whites and honey, as I was plant-based only as a means to help in my recovery from MS. It took me until that morning in 2012, four years later, to make the connection to the animal mothers, to the babies and to make the decision to move from plant-based to Vegan.
This decision profoundly changed my life and my way of viewing the world.
For the first time, rather than seeing different races, different species, different cultures, I noticed the connectedness of everything. I noticed the intrinsic love within everyone, within everything on earth. I saw it in the plants, the waterways, I saw it in the birds, my children, strangers on the tram. I saw it in the clouds, in the breeze, in the rain and in the faces of those who I had previously disliked.
That love is there whether we believe another worthy of it or not.
That love was within me.
It was in every choice I made in life about what to put on my plate and into my body.
That choice was so simple.
Love or Conditioning?
Love or Habit?
Love or another mother's suffering?
Love or another babies body on my plate?
The choice was simple, but I didn't know any vegan mothers at that time. I didn't know if it was possible to raise a happy, healthy vegan child.
Could it even be done?
What could be the possible side effects?
Would they be malnourished?
Would they get sick or have a weak immune system?
Would they fail to thrive?
These questions are every loving mothers worst fears and rightfully so, which is why I thought I'd write this article for all you mothers out there considering raising your baby or child as a vegan.
"People will stare. Make it worth their while". - Harry Winston
So firstly I wanted to ease your mind and let you know it IS 100% possible to raise healthy vegan kids.
But, I want to preface this by saying - don't try to 'wing it'.
***When I talk about a 'vegan diet' in the confines of this article, I'm referring to a whole food, plant-based/vegan diet and not a vegan diet which involves vast quantities of refined sugars, salts, fats and grains. I do not recommend a standard vegan or non vegan diet involving refined sugars, salts, fats and grains as optimal for children.***
So what are the benefits of a well planned, whole food, vegan diet for children when compared to the standard Western Diet?
Some of the key take aways from that article are as follows:
- An over 30% reduction in hypertension amongst vegans and vegetarians, which means that vegans and vegetarians are at a much lower risk for experiencing heart attack or stroke later in life. As Heart Disease is the number 1 killer across the globe, a 30 percent plus decrease in our risk for developing hypertension is a huge gift we can give to our young children.
- Lower Cholesterol. Many people think that the science advising to avoid saturated animal fats to lower cholesterol and improve heart health has been 'debunked' however, this is simply not the case. Having elevated Cholesterol increases the risk of developing Heart Disease or having a Stroke and a vegan diet has been shown to reduce Cholesterol by 24.3 percent which can be the difference between life and death.
- Cancer rates for vegans are 25 to 50 percent lower than the rest of the population even after factoring in for smoking, body mass index and socioeconomic status. This means when we raise our children vegan we are protecting them by almost half from developing Cancer later in life. These Cancers include: breast, lung, colon, bladder, stomach, mouth, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, and cervical Cancers.
A 50 percent reduction.
This essentially means continuing to feed our children a non vegan diet is doubling their risk of developing these forms of Cancers.
- Obesity. Most western societies are now hovering at around 70 percent obesity and are relying on the myth of moderation along with sheer will power as the solution to the overfed and under nourished problem today's society has created for our children. Obesity is common. We all know someone or have been someone who is overweight or obese. When something is common, it becomes easy to normalise it. Except obesity is a major contributor to many of today's chronic diseases such as Heart Disease, Stroke, some forms of Cancer, Hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes and many others. Vegans on average weigh 10 percent less than omnivores and those consuming the standard western diet.
- Fun Fact! Plant-based diets tend to lead to young women experiencing their first menstruation at a later age which has been found to decrease their risk for developing breast cancer.
- Whole fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants which protect our bodies from oxidative damage and as a result, further protects our bodies from developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and many forms of Cancer as mentioned above.
Now you get why you're doing your baby a huge favour raising them vegan, so where do you start?
Step 1. EDUCATE YOURSELF.
Dr Michael Greger who spends his life working with researchers wading through all the latest in nutrition science and sharing his findings over at his website NutritionFacts.org is a great place to start your journey educating yourself and increasing your confidence in a whole food, vegan/plant-based diet. Dr Greger also has been interviewed on the topic of raising healthy vegan kids previously and you can watch him talking about it HERE.
Research! Research! Research!
You will most likely get push back from family, kids, friends, coworkers and societym so in those early days, keep following the evidence for why this way of eating and raising your children is not only healthier for your children, but also better for the animals and the future of the planet that your babies will inherit.
For much of your nutrition concerns check out: veganhealth.org
What The Health (Yeah, yeah, it uses a lot of Hyperbole, but the message is the same regardless - the diet we've been eating is slowly killing us and a whole food, plant-based/vegan diet is the solution to pretty much everything. ) Now you should also watch: Forks Over Knives because it's my personal favourite and also because it follows two incredible plant-based doctors - Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr T. Colin Campbell and their work preventing chronic disease and is truly inspirational.
Now if you want to further solidify your stance on raising your children vegan, there are so many great documentaries out there but a few I would recommend are:
The Earthlings and Dominion documentaries which highlight the horrors found within Australian and American factory farms and slaughter houses and are heavy watching but, incredibly powerful viewing for anyone wanting to know more about what happens to farmed animals the world over.
Please take the time to watch and share this information with your family and friends. The animals depend on us being their voices.
Now for those wanting more information about the environmental impact of animal agriculture and protecting the planet for our children, Cowspiracy is a powerful documentary that talks about the impact animal agriculture has on our oceans, forests, carbon emissions and the future of Earth as a whole and is definitely not to be missed by anyone who is interested in environmental sustainability.
YouTube is an amazing resource for educating yourself about the health benefits of a vegan diet and is filled with the likes of:
Dr Caldwell Esselstyn - Author of the acclaimed book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease which has helped so many people to prevent and in many cases heal from heart disease. Dr Esselstyn was featured in the Forks Over Knives Documentary and he was also Episode 20 on my When Life Gives You Lemons, Go Vegan! Podcast over on iTunes and Stitcher App for Android check his episode out HERE.
Dr T. Colin Campbell - Author of The China Study and featured in Forks Over Knives Documentary. Dr Campbell is a Biochemist who specialises in the impact of nutrition on long term health and chronic disease, currently working as a professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. Dr Campbell is also the creator of the six week Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from eCornell, an online certificate program that provides you with a wealth of information regarding the why and how of eating a plant-based diet for anyone wanting more knowledge for themselves and their families. I cannot recommend this course highly enough.
Dr Neal Barnard - Dr Barnard is the author of several best selling books including Dr Neal Barnard's Program For Reversing Diabetes and Power Foods For The Brain. Dr Barnard is a fellow with the American College of Cardiology and also the President and Founder at the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an incredible resource for both physicians and the general public to discover all the latest research and information regarding diet and lifestyle medicine. According to the PCRM website, the 'staff of physicians, dietitians, and scientists are working with policymakers, industry, the medical community, the media, and the public to create a better future for people and animals'.
Dr Dean Ornish - Dr Ornish is an American Physician and researcher and President and Founder at Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California. A Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, Dr Ornish is also the author of several life changing books such as Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease and through Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Dr Ornish supports people to 'undo' their Heart Disease with his life changing program which focuses on Diet, Exercise, Mindfulness and Connection.
Dr Michael Greger - Dr Greger is an American Physician, an author and a professional public speakerm focusing on health issues through his website and YouTube channel NutritionFacts.org . In 2004 the American College of Lifestyle Medicine was formed in Loma Linda California and Dr Greger was a founding member. Recently, Dr Greger published an incredible plant-based nutrition guide in his book How Not To Die and the related smart phone Daily Dozen App helping people to effortlessly ensure they are getting all the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to avoid chronic disease and thrive on a plant-based diet.
Dr Doug Lisle - Dr Lisle is the co-author of one of my favourite books The Pleasure Trap: Mastering The Hidden Force That Undermines Health And Happiness This book is essential reading for anyone who struggles with food addiction and compulsive eating and the pleasure trap that keeps us stuck in this cycle of over consumption. Dr Lisle is a Clinical Psychologist and founder at Esteem Dynamics where he developed a new method of approaching human psychology and wellbeing and uses this method in his work collaborating with the world renowned, TrueNorth Health Center , Dr McDougall's Health and Wellness Centre, Engine2Diet and the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
Dr John McDougall - Dr McDougall is an American Physician and author of numerous books including two of my favourites: The Starch Solution and The McDougall Program For Ultimate Weightloss. Dr McDougall is also the founder at Dr. McDougall's Right Foods Inc. The McDougall Program is a 10-day residential treatment program based in Santa Rosa, California, which features a low-fat, starch-based diet and has had some very impressive results for the patients attending.
Dr Michael Klaper - Dr Klaper is an American Physician, Nutrition in Medicine speaker and author of several books including: Pregnancy, Children and The Vegan Diet . Dr Klaper has had a facinating and varied career, recently retiring from his position at the life changing True North Health Center where he supported patients through water fasting and healing chronic diseases with a low fat, whole food, plant-based diet.
Dr Alan Goldhamer - Dr Goldhamer is a licensed Osteopathic Physician and author and was the co-author of The Pleasure Trap written alongside Dr Doug Lisle mentioned above. Dr Alan Goldhamer is the Founder of True North Health Centre mentioned above, where patients receive a groundbreaking residential health education program with the support of medical professionals, chiropractic services, psychotherapists, counsellors, massage therapists and bodyworkers.
I'm sure there are more incredible vegan doctors and experts in the area of plant-based nutrition that I have left out, but this is a good starting point for anyone wanting to absorb themselves in the world of plant-based nutrition and increase their resolve as a parent or caregiver of a vegan child.
Now while we're on YouTube, here are some YouTubers with kids you might want to Follow:
Now I'm not a super hot, raw vegan nomad either, but these are just some super healthy examples of vegan kids for your research and to offer you inspiration on your vegan journey.
So I think that's a great start for the Step 1. Educate Yourself portion of this blog post!
Now moving right along! ;-)
Step 2. COMMUNITY
Follow people on social media who are nailing raising vegan kids, follow vegan doctors and nutritionists and join the vegan pregnancy and parenting Facebook group and any other vegan parenting Facebook pages you come across or vegan pages in general. I personally love Whole Food Plant-Based Aussies as a page filled with great resources, information and tips, along with Forks Over Knives Official Plant-Based Group.
If you're the vegan in the village, get to a Meet Up in your area and meet other vegans! It's weird the first time but then you get invited to a pot luck and your heart explodes with all the amazing vegan food and all your hesitations immediately go out the window! Now I linked to Melbourne Meet Ups here but you can look up Meet Ups in your area and there should be a meet up near you wherever you are in the world.
Seriously, find your tribe and raising vegan kids will suddenly feel so much easier and less like you're a lone wolf amongst an endless sea of non vegans. It's so worth it.
Step 3. PLAN
Find all the amazing vegan recipes on line.
What are the recipes you make currently? Find vegan versions of these and try them out.
If you don't want to jump straight into whole food vegan life, I get it, just make up a menu for the week filled with the vegan versions of all your favourite meals and start testing recipes out until you find the ones that work for you and your family. On the weekends make sure to plan ahead for the week and prep your meals so that you're never caught out. There are some quick and easy recipes on my website here but, there are so many great vegan recipe blogs out there for every type of vegan family, so get your Google on and check them out with your kids!
Don't forget to get your kids involved!
To make sure your fussy eaters get everything they need to grow into strong, healthy adults, we need to make sure we consume a wide variety of foods including Dr Michael Greger's Daily Dozen which includes:
You can download Dr Greger's Daily Dozen App HERE which will take all the stress out of making sure you and your babies are getting everything you need each day.
Ok, so onto the last step!
You're almost done!
Step 4 - SUPPORT
Find your own supportive health care team, including a General Practitioner and perhaps a plant-based Nutritionist or Dietician and who ever else you think you need to support you to ensure you and your children thrive plant-based.
Now we can get every essential vitamin and nutrient we need to thrive on a whole food, plant-based diet however, B12 is essential and can be difficult to obtain in adequate amounts without supplementation. Now you might be wondering if B12 isn't readily available in a plant-based diet, does that mean humans are not designed to live as vegans?..
Basically, B12 comes from anaerobic microorganisms found in the gastrointestinal tract of animals, including humans and is found naturally in meat, milk and eggs, along with some forms of algae, mushrooms and in processed foods such as Nutritional Yeast. Currently due to soil depletion as a result of things like over-farming and increased pesticide use, in many cases even farmed animals are requiring B12 supplementation.
I recommend taking a B12 spray such as this B12 because, it's super easy to get little people to take it no complaints. :-)
But testing to ensure adequate levels of all the essential vitamins and nutrients can be really helpful when wanting to ensure our kids, vegan or non vegan are getting everything their growing bodies need.
Ok so TLDR I know ;-) But! I hope this article has helped to boost your confidence and help you take the first or second step in raising healthy, vibrant vegan kids!
This way of eating is truly transformative for our health, along with being the kindest and only moral choice for the animals and the planet.
Now if you've read this far and still need more convincing! Check out my Podcast: When Life Gives You Lemons, GO VEGAN! over on iTunes and Stitcher App for Android, where I interview and share people's incredible stories of recovery from chronic diseases such as Heart Disease, some forms of Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 2 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis and many more. I also interview experts such as Melbourne based Dr Malcolm Mackay and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn mentioned above.
If you have any comments (kind only please) or questions for me, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
If you'd like to chat with me further about anything you've read here, you can contact me here.
"When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need".
Thank you for reading.
Love and Great Health Always,