Most parents worry that their children are not eating enough of the right foods. For a vegan parent it is a constant worry that your child is not getting a balanced diet, that they are not getting enough minerals and vitamins, especially as there is a lot of negativity surrounding veganism for children in the media. The Media love to circulate news about ill or deceased vegan children, for example, there was a family recently who only fed their child nuts which was fatal, obviously they were uneducated about a vegan diet, and uneducated about a child’s needs. This is one set of uneducated parents, hardly evidence that children should not be on a vegan diet… Most vegan parents are very educated about veganism and their children have very balanced, healthy diets. The media also like to print articles about unscientific studies carried out regarding the negative effects of a vegan diet on children, one recently showed vegan children were slightly shorter than non-vegan children. They do not focus on the positives that outweigh an unproven statistic, ones showing the reduced chances of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As a parent, I know I would choose a slight loss in height if it meant saving my child’s life through a healthier diet. It is the same media who find it perfectly acceptable for parents to feed their children McDonalds every day, when meat is now a proven carcinogenic. However, this is because the meat and dairy industry fund the media, they use it to spread their propaganda, however, with the power of the internet, which is spreading enlightenment, this is getting harder to do. Currently there really should not be any negativity towards veganism, the NHS support a balanced vegan diet and the vegan lifestyle is legally protected under the 2010 Equality Act. Despite this, it still feels like there is a constant need to prove you are giving your child the best diet they could ever possibly have. The key to any diet is balance, whether it is a vegan diet or a non-vegan diet.
Our daughter follows the vegan lifestyle, the vegan diet, and as vegan parents we like to think that we are well educated in veganism, however, like every parent, getting our daughter to eat a balanced vegan diet is at times a bit of a military operation and we worry that she is not always getting the right nutrients and vitamins. This worry stems from the deep-rooted meat and dairy propaganda that is still so prevalent in our society. One solution to this concern is that we make sure she has vegan vitamins, the recommended NHS ones. She is tall and of a good weight for her size, she is highly active physically and mentally, she is a great comedian, with a great imagination and meets her milestones, so we feel we must be doing something right!
It is probably every vegan parent's worst nightmare that their child might not like vegetables, after all, how can you be a vegan and not like vegetables?
When my daughter first started eating solids, she ate almost everything, including all vegetables. I was ecstatic! However, as she has grown, she has developed an aversion to all things potato, except Smiles and Alphabites!
It would appear the only other exception to the rule is restaurant chips! Homemade chips are a big no! Of course, you are advised to try things multiple times, as tastes develop and change over time. So, we live in hope, but we are not holding our breath. An example of where perseverance does pay off is, she used to hate rice but we persevered and now she loves it.
If it were just potatoes she had aversion to, it wouldn't be as bad, but she also detests other cooked vegetables…The only vegetables that she will eat are raw ones. Carrots are her favourite. She will eat these until they come out of her ears! So, she gets "good vegan" points for being obsessed with carrots. We would love to take credit for this; however, we must give credit to "Bing," and "Tractor Ted." Whenever carrots appear in these programmes, she just must have carrots, multiple carrots. It is music to our ears! She sometimes gets through two or three big carrots. Apples are also extremely popular due to "The Highway Rat." Who said television isn’t educational?
Like most children, fruit is not a worry, luckily, she loves her fruit. She loves blueberries, apples, bananas, raspberries, strawberries, pears, olives, and oranges.
Protein is a common worry amongst vegan parents. We worry that our children aren’t getting enough due to this propaganda, ironically, protein is one of the easiest things to incorporate into a vegan diet, as it is in many unexpected things, things we don’t associate as being protein sources, such as potatoes (oh the irony) and green veggies (hmmmm). Gorillas get all the protein they require from plants, an original source of protein as well as other nutrients, they are one of the strongest creatures on the planet and they eat plants. They don’t need to eat an animal to get second-hand protein like many humans do, they just eat the plants that contain protein. Vegans cut out the middleman. Luckily for us, our daughter does love other sources of protein like Peanut butter, Tofu, nuts and oats. She practically baths in Peanut Butter! However, other sources of protein like mock meats, for example: sausages, burgers and nuggets etc she isn’t as keen on, the only way we can get her to eat them is in front of the television before dinner. It’s hardly ideal, but if we don’t as soon as she sees the carbs, protein is history.
Calcium is also a concern with vegan parents, Oatly Barista milk is her favourite. It is the closest nutritionally to cow’s milk, but more so, as it doesn’t contain all the antibiotics that cow’s milk contains. She will often enjoy a beaker of it and can be heard saying “Mmmm” and “Yummy, Yummy,” repeatedly. She of course likes it in the form of chocolate milk and hot chocolate as well, but typically she enjoys it on its own or in cereal. Again, there are some surprising sources of calcium, yes you guessed it, green veggies win again. Some fruits like oranges, rhubarb, pears, kiwis and dried apricots also contain calcium as well as beans, some nuts and seeds. So, it really is a lot easier to get your calcium than you think. Animals have been doing this since the beginning of time. It really is time saving if you cut out the middleman… With her aversion to green vegetables and some mock meats, it is a job to know what other types of protein we can give to her, to expand her variety, as it must be so boring having the same thing all the time. Recently I have started to put nuts on her plate, peanut butter, and a little of any protein we might be having, if different from hers, just to mix it up.
She loves pasta, rice (as previously mentioned) and couscous, but this is for almost every dinner and sometimes lunch. I worry she is getting bored of this, so I am trying to vary this. As well as adding nuts, peanut butter and seeds to her plate, I have also started adding raisins. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes it isn’t. But at least it is a little more exciting.
Like other children at this age, she does not like mixed food, the only exceptions being marmite spaghetti and mushroom orzo. These are the only mixed food she will eat. Things would be so much easier if she would eat mixed food…Hopefully this phase will pass soon.
My daughter isn't really into pulses or lentils, so nil points here…However I am not a massive lentil or pulse fan…
Her choices are expanding over time, for example rice. We can only hope that her choices will continue to expand.
If we ask her to try something new, she often will try it and gets lots of praise for doing so, which hopefully encourages her to try new foods and to enjoy them. Hopefully this will pay off in the long run.
She dislikes takeaways, including pizza. I should be grateful for this, as this along with my Slimming World journey, is one of the reasons why we have less takeaway. This contributes to leading a healthier lifestyle. Better late than never!
Unfortunately, she has recently discovered ice lollies and can get these out of the freezer which during the middle of dinner is not ideal. We encourage her to eat more of her dinner before she can have one, but it is a battle… She often alternates between eating dinner and pudding, mixing it up... We need a freezer lock...
It’s unfortunate that sauces don’t contain many nutrients, if any, as she is obsessed with sauces, which we try not to use because they are a massive distraction from her dinner. I read on many posts that children love to eat their nuggets and chips with ketchup, however, our daughter just eats the ketchup, and before its even gone, she asks for more. She would drink it if she could! She does like to dip her food in it; however, she then just licks the sauce off, and dips it in again. Brown sauce isn’t very popular, so I am safe with my favourite sauce. Phew! She even loves Soya Sauce!
I am sure many of you have your own food horror stories and tips, if you would like to share some of these please comment at the end of this post or on the Facebook group page: theveganmummadiaries. I would love to hear them.