This is G, my lovely, intensely serious girl. Today is her second birthday.
As the mama of a two-year-old who has never eaten Kraft macaroni and cheese, who has never gnawed on a drumstick or held a sippy cup of cow's milk, and who eats mostly raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, I can say that it's pretty easy to raise your children vegan.
A question I heard frequently while pregnant was, "Are you going to stay vegan while pregnant?" (I did.) And later, after my daughter was born, "Are you going to raise the baby vegan?" (yes, I'm doing it.) After some initial inquiries on protein and social outings, everyone just let me do my thing. Confidence is essential in being a parent, and when you have solid reasons for co-sleeping or homebirth or doing anything differently, there's no need to feel you should constantly explain yourself. Happy, healthy children speak for themselves.
And while the ethics may seem complicated to some, the reality of being vegan is really very simple. Here's some of the everyday stuff my daughter eats.
got green smoothies?
Orange Cream Green Smoothie
To get a creamier texture, scrape the whole insides of the orange--membranes and all--into your blender. And if you’re new to green smoothies, start with a smaller amount of spinach, and add more next time.
1 banana, frozen
juice of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (taken from about 1/4 of the orange with a rasp)
generous handful (1-2 cups) spinach
½ cup water
1/2-1 cup ice
Combine all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth.
Each serving contains nearly 20% of your RDA of calcium, 15% of iron, 6 grams of protein, over half the recommended amount of folate, and 225% of vitamin C. Blend in some kiwi or dates, and it provides a complete amino acid profile.
Here's what I packed for G's lunch for a childcare swap: rice, beans, avocado, salsa, and Pepita Lime Cashew Cheese, sprinkled with cilantro.
breakfast: green smoothie, half an avocado (sometimes a whole)
snack: lime-salted raw pumpkin seeds, half a pear,
lunch: dal, brown rice, roasted vegetables or crudites
tea: almond-hemp-chia milk sweetened with dates, seasonal fruit, raw brownie/larabar
dinner: half an avocado, raw carrot hemp croquettes with lemon tahini sauce, a few bites of cupcake or some other treat
+ water, breastmilk, and smoothies/fresh juices throughout the day
I also supplement G in several areas, using a rotation of the following, usually one every day: B12, soy lecithin (for choline), K2 + calcium, and DHA-infused flax oil. If your child doesn't consume any animal products, it is essential that you supplement with B12 or eat enough foods fortified with the stuff. DHA is also vital for brain and eye development during the first year, so keep your own levels high if you're breastfeeding, and be sure to give your baby a trustworthy source if you're not. (This is also true if you're feeding your child formula, regardless of your diet--not all formulas contain DHA, and some DHA can be harmful to babies.)
If you're raising a vegan or raw child, there are lots of resources available. I highly recommend Evie's Kitchen by Shazzie, and Raising Vegetarian Children by Joanne Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina.
More parents are choosing to raise vegan children now, so you're in good company! I was at a birthday party yesterday where everything was vegan, and it was so peaceful and fun to know that my daughter could eat anything she wanted. And if you do have to check labels during celebratory occasions, or bring your own cupcake to a school party, don't worry: these little interruptions are so small compared to what your child is doing for animals, the environment, and other people. It's worth it, and I'm reminded of that every day I see this sweet face.
Happy birthday, little magpie!