Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why My Toddler Is Not Vegan

I run a vegan kitchen.
If you walk into our home,
you will be vegan for the duration of your stay.
However, I'm the only vegan in our household. 

When my first daughter, Thérèse was born,
I wanted her to have a semi-normal childhood.
I didn't want to be one of those moms 
who brings a box lunch for her vegan child to a birthday party
(although, I do admire moms who do that).
I wanted her to be able to have the occasional pizza, ice cream, cake
But with that in mind, her eating meat was never an option for me. 
I'd done enough research and
knew I didn't want her eating meat at all.
Wait, what about that semi-normal childhood you talked about?
I thought it was possible to have a great childhood without meat,
and I did say semi-normal, right?

Raising a vegetarian child is really not hard at all.
I'm not super crazy about meat,
so if she's eating a dish that has been cooked with meat,
say beans with bacon, 
we just eat around the bacon.
When we go to fast food restaurants,
she gets fries with grilled cheese or quesadilla
and never a drink.
Don't get me started with soda.
That's a whole other topic.

When we go to a party,
she eats beans, pasta salad, potato salad,
chips, rice, tortillas. 
Sometimes it can be tricky, but it always works out.

Sometimes I doubt my decision.
(Isn't that what motherhood is about?)
Am I ruining her life? 
Is she going to hate me forever because I'm depriving her?
Is she going to feel lame and left out?

Last month Daniel and I were munching on tacos at a restaurant.
A little girl with her grandma and another lady sat down at the table next to us.
The grandma was explaining that the little girl was vegetarian.
What?! A vegetarian child? No way!
I had to get a look at this, 
completely forgetting that my own child was vegetarian.
She was adorable, long curly hair.
She looked healthy, clear skin, white eyes,
and she was sat in front of a bean taco.
And she was sitting still.
A big deal for anyone watching a kid under five.
"Look Daniel! That girls looks totally normal 
and healthy and she's veggie!"
"Uh...yeah...." My husband doesn't doubt his decisions.
She's vegetarian and she's going to be fine, that's it.

But the biggest affirmation came 
when I was pushing my two girls 
down the vitamin aisle at our local health food store.
The guy who was helping us looked like he was in his mid-twenties.
I started talking to him about what vitamins to buy my two year old.
I explained that she was taking B12's because she was vegetarian.
He lit up! And went on to explain that he was raised vegetarian.
He said his parents really instilled healthy habits into him,
no soda, no fast food, just good clean food.
And the result? 
Now he eats chicken and fish, but refrains from beef and pork.
Doesn't eat junk and at thirty, 
he's the same weight he was in high school
while all his friends (also thirty) are overweight.

So what I was hearing was that this man was grateful 
to his parents for the healthy vegetarian foundation they laid.
He didn't resent his parents for all the years of deprivation from meat!
Big sigh of relief.

I have a special someone in my life 
who is always questioning my decision 
to raise my child veggie.
For me, the bottom line is this:
Not allowing my child to eat meat is not a big deal.
Her taste buds are freed up so she can appreciate other foods
and it's been proven that most vegetarian children eat more veggies than non.

Many people ask, So...then what does she eat??
There is life outside of meat my friends.
Here is what she ate today.

Breakfast: Everyday she has the same thing,
Oatmeal with quinoa, banana and raisins
Ann's Power Breakfast Smoothy from Vegan Family Meals

Snack: Prune

Lunch: Leftover vegan enchiladas made with adzuki beans

Snack: Peanuts

Dinner: Homemade Vegetable Tempura (green beans, broccoli, onion, carrot)
Vegetable sushi (nori, rice, celery, carrot, avocado)

All day I'm shoving water down her throat 
and she manages to sneak bites of bananas.

I don't want you all to think that my two-year-old 
is some magic veggie eater.
We have accepted that when we sit down at the dinner table,
we are not just there to eat and have a jolly good time.
We are there to get my toddler to eat all the veggies 
on her plate before she leaves the table.
And yes, it's a battle, and yes, sometimes I want to give up,
but this is important to us.
And it pays off. 
She rarely gets sick
And that is incentive enough for us.


One time my husband went through the Carls Jr's 
drive through and got her chicken stars without thinking.
I nearly had a heart attack when I heard this.
What is that stuff made of?!
Visions of the big breasted chickens from Super Size Me
were clucking their last cluck in my ears.
But as it turns out,
she didn't even eat them.
She ate the tips,
the little star legs
and discarded the rest.
That's my girl.

Some of Thérèse's favorite foods:

All things Babycakes, banana bread
One Pot Veggies - I wouldn't say favorite, 
but she didn't put up a fight!
Steamed Greens - She eats off my plate
Chard Potstickers - she'll have one or two
She loves anything with udon noodles
and both her grandparents make mean lentil soups that she can't resist.

Notice macaroni and cheese is not on this list!
It's not her favorite.
Weird since that's pretty much all I ate 
during the pre-vegan portion of my pregnancy. 

The Why:

I don't like talking about facts on my blog
but if you want to know why I keep meat away from my toddler, read on.

There are A LOT of reasons
to become vegetarian.
There was only one
reason why I decided to raise my daughter veggie.

As humans, we have very long digestive tracks.
So long in fact, 
that it takes meat three days to get through the body.
That means for three days meat is working it's way 
from the entrance to the exit at 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
If I left meat on my kitchen counter for three days,
my kitchen would probably stink,
and the meat would probably start looking totally unappetizing.
The same thing happens to the meat consumed in our bodies.
Its starts to rot.
While it rots, it lets out a strong stench and releases toxins. 
This causes illness and body odor 
(I now use much lighter deodorant. No joke.).
A human will not get sick and die overnight 
because our bodies will try to fight the illness,
but eventually the human body will give up. 
The result will be cancer, tumors, 
high cholesterol, high blood pressure
just to name a few. 
If my toddler grows up and decides to eat meat, fine.
But while I'm in charge, 
I want to keep her liberated from toxins 
as much as possible...any odor. 


Breast milk contains less than 10% protein.
Babies are working harder than anyone else.
They are growing so much they have to sleep all day,
and all they need is less than 10% protein.
That means we need much less protein 
than we've been led to believe. 
Especially since we aren't working or 
growing nearly as much as a newborn.

My toddler gets her protein from beans,
nuts, nut butters,
bananas, carrots, potatoes, apples
all high in protein.
But pretty much everything we eat has protein.
So it's not something I have to worry about.

Vitamin B:

Vegetarians must take a Vitamin B supplement.
Our soil is totally depleted of Vitamin B.
Omnivores don't need to worry about Vitamin B 
because it grows as a bacteria inside the animals they eat.


frenchbabymama said...

Which vitamin B do you give her? I don't eat meat and very little dairy, but I still take my pre-natal vitamin. I'm not strict with my 2 1/2 year old son because he's with a sitter during the day and my husband eats meat. But my son really doesn't eat a lot of meat, loves veggies and fruit. Just wondering if I should get him on a multi or at least a B just to be on the safe side.

Heather04 said...

Very inspiring post! I am mostly vegan, toying with it I guess... I haven't made a 100% switch. I know it's a healthier lifestyle though, so I'm working toward it. When I have kids some day, I hope to follow your example and raise them vegetarian.

By the way, I really like your blog and the recipes you post! Keep it up and live happily. :)

Arisa and Daniel said...

Hey FrenchBabyMama! Keep up the great work! Ask your doctor about vitamins. I have chewable ones I found at the health food store. Since she is only 2, I break them in half and give them to her every other day.

@ Heather, thank you for your support! I totally hear you about not switching 100%! I have a fear of commitment! HAha. Have fun raising your future kids veggie!

Anonymous said...

awesome son is the worst when it comes to veggies. What i do is sneak them in a rice bowl....He loves brown rice. I wish he ate a variety of veggies.

Arisa and Daniel said...

That's great! Rice is a great tool! I also have friends who sneak veggies into their kid's eggs. Introduce different veggies slowly and he'll learn to eat them if you are persistent. Good luck!

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