By Sarah Tierney of "Fit Vegan Diaries"
Nutrition is an integral part of raising children, however, the obesity epidemic is enormously high in the US with one third of children, including adolescents, being overweight or obese.
This leads me to believe that something is wrong with our current nutritional system.
In my early elementary school years, my parents were smokers (they've since quit, thankfully). I remember my watching my dad take smoke breaks on the stairway into our basement. I considered this our "bonding time", where I'd sit with him and tell him whatever was on my 8 year old mind. When he wasn't around, I would sneak down to the basement stairway and pretend to smoke a cigarette.
This was in the late 1990's when smoking was still a common practice and the States were just beginning to put in the effort to ban the sale of tobacco to minors. But I do know if my parents continued to smoke, I would've picked up the habit.
What does tobacco have to do with raising vegan kids? It's not the product in and of itself but the parental example. Parents are the number one learning resource for their children. The way I communicate with strangers, for example, is the same way my mom communicated with strangers. We pick up on many habits from our parents without realizing it. Nobody ever taught me how to introduce myself and socialize with others, all I did was observe my mother.
It's important that as parents (or soon to be parents) we take in seriously our daily habits, especially dietary. As a new vegan, my children ages 5 and 4 have not been vegan since birth, but I'm delighted to report in a smooth transition to veganism. Many people, including uneducated pediatricians, families, and friends, will say things in such a way that can plant doubt in your mind about whether you're doing what's right for your child. They may bring up concerns like increased nutritional deficiencies or creating awkward situations at holiday dinner parties.
Raising vegan kids is the single most wonderful thing you can do for your children if done responsibility. It takes a little bit of research and time to make sure your children are receiving adequate nutrition. It's important to become somewhat of an expert about it; who knows, you may even teach your pediatrician a thing or two.
If you're trying to make the transition to vegan with your children or are still in the family planning phases, here are some quick tips on making the process painless and even easy.
Purchase Children's Literature
Vegan picture books are becoming increasingly popular and more available. This was a vital component during my children's vegan transition. Ruby Roth's books in particular helped convey the vegan message in an age appropriate way and now my children understand what should be food and what shouldn't be. Also look at vegan pregnancy nutrition books such as the one written by Alicia Silverstone.
Raise Practical Vegans
Sometimes as working parents we cannot fully control what our children do and eat outside of the home. My children may consume non-vegan foods in school or daycare simply because my five year old wouldn't understand why everyone else gets pizza and she doesn't. This is where the individuality of vegan parenting comes in. It's up to you to decide if you want to fully control what goes into your child's mouth or if you'll allow your children to indulge in things such as cake and ice cream at a friend's birthday party (personally, I avoid birthday parties). Regardless of this, my children eat 100% vegan in our home.
Let Them Snack!
One of the leading problems in child obesity is that they're eating too much food and not expending enough energy. This is mostly due to eating and snacking on the wrong foods. In my house, I have a bowl on our dining room table filled with apples and bananas that I allow my children to eat to their heart's content. They're granted free reign of the refrigerator, which is always stocked with grapes, strawberries, blueberries, carrots, water bottles, etc. Not only do these foods have so much nutrients and disease-fighting power, but they're low in calories which allows them to eat and eat without gaining excess body fat.
It's Okay to Raise a Fruity!
My 5 year old loves all foods and will try anything once. I can usually get her to eat her veggies (we always have vegetables served at dinner). My 4 year old, on the other hand, doesn't like veggies but will eat fruits. This is okay; fruits are high in nutrients and carbohydrates! This doesn't mean don't offer vegetables. It can take up to 20 offerings of the same food before a child will try it. As they get older and able to communicate, talking more about eating veggies will become important.
Your Pregnancy Diet is Crucial
This is for my soon-to-be pregnant or already pregnant ladies. Because I became vegan just this year, I didn't have a vegan pregnancy, but I do know that I did my child a huge disservice with my atrocious diet during my second pregnancy. More studies are linking food pickiness to the mother's pregnancy diet. Throughout my own I ate many sweets and not nearly enough fruits and vegetables. I worked at a coffee shop so I indulged in the sugary coffee drinks and pastries. Thankfully my child was born at a normal weight and hasn't exhibited any health or behavior problems that can arise from a poor diet, but I'm definitely paying for it with his picky eating. It's important to remember babies eat what we eat, which makes healthy foods even more critical during pregnancy than not.
Are you raising vegan kids? What are you tips on handling opinions from your non-vegan friends and relatives? How do you handle social situations? Is your pediatrician supportive?
Sarah is a single mother of two children proudly living the veg life.
When she's not blogging at FitVeganDiaries.com, she's reading for fun, going to school/work, training for her first half marathon, glued to social media, all while avoiding doing laundry.
A Note From Hannah
This is the second time Oops I'm a Vegan has collaborated with an outside writer (Charlotte's Vegan Challenge, anyone?) - and I am over the moon! This post from Sarah is exactly the kind of content I want to publish, but cannot yet write about myself. Thank you Sarah for such a brilliant post and I look forward to more collaboration in the future! Look out for a post from me on Sarah's site soon!
Love and Sweet Potatoes! x
My blog has evolved a lot recently... it's become much more than just a place to rant about veganism. Its become more like an online journal, bursting with personal posts that I never expected to write.
This progression is terrifying, but very rewarding. Mainly because of the response. I don't always want to write about veganism, I want to write about what I'm thinking about in that moment, or what's really happening to me. And that is when I write best.
So, what is going on right now?
Today I have been marveling over how we allow other people to have control over us.
Even worse - have control over our sense of self worth.
It's mad, its insane and it's far too common. How much of what makes you happy is because someone gave you a complement? How much of what makes you sad is from another person's mouth?
I am a people person. I love people. Others give me energy. I get a sense of worth seeing the people around me at a dinner table and thinking, "look at all my friends! They're amazing... I must be kind of amazing too!"
But it's an entirely different ball game when people are making you feel low.
When you feel put down.
When you are being bullied.
Flipping that logic on its head is scary. If you are being made to feel horrible, it's only normal to think "do I deserve this? Am I horrible?"
Have you ever experienced this? Are you experiencing something like it now?
Because please do not let it. I have witnessed incredible, phenomenal and talented people feel like nothing, even for just a moment, because of another person. It's baffling to watch from the outside. But then it happens to you. You wake up and realize you are hearing advice you gave out yourself only a few months ago.
It's easy to see from the outside. You want to boost people up and say "no! Do not feel low! You are amazing", but when you yourself are a victim and there is very little people can say to drown out the voice of the bully.
Why is this? Why do some people have such power?
Is this the difference between true bullies and everyone else? Bullies must have some kind of extra power and authority. A voice that is louder than the others. One that commands attention.
After my recent experience, I can't understand how people ever cope with serious bullying. It's an issue I've never thought about much, but now, cannot stop.
The only way to navigate bullying, I think, is by having a strong sense of self, talking to loved ones and analyzing your tormentor. I have no magic wand and don't know if this is even good advice, but what got me through the last month was trying to evaluate what was happening and talking to loved ones as much as possible.
My mother has a saying: "it's not the mouth it comes out of, but the mind it goes into". Usually when dealing with a bully, you'll find that very little of what you actually say has any impact at all. You can say "Hello", "how are you?", "did you invite Andrew?", "have you done the dishes", anything remotely innocent. A bully will take whatever they like from your words. They will twist them, they will hear what they like and you will be the enemy.
Because a bully, ultimately, is the victim. They are the ones needing to push you down and make themselves tall. Never forget it.
Again, it's easier said than done, but keep on saying it until it feels doable.
YOU have the power over your own emotions. You are all-powerful. You are in control.
If you feel out of control, try and fix something immediately.
Drown Out the Negativity
Think about the grand scope of your amazing life.... the infinity.... the endless possibilities.... all the options that are out there for you.
You can literally do anything you want in this world. You have all the power.
If you are in a situation that is making you feel negative and low - GET OUT OF IT. Surround yourself with positivity and excitement.
Life is not simple and I rant about this because I didn't do it myself (it's so easy to give advice you cannot take) but hindsight is a powerful thing and of course, now I wish I'd acted sooner.
Listen to your instincts. They are real.
Get Away - Make Time For You...
Enough said.... get away. Detox yourself.
Do something for YOU. Get your hair done, paint your nails in front of a Friends marathon.... go get a cup of coffee, eat an entire cake....
Go visit a friend ;) you know who you are... x
The Power Comes From You
Guess what? You are giving the bully this power.
Every moment you spend thinking about them, talking about them and feeling upset - is their power.
Fill your life with distractions - but not at the expense of dealing with anything traumatic. If you have been through something traumatic, of course you must deal with it accordingly and let yourself feel.
Feel, honor and respect your emotions - but do not feed them. Do not feed negativity. Let it go.
Who Do YOU Respect?
Who are the people you love and respect in this world? What are their feelings?
I bet they respect you.
I bet you don't respect the bully, do you?
Don't give someone power you do not even respect.
Onwards and UPWARDS
I used to be afraid of writing posts like this.... afraid they would be "liked" or "shared" a bit too publicly and people from my real life would see them and behave weirdly towards me.
Or worse, that the wrong people would see them...
But now, I take this power. I take this ownership. This is my space. It's mine. I do with it what I like and I need to write about this.
I am so excited for the future. It is a toxic-free environment that belongs to me and is full of infinite possibilities.
I will become the person who takes her own advice. I will chase my dreams, I will fill my life with positivity and I will seize the day.
I will also bake more.
Love and Sweet Potatoes,
For all the vegans out there,
This is a letter to you, from me. A fellow vegan, currently stuck on a three-hour train journey, thinking.
This is a letter of appreciation. A letter of gratitude. A letter to say things you should be told every single day, but most certainly aren’t.
Congratulations. You rule.
Congratulations on making one of the most selfless, unpopular, ethical and rational decisions that a human being living in this mad, bonkers world can make in this mad, bonkers time.
It is 2014 and there’s a lot of f***ed up s*** going on. The planet is going down the toilet, people treat each other terribly, half the world is starving, there is still mass inequality, we have no connection with our land and animals are literally factory farmed. Factory farmed. They are bred, housed, enslaved and murdered because pathetic humans (who can’t even capture a spider) have decided that ‘bacon tastes good’.
It’s a mad world.
Animal suffering and torture is now (finally) a hot topic and unlike some of those other things in that list, it is something we can easily DO SOMETHING ABOUT. Veganism has never been so popular, but not always for the right reasons (thank you Beyonce and your fur coats).
This letter is not to Beyonce. This letter isn’t even to “plant based goddesses” who tout about vegetables and drink raw goat milk! No, this letter is for the true vegans out there. The zero point one per cent of you who actually “get it”.
You get it.
You get that a life without exploiting animals is the clearest, simplest, least hypocritical and most rational way to live and the only way to truly make a difference.
As a vegan: something “clicked” for you. One of the many triggers that can flip the switch, triggered. You saw the light, you saw the madness and you said “no”.
“I don’t need these things in my life, in fact, these things aren’t even good for me, they take a massive toll on me and others ethically, so I choose to say no.”
Some would even say going vegan is the EASY way out. No more dilemmas, no more "organic, free-range" fantasies, just simple, clear, logical lines. Animals should not be exploited for taste, convenience, greed or entertainment. Done.
Thankfully, more and more people are beginning to see this light, flip this switch and say “no”. It’s slow, it’s gradual but it’s definitely happening. Even in my own life, I have been blown away by a best friend going vegan AND a co-worker doing a vegan challenge only within the last few months.
It’s possible. It can happen. It happened for you, for me, for Portia.
We can make it happen for others when their switch is ready to be flipped.
Do not let yourself be put down by anyone or anything. Do not let stupid people say stupid, uneducated things and make you doubt your choice for a moment.
You are a bloody amazing person and do not forget it.
I am writing this letter to say all the things I wish I could say to every vegan in person. If you know someone who inspires you by making compassionate choices, forward them this letter.
I send this to each of you, with all of my gratitude.
I kind of want to sign this “Babe” or “Daisy” as a joke… but then that would make it funny and it isn’t funny. It’s serious.
Keep doing what you are doing. (Unless you are an annoying vegan who preaches and then eats cheesy wedges when drunk. Don't do that.)
Love Hannah xx
I'll be honest - right away calling this a "Shepherd's Pie" in any capacity is a bit of a stretch - but it includes mashed potato - so there.
Basically - this was "use-ups" night. Use up what is in the fridge, spend no money and see what happens. I'm proud to say the result was bloody delicious. (That's the best thing cooking vegan - it's hard to put a heap of vegetables together and fail).
For a "use ups" night, this is really is worth sharing. Fast, delicious, simple and incredibly healthy. Plant Strong!
There were a few things I didn't have in my cupboard that I felt could enhance this recipe - so adapt it as you wish. But, even just as it is: ultimate success!
1 clove of Garlic - smashed and diced
1 tin of Organic Chick Peas
10+ Brown Mushrooms, roughly sliced
1 large Zuchinni/Courgette
4 Potatoes, Washed, skin-on
1 Leek, sliced
1 Punnet Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp Sunflower Oil
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Organic Tomato Paste
2 tsp Cumin Powder
1/4 cup water.
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Salad/Lettuce for serving
Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Cut your potatoes into large chunks and place in boiling water. Boil until a knife cuts in easily. (Aprox. 15 minutes)
Once boiled, drain and leave in saucepan with a lid on to keep warm.
While your potatoes are boiling: chop and prepare all vegetables.
Heat 2 teaspoons of Sunflower Oil in a large Wok/frying pan and add the diced garlic. Add mushrooms, zucchini, leek and stir together continuously to soak up the garlic flavor. Continue until the vegetables are a little cooked.
Add your 1/4 cup water, gradually, stirring. Once all combined and vegetables are simmering away - add tomato paste.
Add chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cumin, salt and pepper and continue tossing together.
Add fresh basil and more seasoning if needed.
Take the lid off your potatoes - add 2 tablespoons of Olive oil, salt and pepper and mash together roughly. I love keeping the skins in my mashed potato for extra nutrients and flavor. I also like keeping things simple (as you can probably tell!) If you want a jazzier mashed potato - go for it! You can add vegan butter, seasonings, spices... whatever takes your fancy. I'm boring and actually really like the taste of potato, so even adding oil is enough for me!
To present: lay out some lettuce leaves on your plate - add a generous serving of your vegetable concoction and top with a dollop of mashed potato heaven. If you have any vegan cheese, you can sprinkle this on top too :)
ENJOY. DEVOUR. IT'S AMAZING.
Note: the "water" can be replaced with veggie stock if you have it for even more flavor. Though - this tasted pretty incredible without.
Organic, fresh potatoes from Abel and Cole :)
I try to have fun with presentation, but sometimes my greed and gluttony gets in the way.
Tonight was one of those nights.
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