Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I rarely talk about the health of my children. I suppose this is due to the fact that when I post photos and video of them it's pretty obvious that they're healthy. I also assume that in this day and age there is enough information out there about veganism to prove to anyone who cares to know that it's healthy for people in all stages of life.

But it occurs to me that some may think that kids of vegan parents can't be healthy, or that their diets are deficient in some way. 

My kids are healthy.

They've consistently been around and mostly above the 50th percentile in measurements of height, weight and head circumference (these are the things pediatricians check to make sure your kid is growing the way they're supposed to be growing). 

They get sick sometimes, sure. All kids do. I'd be concerned if they didn't (gotta build up those anti-bodies, ya know). 

But they don't get sick that much. This could, of course, be due to the fact that they don't go to daycare. It could also be genetic. I'm not going to say that a vegan diet fends off sickness, because while that may be true, it's not provable. Plenty of kids on non-vegan diets stay healthy and rarely get sick. 

The important point to make here is that my kids aren't getting sick because of their vegan diet. The beans, grains, vegetables, nuts, fruit and various processed foods such as soy milk and veggie burgers aren't making them sick and they're not somehow causing them to grow slower or less robustly then their peers who eat animals and animal products. And if the measurements are any indication (and what else could be?), they're growing a bit faster and a bit more robustly than their peers, statistically speaking.

Again, I'm not attributing this to a vegan diet. In fact, I'm fairly certain it has more to do with genetics than anything. The point that I'm trying to make is that there is no measurable negative effect due to their vegan diet. They're happy and healthy.  
"The American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets can satisfy the nutritional needs and promote normal growth of infants and young children." 
-American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, 1998; Messina & Burke, 1997
Whenever I read that quote, I always get hung up on that "well-planned" part. What does well-planned mean? Does it mean that we have to keep track of the caloric intake of our kids? Measure every gram of calcium that enters their body? Keep the calipers on hand to make sure they're not losing precious pounds from their chubby thighs? 

Or does it mean that we should just pay attention to what we're feeding our kids? Try not to feed them junk food. Stay away from an excessive amount of processed food. Make sure we feed them a variety of whole foods. Be at least a little knowledgeable about the dietary needs of the children in our care. 

And if that's the case, don't all diets that satisfy the nutritional needs and promote normal growth of infants and young children need to be well-planned? 

"Finish your peas." Were you told that growing up? Me too! That's because our parents wanted us to be healthy. All healthy diets are well-planned. 

I read up on nutrition when I first chose to be vegan. I read up again when my wife and I chose to have our first child. I brushed up a little bit when we decided to have our second. I'll occasionally read up on this or that vitamin or mineral. So yes, I did (and do) a bit of research on nutrition. I hope that anyone, vegan or not, would do the same thing.

But to be honest, my kids' nutrition isn't that big of a consideration in my day-to-day life. I just try to feed my them a varied diet with a vegetable, fruit and grain at every meal. Soy milk. Tofu sometimes. Smoothies quite a bit. I very rarely give them juice, since they eat quite a bit of fruit. I try to keep the snacks healthy, or at least not completely junky. Stuff like that. 

Today, Anna had her 4-year check-up and Liam had his 18-month check-up. Here are their stats. 

Weight: 42.5 pounds (90th percentile, which means she weighs more than 90 percent and less than 10 percent of kids her age)
Height: 40.5 inches (67th percentile)

Weight: 25.5 pounds (49th percentile)
Height: 33 inches (72nd percentile)
Head Circumference: 48 centimeters (57th percentile)