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)


Hase said...

That's great. I'm so glad to read that. And I totally agree with you!

What i would like to know: do your kids like vegetables?
All of them?
Most of them?
Or just some of them?
I'm asking because I know so many (non-vegan!) kids that simply don't touch vegetables. They can't stand them. And this would worry me if I had a kid...?

Jacqueline said...

Your kids are adorable and look very healthy! Great job!

Al said...

Hase, they eat most of them. They're not into raw leafy greens that much. But Anna loves cooked Kale and Liam loves cooked spinach. They both love broccoli and peas (especially frozen peas) and just yesterday Anna had some cooked kohlrabi.

There are things they don't like. For example, Anna doesn't like tomatoes on things (though she'll eat grape tomatoes raw). She doesn't like red sauce either, which just weirds me out. She's not a huge fan of peppers, even the kind that aren't spicy.

But for the most part, they like a variety of veggies. Liam still doesn't have his back teeth yet, so there's quite a bit that we just don't give him yet. But I think once he's able to chew everything up, he'll like as much of a variety, if not more, as his sister.

So it's great that they love veggies.

When I was a kid, I hated vegetables. My vegetable intake consisted of potatoes and raw peas. That was about it. I wasn't a fan of most fruit either.

But kids are resilient, and while it's better to have a lot of fruits and vegetables in their diets, they usually turn out fine as long as you're not feeding them processed crap every day (and my mom didn't).

I arrived at young adulthood pretty damn healthy. Though I do think that if I would have stayed on the dietary path I was on, I'd be a lot less healthy than I am now. My adult body would not have tolerated a diet consisting of carbs, starch and meat. And in fact, I had a lot of stomach issues in the few years before I chose to be vegan. I had stomach cramps on a daily basis. I didn't know what they were from, but it was something I just lived with. The cramps cleared up pretty quickly once I stopped eating animals and their secretions. I view my improved health is icing on the vegan cake. It's not why I went vegan, but it's a nice benefit.

And Jacqueline, thanks!

Hase said...

Wow, they both love broccoli.... I'm impressed... that's excellent!! ;-)
(Don't get me wrong - I love broccoli, too. But I don't think I know a kid who does.)

Anyway, it's so damn obvious how healthy your kids are, you just have to look at them. It's a pleasure to see, really.

Thanks for your explanations!
(But you didn't have to post them three times in a row! ;-p)

Al said...

Oh yeah. What the hell happened there?

I suppose I should delete a couple of those.

mmg said...

I love the hat on Liam - awesome.

Christian said...

We've been reading that food tastes have to do with what the mom eats when she's pregnant and then nursing. My wife has been eating a mostly plant-based diet while pregnant (she gave in to Ikea meatballs once) so I'm hoping baby loves veggies when they're ready to eat solid foods.

Mylène Ouellet said...

Great post! Your kids are gorgeous.

Anna Graham Shonle said...

Our son is two and is also a healthy vegan child. I just love hearing about other kids being raised vegan! :)

Jenn @ BentoForKidlet said...

"She doesn't like red sauce either, which just weirds me out."

My son wouldn't eat red sauce until he was about 6 or 7. No idea what changed that made him suddenly love it, but apparently there's always hope that they'll come around :D

Becky said...

I've been vegetarian for 3 years now and just made the vegan plunge this January. My husband and two kids (7 and 4 years old) are still omnivores. I'd like to introduce my kids to more vegan entrees, but they hate beans and turn their noses up at tofu. Any suggestions for good proteins (other than peanut butter sandwiches - they eat those at least twice a week now!)?

Al said...

Becky, I strongly suggest reading this VRG's factsheet on Protein: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.htm

I also wouldn't give up on tofu. They might not like fried blocks of tofu, but they might like a tofu scramble (add some nutritional yeast, chili powder, some diced potatoes, etc...). They may like tofu jerky (slice it thin, marinate in soy sauce, liquid smoke and pepper and bake at a low temp for a long time). That just scratches the surface. I know tofu puts a lot of people off, but I'm convinced that's because they just haven't tried enough variations of it yet.

Hummus is great, pretty easy to make yourself and most people like it. I like mine with pita chips, but it's great for dipping veggies in as well.

Black bean dip is also really easy to make and it's something a tortilla chip can be dipped into, which usually makes anything a winner. (I know you said they don't like beans, but when they're all mashed up and spiced they don't really have that "bean" feel to them.)

Just some ideas.

Brandie said...

I just happened upon your blog and had to comment on this little piggy post - HOW cute!

Your wee kidlets are adorable, and I must add, yes - quite healthy looking :)

I'm vegan too and raising my son this way (he just turned 2) and I admit I get the questions about 'balanced diet' also when people find out. But, like your kiddos, he's SO healthy! He has been sick, but not more (i'd say less, in my humble opinion) than his lil peers, and is in the 95th or above percentiles! Hoorah for vegan daddies and mommies and little piggies who eat tofu!

(P.s. Bashed neeps and tatties IS SO super FUN to say! ;)

Becky said...

Al - Thanks for the advice. My youngest does enjoy carrot sticks with hummus.

Also, I baked chicken for dinner last night (for husband and kiddies - rice and lentils for mom!) and my oldest was really whining about chicken. I told him that if he wanted the last piece of baked tofu in the fridge, he could have it. I expected him to turn it down but was surprised that he wanted to try it. (He usually pretty willing to try new foods.) He took one bite and said he loved it! Three bites later, he said he didn't like the marinade (too much vinegar). I told him next time, I'll bake it without the vinegar.

It's a start! Now I'm worried that my husband will think I'm secretly trying to "convert" the kids to a veg diet! LOL!

Becky said...

Oh, I should add that the kids drink soymilk only - no dairy milk. They love it!