Let me be clear, I am not writing this article to try to convert meat-eating mamas into vegans or vegetarians, nor am I hoping to convince daddies to feed their babies a plant-based diet. There are so many choices out there for parents, and as someone who has made one that is somewhat less mainstream (although gaining in popularity thanks to celebrity influence for example) it is my hope that by publicly sharing my decision to raise my son vegan, I might help someone else feel more confident about following the same path.
For me, choosing a vegan diet for my son was a fairly simple decision. All parents want the best for their children, and I believe that the best choice for both him and me is a balanced, plant-based diet. I substantiated this belief with a professional opinion before I began introducing solid foods.
I visited a holistic nutritionist (who is not vegan, nor does she raise her children vegan) to make sure that I would not be depriving my son of any nutrients if I chose to exclude animal products from his diet. She confirmed that I could absolutely make this choice, and be confident that my son would be healthy.
I made the decision for both of us to follow a vegan diet, because I feel that this is the most nutritious way for us to eat. A healthy vegan diet is full of alkaline-forming foods such as leafy greens, almonds, chia seeds, root vegetables and sprouts, all of which reduce inflammation.
Chronic low-grade inflammation has a role in many diseases and illnesses. By consuming a variety of veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes etc., I can be sure that we are getting all the nutrients our bodies need to grow and stay healthy and strong (see http://thriveforward.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/06-Balance-Your-Bodys-pH-Ref-Reasons-to-Add-Alkaline-Forming-Foods1.pdf").
Protein sources can be a concern for parents considering veganism, but a balanced plant-based diet provides more than enough variety and options (see http://www.yumuniverse.com/plant-based-protein-information-chart/.)
My son is almost 17 months, and I feed him as many nutrient dense foods as possible. Sweet potato, avocado, hummus, quinoa, almond butter and green smoothies full of spinach and kale (a superfood and nutritional powerhouse!) are some of our favourites, and receive two thumbs up from nutritionists and infant dieticians.
People often ask how I will handle my son's vegan diet, as he gets older and is interacting with his peers in social settings. I hope to be able to encourage him to embrace our lifestyle choices, and develop a strong connection to his food. I plan to show him where his food comes from, whether we are growing it at home, visiting farmer's markets, or during a weekly trip to the grocery store.
It is my intention to involve him in preparing our meals, choosing fruits and veggies, helping to bake, and then enjoying and sharing the fruits of our labour. Perhaps I'll send him to birthday parties with a little vegan cake of his own, or maybe I'll stay up late making enough goodies for all his friends.
Although the joys are plenty, parenting is not without it's challenges, so I try not to worry too much about what the future holds. Right now, in this moment, I know that the decision I have made to feed my son a vegan diet feels like the right one, and as long as he is healthy, and happy, that's good enough for me.