Vegan Parenting

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I am a vegan.  I am a parent. Does that make me a vegan parent? It sure does! Hence the name of this blog.

Jack does not exclusively eat a vegan diet. This was a compromise between my husband and I (see here). But since I am his primary caregiver, he eats a lot of vegan meals with me. One of his favorite meals is my Dhal and Aloo Mattar. But veganism is a complete lifestyle, going vegan chances many aspects of your life besides just diet. So, the other day this lead me to think about just what does being a vegan parent mean? How does veganism affect they way I raise my son?

"Why do you keep telling me eggs from chickens?"
“Why do you keep telling me eggs from chickens?”

Before Jack was born, Michael and I discussed the major parenting choices like punishments and sex education. This lead me to think about what kind of parents we would be, so I looked up parenting styles.Oh boy, there are a lot! And there are some very strong opinions out there (the whole Tiger Mom controversy). I was overwhelmed and kind of turn off by the whole idea of defining the care of my child in such blunt terms.

So I asked myself what values that my husband and I both share do I want him to learn? After some soul searching, I came to that we want to teach him compassion, understanding, and patience. I also want encourage our love of science, nature, and education. Then I realized I kind of gave a broad definition of what vegans stand for overall. Compassion towards all living things! And to understand such ideas, you need to know science and nature—which is done through education.
After searching the web and reading a bunch of articles, I found this one from She  Knows Parenting the easiest to follow with great definitions. The article lists 5 main styles:

  • Instinctive: Based on the way you were bought up, following your parents’ example. Trusting your instincts that you know what is right for your child.
  • Attachment: Focused on creating a deep emotional  bond and encouraging them to express their feelings. Some see it as a holistic parenting approach.
  • Helicopter: Being deeply involved in every aspect of the child’s life. Overseeing and sometimes controlling their actions and experiences. Know to shielding and prevent all obstacles from ever even reaching their child.
  • Authoritative: Clear and direct rules and expectations. And if they are not obeyed, direct consequences will be enforced. However, the rules are usually fair and are in place to protect the child’s development. Are nurturing when need.
  • Permissive: Letting the child be who they are with little rules and expectations. Very open, non-confrontational, and nurturing. Based on the idea that children do not have the mental capacity to understand maturity and responsibility.

But without a baby, we had no idea what kind of parents we would be. Like I said, I was not going to pigeonhole myself, so I read read over those options with skepticism. Nothing clicked. Instrictive kind of sound nice, we both had nice childhoods, maybe just did what our parents did? Overall those were all just words and abstract idea. We needed a baby in front of us and to figure out what worked for us.

Once Jack arrived, I slowly fell more and more into attachment parenting without even realizing it. I just did what made sense for our family. I decided to exclusively breastfeeding for the health benefits and to save money. Then I bought a baby carrier (and later many more), since Jack wanted to be held all the time and I want free hands on occassion.This lead to me attending (and later becoming a member) of both La Leche League and Babywearing International meetings. Extended breastfeeding and babywearing are two huge aspects of attachment parenting, so these groups naturally led towards other attachment ideas. Now we embrace co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, gentle discipline. And last week we started on cloth diapers. So here I am one year in, an attachment parent by accident. Michael is on board with all of it too. He sees how happy and healthy Jack is, so he has no complaints

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Attached daddy wearing his son for a daytrip to Napa, melts my heart!. 

What does attachment parenting have to do with veganism? Well, it stresses compassion and understanding of your child. Hopefully one day he will spread this idea of ever-encompassing love towards every living thing on the planet.

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Jack LOVES animals so far. Especially our cats. This was the first time he pulled himself up, to pet Zoey!

I am trying very hard to explain veganism to him a simple and non-invasive way right now. Right now the greatest thing I can do is treat him animal compassion. I show him every animal we come across and explain why it matters to the planet. For example, “See the duck on the pond, Jack? It says quack quack. Ducky eats the plants and algae in the water to help keep the pond healthy. See her little ducklings following her? She takes care of them like I care for you.” That way the duck is something is way more than a restaurant menu item to him. I want him to understand why that duck and all over ducks matter.

"Yeah yeah, the dhal is made  from lentils that come from plants...thanks mom..."
“Yeah yeah, the dhal is made from lentils that come from plants…thanks mom…”

Then there is the dietary stuff as well. When he eats lentils, I tell him those came from a plant. When he eats cheese, I tell him that is made from a mama cow’s milk, like the milk you get from mommy. When he eats meat, I tell him that is from the body of an animal.

This is exclusive to being vegan or attachment parenting? No, you can meat-loving attached parent or a vegan tiger mom. Nothing wrong with either one! But overall, attachment parents and veganism share a lot of the same ideals.

Overtime I will explain more and more why I do not eat animals and why daddy does. I will never force him to be vegan, it will be his choice. I hope one day he does decide to go vegan. But overall I hope he always leads a life full of compassion and always seeks out knowledge, the true vegan spirit.

Will Your Baby Be Vegan?

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I fell in love with an amazing man—who loves meat. I do cook him meat, dairy, and eggs. Why would a vegan do such a thing? Well, because I love him and want him to be happy. And he doesn’t get meat every day, and he is a good sport about it. He eats vegans things quite often. What person would ever turn down a delicious home cooked meal in general?

So the most common question I have been asked since I announced I was pregnant is “Will the baby be raised vegan or not vegan?” The answer is both I guess. I want to respect Michael’s wishes, and he wants to respect mine. So we made the compromise to let the baby try all kinds of healthy foods, and when he’s old enough, he can decided for himself…..but let’s be honest here. I am the one who will be taking care of him most of the time (my choice), so he is going to end up eating a lot more vegan food.

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And for the most part, babies are meant to be vegan from the start. Their digestive systems are not ready for complex things right away. Hence why babies nurse first , then try cereals and veggies, then move on to other proteins and fats. As long as you ensure that your baby gets enough fats, protein, and vitamins from the plant-based diet, there is nothing wrong with it. Check out the post from my other blog about Vegan Myth Busting, it explains how you can have a balance diet as a vegan.

Then there is the annoying question…. usually from someone who is a major meat eater. The kind of person who feels the need to rub it everyone’s face and insult your lifestyle choice despite the fact you never said anything about it. “Are you going to breastfeed? That’s milk and milk isn’t vegan!!!”
First of all, there is a difference between cow’s milk and human milk. We are designed to drink human milk! It’s the whole reason we are mammals! We have boobs for a reason. We produce milk when we have children for a reason. I am willingly giving my milk to my baby, no one is forcing me. And when it dries up, he will eat solid food.
That ain’t natural…source

People are not really meant to drink cow’s milk. Yes, over time and out of necessity our ancestors began to consume it as a means of survival. That was their choice, and a very understandable one. But we have better nutrition and access to food now, we now have the ability to consume whatever we want. And if cow’s milk is not really meant for us, I have the choice to not drink it. Plus, cows are not willingly giving us their milk. They are pumped full of hormones and forced to be milked even though they don’t have calves (and will most likely never be pregnant). That’s not natural. Me making my own milk for my child is extremely natural.

*By the way, I am not judging women who can’t or chose not the breastfeed. I understand everyone has different circumstances, I am just stating what I believe work for me.

A Vegan Houseguest

Once again, sorry I haven’t posted in awhile.  I have been busy so let me update you quickly.

The last week of classes, Michael and I both came down with a horrible case of the flu. It pretty much knocked us out for two weeks. It is was so unfair to be in beautiful sunny Hawaii but be stuck inside in bed dying in front of the air conditioner. And, not to mention this happened during finals week, last term of senior year. Luckily all of our professors understood and let us take our finals later. And, we passed them all! The next week both of our parents came for graduation. It’s not fun to meet your boyfriend’s parents for the first time when your sinuses feel like they are going to explode.

The commencement ceremony was very lovely, but very long. We were the largest class to graduate from UHH so far. After graduation I went with my family to Kona and had a very fun family vacation. Michael’s parents left a few days before mine so he joined us for a few days too. Afterwards we drove back to Hilo and packed up our apartments. Michael went back to California and I went back to Oregon. But, after being home for a week, I decided to come visit Michael. I’ve been here for a couple weeks now, and I am working on getting a job and moving here. Very exciting!

Aren’t we cute?

Anyways, I promise this post actually has something to do with veganism.

I have been staying at Michael’s parent’s house, and they have been very gracious hosts. A couple people have asked me if it is hard staying at peoples’ houses when you have a different diet, so I thought I would share some advice.

First and foremost, always remember you are a guest and should always act as such. These people were kind enough to open their home to you, which means you treat them with the upmost respect at all times. You can inform them about your lifestyle, but do not be preach or lecture.


Second, do not be rude if they do not understand or get something wrong. Since they are letting you stay, I assume that means they like you and will try to be as accommodating as possible. Usually a simple explanation is all you will need. And, if they accidentally put meat or cheese on something, politely decline it, say you can go get yourself something later, and just enjoy their company at the table. No big deal.  Or, better yet offer to make them dinner one night!

Do not be an angry vegan!

Lastly, you sadly might just have to let somethings go. A good example of this is when I had dinner at a friends house awhile ago. She bought me Tofurky brats, vegan buns, and even made mac salad with Vegenaise— all of which I was very grateful for. But, she accidentally used the same utensil to rotate my brats that she used on the meat ones. It bothered me, but it would have been very rude to tell her I can’t eat it after she went all the trouble of making me a nice meal. You just smile, maybe later on mention it if you can, and just let it go. No one will like you if you are that crazy vegan who lectures everyone.

Forks Over Knives

I finally had the time to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives. It explores the health benefits of a whole food, all plant-based diet. I will spare you all the preaching, but I will just say I am so glad I watched it. It affirms everything I came to believe in about veganism based on my own research. I strongly suggest this film, it’s not overly pushy or overly radical. A quote that personally stood out to me was, “I changed my health destiny by not engaging in the same habits,” said by a doctor who wanted to counteract her horrible family health history. This is actually why I went vegan, my family health history scared me so much that I knew I had to fundamentally changed.

When it comes to eating good food and staying healthy, just keep it simple. Tonight for dinner I had simple baked tofu and green beans, marinated in shoyu and garlic cloves, and a simple salad with homemade peanut butter dressing. A nice balanced meal, easy to make, and not lacking any dietary needs. Go educate yourself and make your own smart, informed decisions!

No cholesterol, no oil, low in fat, low in sodium, all organic and still plenty of food. 

A Little Myths Busting

After a conversation with my friend Leslie and an additional one with Laura, I thought I’d share a few more things.

Soy beans are almost pure protein

Vegans do get plenty of protein. Most plants have it, such as beans, spinach, nuts, and even apples! And it comes with vital things like vitamins and fiber. And has no—and I mean ZERO—cholesterol.

Chia seeds are packed with calcium

We also get plenty of calcium. Celery, figs, almonds, and kale actually have more calcium than milk!

Better than fried chicken.

And tofu is delicious when prepared correctly. If you had a bad tofu experience, I am truly sorry because you are missing out on something amazing. It can be meaty, chewy, silky, smooth, sweet or savory. There are various preparations and cooking methods that transforms ordinary bean curd into things better than meat.

And a vegan diet is cheap. Meat is expensive because mass-production uses a lot of resources. Some special vegan items are usually only available at health food stores and can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to get them. You can buy majority of what you need to be a vegan at a normal, cheap grocery store (I get most of my food from Wal-Mart actually). And if you shop smart, you can walk away from a health store with a small bill too. And the cheapest produce is always be at your local farmers market. I spend about $15 and get close to 3 weeks worth of food for myself.

However, all of this is only true if you actually eat fruits and vegetables. Eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a soy cheese and Tofurkey ham for lunch, a bowl of pasta for dinner, and rice ice cream for dessert will not give you adequate nutrition because all you consumed were grains. In fact, you will probably gain weight and have other health problems as if you ate meat. You need green (and other colorful stuff) in there too to be truly nourished and healthy.

So, I hope you figured out by now that all I really do eat is vegetables. And if you don’t believe any of this, look it up for yourself! I also hope you have noticed that I really want everyone to learn about their food. I promise it will change you for the better and one click on Google can teach you so much.

Here is a cute little song that sums this all up. 

How Veganism Changed My Life

My friend Laura asked me a slew of questions about being a vegan today, and I thought I should share some answers.

She asked me if I physically felt better, not just morally or emotionally. And I honestly felt different–better within a week. All my pre-vegan research highlighted weight loss, increased energy, and clearer skin, all of which I experienced.  I have lost 15 lbs in the past year, some of it is due to increased exercise and not being able to eat after my tonsillectomy, but I know I would have gained it back if I ate like I used to. Increased energy came from the weight loss but also from a surprising effect I wasn’t expecting: my head cleared.

I really can’t explain it properly. It was like some invisible veil was lifted from my brain and everything changed. I thought faster and more efficiently. I could pay attention and retain more in class (I wish I kept my class notes, you could actually see a difference in quality). I believe this is from no longer having all the hormones from the dairy in my system. And yes, there are hormones in majority of dairy products (organics being the exception). Cows are not meant to produce milk all the time. Like all mammals (humans included), they produce milk to feed their newborn offspring. Cattle farmers inject them with hormones to make them produce milk. And they give them a lot of hormones constantly, so it is no wonder that it ends up in their milk. Cow hormones are for cows, our bodies have no use for them so they end up interfering with our endocrine system. I don’t know for sure how it all works, but there is a lot of research on the subject and I encourage you to check it out for yourself. But, I can say that I personally have noticed a difference. I confess I’ve had slip-ups and eaten non-vegan food in the past year, and by the end of the day feel that veil drop and then magically lift a couple days later when it’s out of my system.

Another amazing change was my skin. I remember on this celebrity diet show I saw on VH1, Alicia Silverstone said her skin started to glow once she went vegan and I thought whatever. But I have to admit, it’s true. I had HORRIBLE acne has a teenager and nothing I tried made a difference.  When I went vegetarian at 18, I also started drinking soy milk and eating other non-milk products because I  always hated the taste of straight cow milk. One month later when I left for college, it was as if I had a brand new face. Some of it could be from simply growing up, but it was so drastic I have to say the lack of dairy had to have been a significant factor. I’ve had maybe 3 breakouts since I have gone vegan and I even changed from combination skin to normal (actually, the make-up technician at Sephora was surprised at how unclogged and oil-free my skin was when I went a few months ago).  I love my skin now. It’s clear and very even, and I have been often told it glows.

Here are a few other changes veganism brought to my life (sorry if some are a little gross but it’s important for the body to work as a whole, which includes some gross stuff):

  • Better breath (less bacteria to stink up your mouth)
  • No excess phlegm
  • Smell better overall (not that I smelled before, but my friend told me I smell “neutral” now)
  • Lighter menstral cycles (less hormones)
  • Digest food easier (dairy is pretty hard to digest)
  • Very regular (nothing hard to digest, so no problems)
  • “You have the best blood pressure and heart rate I have ever seen,” quote from the nurse at the campus health center a few months ago

Many vegans claim they hardly ever get sick, but I can’t claim that right now because I have a pre-exsisting issue with my tonsils and ears. However, since I got my tonsils out last July, I have had fewer ear infections (I used to go back and forth between tonsillitis and ear infections every two months). Actually, now that I think about it, I haven’t had an infection in 3 months. But, my infections are due too small ear canals that don’t drain, which a vegan diet cannot fix. I do believe my immune system is stronger because it only took me a few days to recover from my last infection when previously took me weeks.

Finally, what I think is the most important reason to not eat mass-produced meat is because of all the antibiotics. Commercially produced cows (and they are not raised, they are massed produced, that is the meat companies official wording too) are injected with large amounts of antibiotics to counter-act the digestive diseases their non-natural corn diets cause.  Just like hormones in dairy cows, those antibiotics end up in the meat you eat. Your body becomes resistant to antibiotics after prolonged exposure, either intentionally or unintentionally.  My ear/tonsil problem started 3 years ago, and I have been on many of antibiotics since. I started with penicillin and amoxicillin, which I must be resistant to now because the last time I took them yielded no results. I can’t recall what I had the last few times, but they were stronger and higher doses. My doctor and I both worried that if I continued only throwing drugs at the problem, I would become resistant to all antibiotics and could die from a simple infection. So I took the proactive step and had a tonsillectomy.  Although the recovery was very painful, I am glad I had it done. Now, think about all the meat a typical American eats. Think about all the antibiotics a typical American ingests. That’s a scary amount of resistants built up over the years. It is just as bad as back -to-back courses of antibiotics. I urge everyone to at least cut out as much (if not all) commercially produced meat from their diet as possible. Just like with tonsillitis, take the proactive measure before it’s too late.

I promise there will be no overly-preachy posts in this blog. I know that the best way to spread knowledge is by living it, not cramming it down others’ throats. I just wanted to share some of my experiences as a vegan so far.  I encourage you to do some research of your own. Knowledge is power!

Here are some links to help you get started:

Benefits of a Vegan Diet:
http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/eating-for-life.aspx
http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/19/57-health-benefits-of-going-vegan/
http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/vegetarian_diets_health_benefits.php

Hormones in Dairy:
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/12.07/11-dairy.html
http://www.health101.org/art_Milk_and_Girls.htm

Antbiotics in Meat:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/safe/overview.html

What’s a vegan?

A few months ago I had a date with a guy who asked me a question I hear often, “Vegan? What’s that?” After I explain it means I eat no animal products, he asked the second most common question, “So what do you eat?Vegetables?” He seemed surprised when I answered yes.

Since I encounter these and other similar questions about veganism often, I thought I would make a blog where I can post recipes to show people exactly what vegans eat. I have been a vegetarian for 5 years, and a vegan for a year now. I went vegetarian for animal rights. I always felt guilty about eating meat growing up but I never really said anything about it. And to be honest, I never liked the taste of it, I just ate it because mom told me to eat it. But I went vegan—in addition to wanting to stop the exploitation of animals–for health reasons. My uncle died of a heart attack last year and it scared me. He was fairly young but did not take care of himself. He was a very sweet man, and although I did not known him very well, I really do miss him. I have a horrible health history on both sides of my family–heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. But I do not have to follow the same path my relatives took.

Before I made the official decision, I researched veganism, which lead me ultimately learn more about the food industry. I was horrified, but I will spare you the details.  I knew that I could learn from my family’s mistakes, and take proactive steps to counteract my terrible genes. I went vegan because I want to live to be 100. I want my great-grandchildren to sing to me on my 100th birthday.

However, I know that I have no right to tell people what they can and can’t do—just like no one has the right to tell me what to do either. So I am not preaching that everyone should become a vegan right this minute. In fact, to be honest, I don’t care. I believe everyone should do what is right for them. I believe eating an all plant-based diet is what is right for me.

This blog is just to help people understand that being vegan does not mean all you eat is bland salad. In fact, we eat some insanely delicious things. And if you see something you like, give it a try, you might be surprised. And feel free to alter to your tastes, even if your tastes aren’t vegan.