Eat a Food Rainbow
As childhood obesity rates soar and consumers gain awareness, how to teach healthy, ethical habits? Vegan mom offers tips.
As childhood obesity rates climb and more pediatricians break the shocking news to parents that their kids are overweight or obese, researchers are finding ways for families to encourage their little ones to eat well. At the same time, there has been a shift towards plant-based eating and living, with discussion of vegan author Ruby Roth’s newest children’s book Vegan Is Love even reaching the airwaves of CNN.
Vegan mom Robyn Moore, mother to daughter Charlotte, whom she and husband Martin are proudly raising vegan, kindly took time to offer tips on healthy eating and ethical living for demodirt.com.
Robyn is the creator of RaisingVegKids.com, a website and blog filled with resources and tools for parents raising vegetarian/vegan kids, and she has a Master’s Degree in Education. She is the organizer of NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Families Meetup which meets monthly, and reviews children’s books for VegBooks.
demodirt.com: What are your favorite ways to encourage healthy eating in your home? Which snacks, habits, and even books do you recommend?
Moore: My daughter is only 22mo, but I think setting eating habits and patterns at an early age is really important. Every morning, we share a green smoothie. She now looks forward to this and often asks for it before I even make it.
Every day is different, but some of the fruits/veggies we use are: kale, spinach, bok choy, pineapple, berries, mango, apples, peaches, oranges, grapefruits, bananas, chia seeds and hemp seeds.
I also just ordered the I Ate A Rainbow! Kit from Kia Robertson- which is an interactive way to encourage kids to eat a rainbow of 5 servings of fruit and veggies each day, by tracking them on a magnetic refrigerator chart.
I also cook and bake with her a lot. She helps mix and stir, decorate desserts, sees and touches all the ingredients and gets to taste-test!
I keep a muffin tin filled with various snacks on the coffee table all day, so she can munch whenever she wants. I fill it with snacks such as peanut butter crackers, olives, sesame sticks, dried apricots, pretzels, raisins, vegan cheese, homemade vegan goldfish, figs, strawberries, blueberries, etc. I also blend whole fruit and freeze it into ice pops which she loves!
demodirt.com: You are raising your daughter as a vegan. What has her doctor's reaction been to her being a vegan?
Moore: Her pediatrician is the best! When we told her we were raising Charlotte vegan, she didn’t even blink an eye. She is a younger doctor so I think she is more familiar with the science and health benefits of a vegan diet, and she understands that you can find plenty of calcium, protein, iron, and other nutrients in plant-based foods. In the countless times we’ve been there for check-ups, Charlotte’s vegan diet has never once been an issue.
That being said, only 30 percent of medical schools even require a nutritional course, so when it comes to what we feed our own children, we shouldn’t look to and rely on doctors; we can and should be the experts.
demodirt.com: What are some myths and truths regarding vegan eating and kids?
Moore: The biggest myth is that vegan kids will be missing out on calcium and protein, (and other essential vitamins and nutrients). It’s interesting to note that these two happen to be synonymous with milk and meat, that’s no accident. The meat and dairy industries are two of the largest, most powerful businesses on the planet, with marketing budgets to show for it. There are plenty of non-animal foods that provide everything our bodies need, without the added saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, etc.
The other big myth is that kids will be limited as to what they can eat. I find the opposite is true. Kids who eat meat/dairy tend to stick to the same handful of foods day in and day out including chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, mac & cheese, french fries, and maybe a handful of traditional fruits and vegetables.
But in my experience with my own daughter so far, I’ve noticed that while one door is shut—the meat/dairy/egg door—a whole new, bigger and better door is opened...one that leads to a healthy existence. I’m lucky that my daughter is adventurous and loves trying new foods. I’m proud to say that she has already experienced foods that many adults haven’t even tried.
Foods such as lentils (red, green), quinoa, hummus, beans (aduki, mung, cannellini, refried, etc), edamame, seaweed, tahini, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, watercress, daikon, okra, fiddleheads, seitan, tofu, tempeh, melons, mango, lychee, falafel, and chia seeds, plus many of the traditional type foods that everyone else is eating, not to mention what she eats when we go out to restaurants (Ethiopian, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Middle-Eastern).
And instead of getting one choice of milk like most kids, she has a new one each week: rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk, sunflower seed milk, soy milk and hemp milk. Limited diet, no way!
demodirt.com: What particular challenges--socially and otherwise--do you find raising your daughter vegan and how do you handle them?
Moore: Since my daughter is still in the toddler stage, and just starting to talk, we haven’t experienced too many issues yet. Sometimes we change the words to books, songs or nursery rhymes that refer to animals in exploitive situations. There is also the occasional grab of another child’s goldfish or cheese snack at storytime, or the playground. For now, I just tell her that she has her own snacks and those are somebody else’s.
As she gets older, there will be more explanation about why we eat the food we eat, or more accurately why we don’t eat certain foods, as well as why we avoid zoos, circuses, animal exhibit parks, wool/leather/fur/silk clothing, and animal tested-products.
But for now, the challenges pale in comparison to the ethical core that we feel we are instilling in our child. We stand tall and proud that we are raising a child to be compassionate and considerate towards animals by voting with our dollars in what we buy and support.
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