if you've been around here long, you probably know that david and i have been vegan for about 6 years now. during that time i’ve had two very healthy vegan pregnancies (you can read about my first pregnancy here) and have also been raising our son, bear, on a plant based diet.
i’ve had several people ask about the details of raising a plant based babe, so here i am to share with you all that i know. :)
a quick note: before you read this article, please know that the only real advice i give to any mom is to do whatever works for you and your family. every baby is different and you are officially entering a 'no judgment' zone! i simply wanted to share about our eating habits for anyone who wants to know more or who might be interested in what it looks like for our family and how we make it work.
i won’t go into great detail about our why we’ve chosen to eat this way (you can read more about my reasons here and here), but in short it’s all about health. health for our bodies and health for the earth. eating this way makes us feel alive, strong and full of joy!
my second vegan pregnancy has been just as good as the first. all of my blood results have come back in optimal range, i passed the glucose test with flying colors and have felt energetic throughout. i've gained around 40 pounds (like i did last time), and have been able to keep eating all the foods i love to eat. (sidenote: and even though my mom got them terribly, i haven't gotten any stretch marks with either pregnancy! though i’ll never know, i wonder if that’s due to my diet??)
another note i should i make: as i’ve mentioned before, i don’t believe vegans need to take supplements of any kind, as long as your mindful about a whole foods diet diet. however, pregnancy is one of those special times in your life where you need to take extra good care of yourself (vegan or not), so i take an organic whole foods prenatal vitamin and an algae omega dha. what’s an algae omega dha you say? let me tell you! doctors recommend that while you’re pregnant you take a dha omega 3 supplement to support healthy brain development. this usually comes in the form of a fish product, which of course i didn’t want to take. upon further research, what’s even a better source of dha is algae. yup, algae! made from microalgae it offers a plant-based source of beneficial marine omega 3s epa and dha without the use of fish. in fact, that’s why fish are so high in dha omega 3s, because they eat algae. so, why not remove the middle man and go straight to the source?
so back to babies!
i was thankfully able to nurse bear exclusively for 9 months, and until he later weaned at 18 months. at 9 months, we slowly introduced him to the mushy staples we eat ourselves: pieces of avocado, baked sweet potato, soft beans and bits like that. the family drinks almond milk, so we also slowly introduced it to him after he was a year old.
here are a few things we’ve done differently, that i believe has made a huge difference in the way he eats!
baby food: to this day, i’ve never bought a jar of baby food. i have also never had to go to great lengths to prepare baby food (i.e. food processor, freezing, etc etc). i’ve always just chosen whole foods that he could easily eat himself, cooked them and served them (examples are coming!).
meals with the family: another thing i’ve been adamant about is eating as a family. this means we usually sit down together three times a day (but especially at dinner), and bear eats what we eat. i don’t fix him a separate meal and he’s always enjoyed the same thing we’ve eaten for dinner. i think it's easy for people to graviate towards simple, bland or 'white' foods for babies, but i've served him colorful, tasteful, vibrant meals from the beginning! i will note that i occasionally keep things separate (like a sauce from the stir fry) and offer them all to him, that way if he doesn’t like a single element it hasn’t ruined the whole dinner.
sweets: despite the differing opinions from those around us, we managed to keep sweets away from bear until he was 18 months old. yes, that means no cake for his first birthday (he had waffles sans the syrup and he loved it!). i strongly believe that keeping him from eating sweets this long has been a huge part of how well he eats (no picky eaters, here!). as a family, we only eat homemade sweets (cookies, cake, etc), so bear has still never once had a package of candy. to this day, he’s not obsessed with anything sweet and will barely have a bite of whatever the adults are eating. he would truly rather snack on cherry tomatoes than cookies!
ok, ok. so, you may be asking yourself: so, what exactly DO you eat? here’s a sample of what bear might eat during any given week. he’s almost two years old.
• oatmeal with raisins and a sliced peach
• yogurt with fresh fruit and granola
• fresh fruit bowl with toast and earth balance butter
• granola cereal with almond milk
• homemade pancakes with fresh fruit
• avocado toast with cherry tomatoes
• pasta with peas and toast
• grits (or polenta) with nutritional yeast
• homemade biscuit with earth balance butter and fresh fruit
• peanut butter and jelly sandwich with pretzels
• hummus with pita and snap peas
• banana with peanut butter and raisins
• fruit and veggie smoothie with crackers and hummus
• baked sweet potato
• homemade bread with jam
dinner (this is always whatever we’re eating for dinner as a family):
• stir fried veggies with rice and tofu
• pasta with vegetables and sauce
• burritos with beans, rice, tempeh and veggies
• vegan grilled cheese (like this) with tomato basil soup
• garbanzo bean indian chana with papadums
overall, bear eats just about anything i put in front of him and the doctor says he’s as healthy as they come. if you're interested in seeing more of what we eat each week, you can check out my weekly dinner posts.
of course, i realize we’re still in complete control over what bear eats and as he gets older and begins school other issues are sure to arise. though we’re not sure exactly what this will look like, we are sure that we want our children to fully understand the food issues of today, but also make their own decisions about what’s important to them and how they want to eat. i’m sure i’ll be writing more about this topic as we navigate those barriers as a family later on!
how does your family cope with issues regarding food and little ones?