Vegan! It seems to be in fashion right now. In every corner of the globe, veganism is in. People are asking “Is it vegan?” And that’s not all, parents are choosing to alter their lifestyles in order to raise vegan children. Has the world gone mad or is this a call which will truly save mankind and this planet?
What is veganism?
Veganism is beyond vegetarianism. While being a vegetarian means you can include dairy products in your diet, veganism shuns everything that comes from an animal. So that includes dairy, eggs, seafood and obviously animal meat, but also things like honey.
Being vegan also means saying no to using any product that may contain animal products. This includes footwear, bags, cosmetics, belts and even using animals for hunting or transport.
Products, including medicines (unless alternatives are not available I suppose) that have been used and tested on animals are also not used by vegans. Vegans also do not use animals for entertainment. So that means no visiting zoos and aquariums or watching the horse races. Visiting a sanctuary or a farm where animals exist in their natural environment is ok though.
While it seems ideal and the right thing to do for the good of the planet, is this a wise and feasible decision?
Here’s what 16 women bloggers had to say about being vegan when blogger Utpal Krishna asked them if the woman of today chose a vegan lifestyle. Read the whole post here.
Vegan by force
I love food and eating and non-vegetarian fare tops my list. Being born and married into communities that savoured seafood, I never dreamt of ever giving up on my favourites.
But at one particular time in my life when I was studying for my masters, away from home, I gave up all non-vegetarian foods for a year. It was more for reasons of health (weight actually) and to see how much self-control I possessed. At no point did I consciously do this to save animals or planet Earth. And the moment the 365th day had passed I was back to hogging non-vegetarian foods. This was a long time ago, before being vegan was cool.
I was the one who rolled my eyes at the kinds of people who adopted extreme lifestyles like veganism. But that was before I had a baby. Yes, babies do turn everything in your world upside down, don’t they?
With the wonder of breastmilk, I began to touch base with hitherto unknown feelings towards animal milk. I could not bear to imagine that another mother’s milk was being stimulated and then snatched away to feed the hungry mouths of human babies. I began to wonder if milk was even needed by the human body. Surely if man needed milk the mother’s milk would flow for years and decades, right. When human breast milk was looked down upon if toddlers were still at it, why did we assume that it was ok to feed them animal milk?
Read my post on Long term breastfeeding here.
BabyT was born with baby acne. The doctors said it would pass with time, but it did not. He had red angry skin on his face all the time. Eczema was the conclusion drawn. His only intake was breastmilk at that point. But when he began solid foods his eczema worsened at times. The doctor we usually consulted was not able to explain much to us but suggested we eliminate foods. Combined with reading online, we decided to control the allergens first.
When we did this we realised that dairy products were the culprit. And it was not just passing to him from solid foods, but also from my breastmilk. We had no choice but we had to go dairy-free. Suddenly here we were looking up, how to raise vegan children. While we did not go entirely vegan, going dairy free was a real challenge.
Indian food and diet is difficult to go vegan with, especially when ghee is considered next to Godliness. However we have fared well and we enjoy most foods without dairy. For all practical purposes when we are outside the home and buying packaged foods, vegan is the way. The awareness is still low, and the suitable products available are few. We have had several instances where eating supposedly dairy free food has triggered off babyT’s allergic reactions and scared us to death even.
Vegan by choice
Many families are becoming conscious of the legacy they are leaving behind for their future generations. They are also more sensitive to health and living a natural and organic way of life. Naturally, people are choosing to also raise vegan children.
A dear blogger friend of mine, who lives in the UK has chosen to adopt a more conscious way of raising her three children. This choice has included going vegan. She has a splendid blog post on this and you can read it here – Why Vegan?
Sushmita is a vocal advocate of living a responsible life and this includes the food choices her family makes. She shares that her family has made the choice happily to follow a vegan diet. The kids although young seem to understand the reasons for her choosing to do so and respect her for that choice and follow it too.
She also shares a lot of her meal ideas and from what I can see, there is no dearth of delicious, and nutritious food in this household. Vegan doesn’t have to be boring at all.
I naturally gave up all dairy when babyT was diagnosed with a dairy allergy and he was still breastfeeding. I switched to soya milk for my chai and it took some getting used to, but I love the flavour now.
So, we have soya and nut milks, vegan cheese, nut butters and tofu. For babyT the only milk he knows is soya milk. So much so that even almond milk is called soya milk. We also found ice creams, rich Indian curries made with nut pastes or coconut cream and I can vouch for a fact that they are absolutely delicious and really great on your system too.
What are the implications on health?
Eliminating red meat and fats from your diet can be very healthy. It is known to reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians and vegans also have significantly lower blood pressure, blood glucose and BMI. The link between being vegetarian and cancer is less direct. However a diet that is rich in fibres, coloured fruits and veggies etc does help people become healthier and with reduced risk of disease overall.
I personally felt a general sense of well being when I was off dairy. I felt energetic and light. However I realised all this when I recommenced having cow’s milk teas. It was just two cups in a day or sometimes one, but I began to put on weight and my body felt sluggish. I soon began to feel the pain in my knees from the weight and my monthly cycle went for a toss. While I cannot attribute it 100% to the consumption of dairy, I am sure it did have a big part to play.
But it has been debated and studied that people on vegan diets can fall short of certain nutritional targets, especially calcium, vitamin B12, zinc and iron. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products and so vegans would need to supplement for it. Fortified foods such as cereals, juices are also a good source of B12. Calcium and iron can be acquired from other foods and vegans would need to make sure they are taking these in consciously.
Power of choice
What does it mean to raise vegan children? It means choosing to follow a certain practice at home and when you are outside. While the part at home can be easily managed, it gets difficult when the child is out of home and in situations such as school lunches, birthday celebrations or get togethers at their friends. Sensitizing people about your child’s preferences has to be done.
But are parents forcing their children to do something they don’t want to? I don’t think so. In Sushmita’s case as you saw above, if you read the entire post, her children have readily accepted the choice to be vegan. Her eldest Reuben, understands the need for a more ethical and sensitive lifestyle, but he does wish that some of the rules can be relaxed when they are away on travel or holiday. Which is very fair and a mature thing to admit to actually.
Sushmita and other “vegan by choice” parents also know that their children will want to use the power of their own choice some day and may indulge in a non-vegan diet. I would be happy with whatever makes my children happy and I think the same would be the case here.
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018
You may also find this post on Baby Led Weaning very relevant too.