A plant-strong life

On Nov. 21, the day before the Little Guy turned 10-months old, our family hit its six-month anniversary of being plant strong. Since May 21, 2012 we have eaten a whole food, plant-based diet with no added oil or white sugar.

Book cover, The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn In that six months, my husband lost 46 pounds. I have returned to a number on the scale I haven’t seen since college (although the weight is in different places, thanks to the Little Guy). In addition to the weight loss, I have clearer skin and I truly believe it has been a factor in the speed of my recovery from pelvic reconstruction surgery.

Our son has been plant strong for three-fifths of his life. His transition to table foods was a primary impetus for our complete lifestyle makeover. The other major factors were eliminating obesity for my husband and for me the fact that my father and his brother died because of complications of type 2 diabetes.

Now, in addition to typically 24 ounces of soy-based formula each day, the Little Guy eats what we eat. And even though he is a very low weight for his age and that caused his doctor to ask us to keep a food diary and diagnose him with “failure to thrive” (which, in turn has lead to pending interaction from early childhood special education services), we are confident that he gets a balance of complete nutrients. For Thanksgiving, for example, we all ate a wonderful meal of roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing and peach pie. My husband made all of those things from scratch and the meal was truly amazing.

My husband and I are happy and committed to our choice. But it was our choice. As the Little Guy gets older, I know he will want to be like the other kids. And, ultimately, I know he will need to decide for himself how he will eat when he leaves our “nest.” I hope we give him the tools he needs to make an educated decision when the time comes. Until then, I know that when he is at home he will eat what is served for dinner. And I know we will pack him plant-strong lunches. But when he is not with us, he will need to make choices.

A cheesburger - bun, tomato, lettuce, ketchup, cheese, burger, bunI must have been thinking about this a lot yesterday because I had a dream about it. In the dream the Little Guy was about 6 or 7 years old. He had just come home from spending time with friends and was sullen. My husband and I were both home and when we asked him what was wrong he said his stomach was upset and burst into tears. Sobbing he said: “I’m going to die like grandpa.” And then, gasping after each word “I. Ate. A. Cheeseburger.” The dream ended with me explaining to him that my father ate unhealthful things for many, many years and didn’t change his ways like the doctors advised for many more and that there was no way he would die like grandpa from one cheeseburger.

I hope that never happens. I hope we can teach him that we eat this way because we want to live long, healthy, productive lives free of the complications of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other so called Western diseases. I hope he feels free to make his own choices. But I also hope that the commitment we’ve made teaches him the values of good nutrition, what real food should taste like and not to be afraid to try new things.

He’s already eaten foods I didn’t encounter until college: Purple potatoes, rutabaga and lentils among them. His favorite meal of all is black beans and rice. And, because we know the ingredients are sound, he’s even had peach cobbler for breakfast. Can’t beat that, right?

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5 thoughts on “A plant-strong life

  1. That’s a really scary diagnosis for your son. While being vegan is a choice for you, it’s not healthy for a growing infant. He is obviously missing nutrients – you’re literally failing him to thrive. Please rethink your choices for the sake of your son, or someone from the state will force you to.

    • Thank you for your concern, but you should know that our son’s pediatrician has never been concerned that we are vegan. His growth pattern has been the same since he was born.

      Since this may be the your first visit to this blog, I also would like you to know that my son’s pediatrician has assured us that both his head circumference (aka brain size development) and height are on a perfect course for his age, and have been for his entire life. Her best guess, as I said in an earlier post to which this one was linked, is his low weight is related either to genetics, as I was very small as an infant, or to the congenital heart murmur discovered at his nine-month well baby checkup. We are awaiting results of related follow-up tests now. As she has explained to us, certain heart murmurs change the way the blood carries oxygen throughout the body, which in turn, can cause a child to be under-weight. Our son also has had complete blood work on a few occasions for reasons unrelated to his size and all levels have each time been completely in the normal range. He is not lethargic and there other than his size there are no indications that he is delayed in any way.

      My husband and I take our son’s nutrition and care very seriously. We know what nutrients are in which fruits and vegetables. We know how to make sure he eats protein. And he eats until he is full, typically much more than the recommended amounts of each type of food for his age group.

      For the first seven months of his life my son was exclusively breast-fed, until the surgery to repair my separated pelvis required that I stop to allow my hormones to return to non-pregnancy levels and allow for better healing. For the first four months of his life, and throughout my pregnancy, I ate the standard American diet, with the exception that I already loved fruits and veggies. Personally, I am much more concerned about the nutrition he received during that time than I am now. When I switched to a plant-based diet, I saw a substantial increase in my milk production, which allowed me to freeze more milk and allowed my son one feeding of breast milk daily until he was more than 8 months old. Today, the formula he gets (at least 24 ounces daily, as recommended for his age) has the recommended amounts of AHA, DHA and iron.

      My husband and I are glad that our son has tried, and enjoys, a wide variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, legumes, tofu and polenta. He enjoys avocado and as soon as he is one-year old he will be introduced to peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts and pecans.

      I understand that you may not have been reading this blog from the beginning and you may not know me or my family, but your accusation that raising a vegan child is a danger or risk to that is child false. Yes, it takes work to make sure your child gets a balanced diet, but don’t all children deserve that?

      More more information about diets for vegan babies, please visit the following sites, and share them with others:
      http://www.vrg.org/nutshell.kids.htm
      http://www.vegansociety.com/lifestyle/parenting/
      There also are dozens of vegan and vegetarian related parenting blogs and resources online.

  2. Pingback: A vegan diet for infants is not dangerous « Separated at Birth

  3. Michaela, I am heartbroken that someone would even suggest what you had to read from your ill-informed, judgmental reader. Clark is the most content, happy, thriving baby I know. The only area in which he is not thriving is in size. His cheeks are rosy, he listens and observes everything, and he eats very healthy! I imagine the person who made that comment would think nothing of giving their child a Twinkie or birthday cake on first birthday.

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