If you’ve read my About me, you will know that I’ve been plant-based since I was 9 years old. And I’m really glad that I was allowed to follow my heart and desires at a young age and remove animal produce from my diet. Fast forward to 2016, where plant-based living has become familiar and ‘trendy’ around the world and the abundance of vegan products to consume is readily available. There are so many mothers who have adopted a plant-based lifestyle and are also raising their babies and children plant-based, with lots of success. If you check out Youtube, you will see motivating, powerful and heart-warming vlogs of children genuinely enjoying the abundance of fruits and veggies their parents prepare for them. More specifically, they are thriving off this lifestyle. I love seeing it! More and more parents are aware of the effects of dairy products, which is known to cause allergies and other health problems. They’re also aware of the health, environmental and animal cruelty implications, which has led them to re-evaluate their nutritional choices and lifestyle. One inspiring woman and motivating mother who creates some mouth-watering dishes as well as raising her beautiful daughter vegan is Hope – The Veganmama! Read her story.
What inspired you to become vegan? I was inspired by the overwhelming amount of evidence that supports a plant-based diet (specifically avoiding dairy & meat) can help heal eczema. My daughter suffered severe eczema from 2 months old and doctors, prescribed creams and expensive eczema creams were not going to heal her. So I took it into my own hands and changed my diet as I was breastfeeding and this had a direct effect on her skin.
Image showing Hope’s daughter Alina with eczema
How old is your daughter? And how long have you both been vegan? My daughter will be 2 on the 1st of November! She has directly avoided dairy all her life and has never had formula milk. She has been fully vegan with me from around 8 months old and (from when she became interested in solids.) I have been Vegan since she was around 6 months old, so this has been my 2nd year as a vegan.
what made you decide to raise your daughter Vegan? The results of me being vegan and exclusively breastfeeding Alina and seeing her skin heal, her skin looked better, I could see she felt better and wasn’t in discomfort and she didn’t have diarrhea or extreme constipation anymore! We later had her allergy tested, she is extremely allergic to cow’s milk protein, so dairy is a no-go. And I don’t give her meat because I believe it isn’t healthy or necessary, when I discovered ‘plant based’ benefits, I could see how in a healthy diet there is NO place for meat. I felt the best I’d felt in my whole life. I was learning to cook food from scratch, exploring different foods that we both loved so it was a no-brainer with my new findings that we would both avoid animal produce and commit to veganism!
What was your diet like before you became plant based? My diet before I was vegan was shocking, since my early teenage years I probably ate one proper meal A DAY, only dinner. I snacked all day on sugar like sweets, chocolate or cereal bars. A typical day included Lucozade/energy drink for breakfast, a bag of crisps, cheese string and a chocolate bar etc for lunch, maybe half a sandwich with ham and lettuce. Then oven food like pizzas or chicken with rice or pasta. When I got pregnant I healed my relationship with food and had to eat 3 meals a day and ate constantly but I ate a lot of refined sugar. After I’d given birth I still had a pregnancy appetite but with a newborn attached to my breast 24/7, my diet was pretty much cheese on toast with perhaps baked beans!
Have there been any challenges along the way? The challenge I faced as a new mother going Vegan, was obviously family and friends opinions! So many people already have opinions and advice they want to give you. And adopting an alternative diet and lifestyle and you open the floodgates to opinions! My partner and mom were constantly saying ‘you don’t need to be so extreme!’. My partner was horrified I was cutting out ‘essential’ food groups and constantly discouraged me so I had very little support to begin with. I just actively sought out vegan recipes and searched what I should and could eat online a lot. I could barely cook as well so safe to say we had a few disasters!
What do your friends and family think of your vegan lifestyle, especially as you’re raising your daughter vegan? are they supportive? It has gone from having no support – at all – at the beginning to now, my partner is super supportive especially since Alina’s allergy to cow’s milk was confirmed! He once made me a vegan cake and we have been to vegan restaurants. He is adamant he will never be vegan as it’s hard sometimes, I support him and I understand now that I can’t force him. My family and his family are also really respectful of the fact that I’m vegan and I raise Alina this way, when Alina visits my in-laws they offer up her fish or chicken and that’s something I have compromised with my partner, but she actually doesn’t like it or know how to eat it because I haven’t taught her that those foods are ‘food’… From what I’ve seen she deliberately avoids it. They can all see she is thriving on a vegan diet so I think most of their concerns have stopped, although I do still get the questions about her being vegan.
Do you think your daughter will come up against social challenges as she gets older because she’s vegan (at nursery, school, parties, etc) How will you address this? Alina went to a childminder from 9 months old until 18 months old, and she always had a fully vegan packed lunch! From a sandwich with homemade sunflower seed butter on wholemeal organic bread, with kiddie fruit snacks and fresh chopped fruit or veggies; Or she regularly had leftovers which my childminder would simply warm up, so a pasta or a quinoa dish etc! Going to school will be challenging especially with school dinners, peer pressure and people’s curiosity surrounding veganism! But I am really interested in homeschooling, however, as nursery approaches, I am confident she will still enjoy packed lunches.
Would you recommend any plant-based infant foods or brands? Or do you prepare all daughter’s food fresh? I prepare all Alina’s foods on a typical day, but she does snack on packet food sometimes if not fruit, and I’ve found baby snacks are accidentally vegan and even organic. Which is interesting that people seem to believe that babies deserve healthy and organic foods but adults do not! I have always loved Kiddlilicious snacks, they recently bought out some pretty amazing lentil crisps and quinoa crisps, that have 100% vegan ingredients in really cool flavors like sour cream and chive! Alina has always loved their smoothie melts which are 100% fruit based.
What plant-based based foods do you and your daughter enjoy? We typically eat the same foods, especially now she has teeth! We usually share the same breakfast of oats/porridge and I just flavor it differently, she likes a little flaxseed or chia seeds and syrup with chopped fruit on the side and I usually add lots of fruit, maca or flax on top of my porridge! We share the same dinner, she loves my curries with rice I never add chili to my curries and rely solely on black pepper. We also enjoy pasta with tomato sauces, homemade potato chips, we generally share the same steamed veg every day. And she also trials all my oil free, vegan, home baking; chocolate brownies, cakes, muffins, and cookies.
What advice do you have for parents who are considering raising their child(ren) vegan and have concerns about it? If you are considering it, DO IT! There is so much to be gained, do your research and trust it! There is an abundance of information out there and it’s all trial and error! You have to experiment with recipes and different foods. I was like most parents e.g. calcium = cow’s milk! So even by Alina being severely allergic when she reached 12 months with no teeth I was adamant her teeth were never going to grow! I think gaining confidence and knowing the facts and making truly educated decisions about what food your children are eating is so important. Alina is almost 2, and she has almost 10 teeth, she is a normal height, weight, and her intelligence blows my mind daily! Her allergen dietician is very impressed by her and also supports that Alina is getting everything she needs from plant sources; added vitamins from fortified plant milk’s, enough protein from plants e.g. beans and fatty acids from ground seeds. A balanced vegan diet is perfect for kids and also perfectly safe and natural! Ironically, questions are rarely raised to those parents who take their children to MacDonald’s daily!
There seems to be a common concern about where to get protein from when you give up meat. What tips would you give about getting enough vitamins and proteins in your diet? Protein deficiency is almost unheard of, yet it’s always discussed when you adopt an alternative diet. Information is out there to prove that a vegan diet can supply you with everything you need, you need to take responsibility for your diet and make sure it’s balanced and that you are getting enough calories. I believe I’m getting MORE protein, vitamins and minerals now I’m vegan than I was before I was vegan! As I’ve really researched veganism I trust that myself and Alina are getting everything we need, therefore we only supplement with a b12 spray. Alina gets more than enough vitamin D from the sunshine, which a lot of non-vegan children lack, controversially I don’t believe in sun cream. We have a starch based diet so we consume protein from a lot of beans, red lentils, quinoa, and seeds.Vitamins from the abundance of steamed vegetables and fresh fruit daily. Alina still breastfeeds so I also know all her nutritional needs are being met through this source and once she is weaned I know that her diet will be enough to support her.
I hope Hope’s story inspired, motivated and encouraged you to not be afraid to make changes to your own and children(s) nutrition. And as she stated, do your research, even if it’s to give you further peace of mind.
To connect with Hope and try out her lovely recipes click on her social media links below.
Thank you Hope and Alina x
Blog for recipes and vegan lifestyle: hopevictoria.org