Debunking the Myth of Unhealthy Vegan Children
There was an article written in a British tabloid, Metro, in May of 2017 with the headline "Vegan diets could be damaging children’s health, nutritionists warn". The author of the article writes many many articles in one day, almost every day and so one has to wonder how much research went into her article? From the small amount of research that I have done it appears that Professor Mary Fewtrell may actually be behind the article as another similar article appeared one week earlier in another tabloid, The Daily Mail. Some research on Professor Fewtrell brought me to an article regarding breastmilk feeding in which Professor Fewtrell and 3 colleagues claim that breastfeeding may not be the healthiest option for children. Say what? The article goes on to say that Fewtrell and 2 others of her colleagues are paid by the baby food industry... ah ha .... as Dr Michael Greiger says, "always follow the money back to the source".
The number of vegans and vegan families is on the rise, in the UK and all over the world. In the UK it is estimated that, over the past 10 years, there has been a 360% rise in the number of people identifying themselves as vegan. The numbers are even more staggering in Canada where, according to Wikipedia, in 2003 only 3% of Canadians identified as vegetarian and yet in 2015 a full 33% either were not eating meat or at least trying to limit it. The numbers for the USA, from Wikipedia: "In 1971, 1 percent of U.S. citizens described themselves as vegetarians. In 2008 Harris Interactive found that 3.2% are vegetarian and 0.5% vegan, while a 2013 Public Policy Polling survey of 500 respondents found that 13% of Americans are either vegetarian or vegan—6% vegetarian and 7% vegan."
It is heartening to see this and must be disheartening for the 'processed foods' industry, so much so, that many of them are getting into the business of making 'vegan' food. And here is the rub for me and why some people say that veganism is not healthy and why we don't identify as vegans but as Starchivores or as Beyond Vegan or Whole Food Plant-Based. So many of the processed vegan foods that are available in the marketplace are high in oils, sodium and isolated soy proteins, none of which are healthy IMO.
So many diets can be damaging to children's health and yes, if a vegan parent is feeding their children highly processed vegan foods with lots of sugars and oils and salt, then that is unhealthy. As are the non-vegan parents who take their children to the golden arches or other fast food restaurants for 'happy' meals that are full of sugars and oils and salts also. So it really is not about the name of the lifestyle or diet it is about the content of it. A whole foods plant-based lifestyle, which includes all nutrients and vitamins necessary to sustain and nourish life can be excellent for people of all ages including children. A great website to learn more about nutrients is here http://veganhealth.org/.
Why the confusion around veganism and vegan foods? some people go vegan because of the animals, some because of the environment and some for health reasons. I care very much about the environment and about the animals themselves and yet we made the choice primarily for health reasons and because we were exposed to it from the "Starchivore" "whole foods plant-based" angle it has been easier for us to stay away from the unhealthy processed vegan foods and stick with the basic whole foods 'keep it simple' lifestyle.
As I have mentioned before I watch a lot of YouTube videos and some of them are amazing families who are not only living a whole food lifestyle (most of them vegan) but who vlog the lifestyle to try to encourage others to consider it also. Following is a list of some of those, including some videos from other vegans debunking the Metro article:
- Debunk - Happy Healthy Vegans - a couple from California who post a video every few days on a variety of vegan topics
- Sarah Lemkus - a young vegan mom, her husband and 2 year old vegan child (she is also pregnant again) - have an amazing YouTube channel which I discovered only a few days ago and have been enjoying... she is very informative.... check it out. She also has a website with recipes etc.
- Family Fizz - I have been watching this family, every day, for about 6 or 7 months and although I feel they eat too much oil and too much sugar I am impressed by their overall "joi de vivre" and dedication to their channel. They have a 5 year old who has only ever been vegan and a 12 year old who has been vegan for 5 years. Both girls also have their own channels. Family Fizz YouTube Channel.
- Lean Green Dad - a motivational speaker and believer that 'real men eat plants' - Cory Warren has a great website, blog and podcasts available and his children are very proud of him - check him out.
- Jeff Morgan of Guilt Free TV is also a plant-based dad and one of the people who definitely helped us when we started this journey. Check out his YouTube channel here and scroll down to see a recent video interview that he did with Dr Michael Greger on children on eating a plant-based lifestyle. The thing I liked most about this video is how he was open about the fact that encouraging children to eat plant-based can be challenging if they haven't been living this lifestyle from the start. Kudos to Jeff for addressing the issue and for also being a propenent of oilfree and low sugar foods!
- From the mouths of babes... themselves.... - Bite Size Vegan has put together a sweet YouTube video that allows the kids to tell you why they are vegan, you guessed it, most of them do it because of the animals! Watch it here.
Take some time in research it for yourself. If you google the following "youtube channels vegan children" then you will find an endless list and can make up your own mind. I tend to click away from a video if they start to cook with oil or consume a lot of processed foods, and love watching the "what I eat in day" videos of families eating simply and healthily (is that a word?).
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Starchivore Whole Food Plant-Based Lifestyle
- a plant-based diet that reduces or eliminates all animal foods like meat, dairy, and eggs PLUS has the addition of starch, so that you feel full and satisfied
- include grains like rye, wheat, barley, oats and corn; starchy vegetables like squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes and legumes like red and brown lentils, chick peas, green peas, and lotsa beans like pinto, kidney AND lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
- reduces or eliminates added oils, including coconut, olive and peanut and reduces added sugars and salts
- it is believed Dr T Colin Campbell coined the term "whole food, plant-based" and Dr John McDougall the term "starchivore"
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