Thinking of feeding your kids an all veg diet? Three mums tell Young Parents’ Eveline Gan why they chose not to include meat in their family’s diet, and how they balance their kids’ nutritional needs.
Deprived? Not Our Kids
Ng Shwu Huey, 35, is a stay-at-home mum. Her kids, Jude and Julia Tan, are three years and one year old, respectively.
“Raising our kids as vegans is one of our greatest gifts to them. We believe it gives them a solid foundation for lifelong health, as there is considerable evidence that a plant-based diet is best.
“I’ve noticed that, compared with his peers, Jude hardly ever falls sick. During those few times when he was unwell, his recovery was very quick. But, of course, with any diet, it is important to be well- informed and know what you are doing.
“Nutrition-wise, we’re careful to always research and update ourselves with information from reliable sources. I do a weekly meal plan to ensure that we’ve a different mix of vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and fruit in our diet. I get my recipes online and from vegan cookbooks. We also offer Jude B12 and DHA supplements.
“Some people feel that a child on a vegan diet will be deprived of ‘nice’ food. “Believe me, vegan food is really very tasty! The child will certainly not feel deprived – there is a vegan alternative to almost any type of food.
“Ice cream, chocolate, cake, candy, cookies and burgers? You name it; there’s a vegan option available.
“But we don’t glorify these foods as treats. So, Jude will ask to have cauliflower and kailan, or watermelon and blueberries, as much as he would ask to have ice cream.
“Contrary to what most people think, a vegan lifestyle can be easy to follow. Fortunately, most places in Singapore offer vegetarian options which means we can eat just about anywhere.
“So far, barring some of the common misconceptions mentioned earlier, we’ve not encountered many negative comments about our decision to raise our kids as vegans. When they see us thriving on a vegan diet, what more is there to say?”
No Animal Should Suffer
Amy Corrigan, 37, is the group director of advocacy for the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society. Her daughter, Ella Ng, is 11⁄2 years old.
“Ella has been a strict vegetarian since birth. Actually, it’s more accurate to say since conception, because I was on a vegetarian diet during my pregnancy.
“I’ve not eaten meat since I was 11 because I respect animals, and don’t support the suffering and slaughtering of them. My husband (also a vegetarian) and I also know that humans can survive and thrive on a plant-based diet.
“I know of many children who get upset when they realise the meat they eat comes from the very animals that they read about in storybooks, nursery rhymes and play with at petting farms. Ella will never need to go through this upsetting experience.
“I also strongly believe that a vegetarian diet is much healthier than a diet that includes meat, especially since so much meat comes from ‘factory farms’ where intensively reared animals are injected with hormones, antibiotics and so on. Ella has been exclusively breastfed since birth, so I make sure I eat a balanced diet to ensure that my breast milk is rich in nutrients. Now that she has started on solids, I offer her a variety of foods to ensure she gets all the nutrients she needs to grow well.
“She is extremely active, bright and rarely gets sick. In fact, Ella is a shining example of the benefits of raising a child on a vegetarian diet.
“When she is older, she can make her own informed decision on whether she wants to eat meat. I feel that she will probably decide not to once she knows where it comes from, and that we don’t need it to be healthy or have a tasty meal.”
See How Well He is Growing?
Halimah Ilavarasi, 34, is a vegan baker and founder of the blog, Evolving Parenthood. Her son, Akshel Sudhan, is two years old.
“My husband and I went vegan five years ago for ethical and compassionate reasons. As vegans, we stay away from all animal products, including dairy, eggs and meat. Naturally, our baby will follow our diet until he is old enough to make an informed choice about his food.
“Some common misconceptions I’ve heard are that our child will not thrive, or will become stunted or developmentally challenged. But the truth is, a vegan diet can be a balanced diet, as long as there is variety.
“To ensure that my kid meets his nutritional needs, I come up with a weekly meal plan. We rarely eat out, so I have a good amount of control over what he eats.
“Akshel’s diet includes various plant-based foods from soya (tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk) and legumes (dhal, peas, peanuts) to seeds (quinoa, millet, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, chia seeds) and nuts (walnut, pistachio, almond), as well as different fruit and vegetables. He also takes multivitamin and vegetable-based DHA supplements.
“Our immediate family has come to terms with the ‘eccentric’ couple in the family and considers our needs when dining out or cooking for us. My husband and I are lucky to have their understanding.
“Even so, during my pregnancy, my mother was constantly worried about my diet and my unborn baby’s health. But, she now fully supports our lifestyle as she can see how well my son is growing on this diet.”
By Eveline Gan, Young Parents, October 2015