Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Feature: Vegan Parents #7

This week we have Alison and her family.  

1: Name and age of your little person(s) and your family.

My husband, Mat, and I share our lives with our daughter, Anika, 7 and sons Jem, 4; Rowan, 2.

2: Was your pregnancy vegan?

All of my pregnancies have been vegan. I had been vegan for 8 years when I became pregnant with Anika, my first child. During that pregnancy, a GP told me that I ‘looked pale’ and must be anaemic. I was not at all surprised when a blood test confirmed that my ferritin levels were good and I did not have anaemia. I believe that she was quick to ‘diagnose’ me with anaemia because of my vegan diet. She said: ‘I wish you would eat meat, but I know that you won’t’. Suffice to say, she was not my GP for much longer!

During all pregnancies, I had confidence in my body’s ability to grow a healthy baby. I experienced morning sickness with all my pregnancies, but I did not have any complications or problems, and I did not suffer from excessive weight gain. I supplemented with B12 and vegan DHA. I also attended a weekly pre-natal yoga group.

3: Do you have support from family/friends? If you have made new friends since becoming a vegan parent please add how you met and how helpful it’s been to have like minded friends.

My family - and my husband’s family - are very supportive of our veganism. My younger sister, Susannah, has been a vegan for 15 years. My parents no longer eat animal products, and they credit my sister and me with ‘raising vegan parents’! One of Mat’s nieces, Jess, became a vegan about a year ago. I am happy that the existence of vegan family members normalises veganism for our children.

We share our lives with a large circle of diverse friends – all non-vegan. However, all of them are supportive and accommodating of our veganism. Some of our friends have become very skilled at making delicious vegan food and cakes. I used to pride myself on being the ‘great vegan baker’ in our family, but I think my Mum has now taken the title. Positively, Mat and I have never had to worry that my parents would give our children non-vegan foods, as they fully support our belief system. Moreover, they simply do not have any non-vegan foods in their house. My (non-vegan) mother-in-law has also become adept at making vegan food, and whenever we visit her in Sydney, she ensures that her cupboard and fridge are stocked with vegan foods, including yummy biscuits and scrumptious cakes that she has baked herself.

I recognise that we are lucky to have a supportive network of family and friends in our lives – and I am very thankful for it.

4: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being a vegan parent and how do you handle moments when you might doubt yourself?

Most of the time, I feel safely cocooned in our little vegan existence. However, there are occasional challenges. I am saddened by the thought that my children will one day be aware of the full scale of horrors that humans inflict on non-human animals. I feel sad that I cannot shield them from the harsh realities of a very non-vegan world. I lament the fact that some people- nutritionists, journalists and others - think that raising vegan children is irresponsible or risky. I feel angry that our public education system is regarded as a ‘tool’ by industry groups – such as Dairy Australia- to promote their unethical and unhealthy products to children.

I have never doubted that veganism was the right path for our family. I hope with all my heart that my children will embrace vegan values as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.

5: What do you consider to be the best thing about being a vegan parent?

I feel immensely happy that my children are being raised with a vegan ethos – that they do not regard animals as a source of food. I am proud of the fact that my daughter knows where gelatine comes from; that she believes cow’s milk is for baby cows. Jem and Anika understand where ‘meat’ comes from – they understand that an animal has died. My children demonstrate genuine empathy and compassion for non-human animals – and it fills my heart with joy that they are not contributing to the suffering of sentient beings.

6: Please add any tips and favourite shopping and eating places that are child and vegan friendly?

There is a fabulous vegan place in Lismore called 20 000 Cows – it is popular with vegans and non-vegans. They serve amazing food – spinach & nut cheese rolls, Yemeni mellawah, Lithuanian kugelis, nori fritters, tahini cheese cake.... it is impossible for me to nominate a favourite dish! Some of these awesome dishes are included in the owner’s cook book. We also enjoy yum cha at Easy House and dinner at Tian Ran when visiting the Gold Coast.

7: Do you have any no fail foods for your fussy eater? Or please name some of your child's favourite meals/snacks, if possible please include recipes for other parents to try.

All of my children love tacos – it is an easy way to ensure that they eat lots of raw salad vegetables. My daughter is very adventurous with food. I can usually guarantee that she will eat whatever we serve up! Jem, on the other hand, isn’t a big fan of dinner. He eats really well - and heartily - in the morning and at lunch time, but just ‘picks’ at dinner. I am hoping that Rowan will turn out to be as adventurous as Anika – so far, all the signs are good!

Positively, all of my children eat lots of fruit. Every morning, I sprinkle their breakfast cereal – weet bix or porridge- with ground linseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds (I grind the whole seeds in a spice grinder). I find this to be an easy way of ensuring that they are getting a good source of essential fatty acids. We all have a sublingual B12 tablet each day.

An easy dinner that we all enjoy is a creation of mine called (very unimaginatively!) Baked Vegie Cous Cous Salad. Firstly, bake a selection vegies in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil (eg. carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, roma tomatoes, garlic cloves); then prepare a cup or two of whole wheat cous cous in water or vegie stock. When the vegies are baked, add them to the cous cous and mix. Place the mixture in an oven proof dish, then add roasted pine nuts; chopped parsley; diced capsicum; sliced kalamata olives; sliced vegie sausages or marinated tofu; cannellini (white) beans or chickpeas. Mix well. You can also add sliced red onions and sundried-tomatoes. It is a very ‘flexible’ dish – you can add any vegies that are lurking in the crisper. Bake for about 15-20 mins on 180.

I have found the following recipe to be popular with children. I occasionally pop an Energy Ball in to my daughter’s lunch box.

Energy Balls
2 ½ cups dates
1 cup almond meal
½ cup linseed meal
¾ cup carob powder
½ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup sultanas
1 cup water
1 cup shredded coconut for rolling

Chop dates and place in saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Leave to cool completely and then roughly mash with a fork.
Pour the date mixture into a bowl and add all other ingredients, except coconut. Mix well.
Take spoonfuls of mixture and roll into balls (about 1 inch diameter). Roll balls in coconut. Store in fridge.
(adapted from ‘Vegan Cooking: Recipes for Health and Happiness’, Quinn, A & Lilburne, D).

8: How have you have adjusted to having children? feel free to describe your style of parenting. because we know it’s not always just about veganism, being a parent is a whole new world.

During my first pregnancy, I read copious amounts of books about attachment parenting principles and natural birth. I am a strong advocate of homebirth (my sons were born at home), co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding. All of my children have breastfed beyond 2 years of age - Rowan is still breastfeeding. I have spent a majority of the past 7 years as a stay-at-home mum, with occasional forays back in to the workforce (I am a social worker). My role as SAHM is definitely the most challenging and fulfilling ‘job’.

Email me at: stuff-about-stuff@hotmail dot com

1 comment:

  1. hey, I used to live at Lismore. I love the organice growers market there. your kids are really cute and look healthy! :)