Article Originally submitted to Raise Vegan. Read how a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet helped my son thrive.
My boy and his health concerns
When I think of my four-year-old son, James, I think of how kind and compassionate he is. He has a smile that lights up any room. You would never know from looking at him that the past four years leading up to now has been a roller-coaster of health issues. He has had diagnoses that include Failure to Thrive, encopresis, and recurrent ear infections among many other conditions. While the doctors were trying to push PediaSure to help him gain weight, I treated him with calorie-dense smoothies to help him grow. While the doctors pushed cow’s milk when he turned one, I transitioned him to hemp milk. When he struggled with years of encopresis and severe constipation, his doctors pushed large doses of MiraLAX and Ex-Lax. This was the final straw. Although I respect his pediatrician and specialists, they weren’t looking at James as a whole and only by their own specialty. I was looking at my son as a whole and knew that the food we eat can make a significant impact on his health.
Changing the way we eat
At this point, I decided to transition James and our family to a whole foods plant-based diet. The difference in him was amazing. His growth rates soared, his encopresis resolved itself, and the recurrent ear infections stopped. It was like he was a new child. He was no longer in daily pain and was filled with joy. I was finally able to step back and enjoy the days with my son and not worry about getting him to eat constantly, stress over relieving his constipation, or research nonstop about what I could do to advocate for his health and well-being.
When I went against the pediatrician’s orders of having James take MiraLAX and Ex-Lax and instead to start him a whole foods plant-based diet, I was worried about what they would say at his next check-up. Would they be angry that I thought I knew better than them and not approve of my decision to stop their suggested treatment plan? Would they report me to child protective services because I was raising a vegan child? All of these questions raced through my head, but what I had on my side was proof. James was not only healthy but he was thriving. This is all they needed to see. They were impressed how well he was doing and asked many questions about how I did it. I felt proud. I was proud that I stood up for him and did what I knew was right, and I was proud that I was able to share something new with esteemed medical professionals.
Making sure they get enough
Of course when you are raising a vegan child you want to make sure you are providing them with adequate nutrition. Should children eat the same things as adults? Do they need added fats in order to grow properly? I had a lot of questions and decided to enroll in the T. Colin Campbell Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program. The knowledge that I learned has been invaluable and only further strengthens my confidence that I know that I am raising my son in a way that will benefit him for the rest of his life.
Children and adults that follow a whole foods plant-based diet should be eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts as close to their natural state as possible. There is no need to stress about adding fat to their diet. Children will eat until they’re full. When you give them a variety of healthy food, they will choose from those and eat until they’ve had enough to eat. Once a child reaches adolescence they will require more calories in their diet. Whole foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds that are higher in fat will help with their growth.
Eating is fun!
In our family, we make eating fun. I have found that providing choice is important. James loves to come to the grocery store with me. I let him pick the fruits and vegetables that we are going to make for the week. This has been fun as we often get to try things that we’ve never had before. My advice is to always be the role model for your child. Show them how to eat well and they will soon follow. You are gifting your child a head start as a model for good nutrition that they can continue well into adulthood.
Hello! My name is Abby Power and I believe in being an advocate for compassionate change. This extends to showing compassion to ourselves, to the animals and to the earth. As a graduate of the T. Colin Campbell Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program you will often find me sharing the benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet to family, friends and community. I currently reside in Massachusetts with my husband and four-year-old son, James. In my free time, I enjoy dancing, practicing Vipassana Meditation and advocating for the animals!
Plant-Based Shopping Guide
The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies released a plant-based shopping guide that others may find useful. You can see the full article by going to their website: T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition
Here is a sample of the items that they suggest:
Choose breads that are 100% whole grain with no oil added or less than 10% calories from fat. Enriched wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour, wheat flour, and organic wheat flour are not whole grain. Some options are:
Choose minimally sweetened, whole grain cold and hot cereals without added oil. Some examples are:
There are many options to boost the flavor of your food without adding any fat or sugar including:
Be sure to check out their full list by visiting their website.
Thank you to everyone who came out to my presentation on the "Benefits of a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet." It was lovely to have such a great turn out. I look forward to coming back to Pennsylvania and continuing the education!
Here are some photos from the event: