Monday, March 12, 2007

We've Gone Green
Since the New Year, we have been committed to being a vegan family. We live in a rural are where there is a lot a love for beef, poultry and the like and where we are pretty much guaranteed to get eye-rolling responses when we tell people we don't eat meat. The road to this lifestyle has been a long one for us, and we have considered so much along the way. Now that we are in the groove of eating and living out this vegan thing we feel ready to explain it. So what is a vegan anyway and why on earth would we want to abolish yummy stuff from our diet?
Well, vegans are like vegetarians in that they don't eat meat, but beyond that, we also don't consume any animal product, which means, no milk, cheese, eggs, butter, ice-cream, etc. We do not believe that people should avoid these foods for any spiritual reason, nor do we believe that it is "the best way" for everyone, but it is just something our family has been lead into. For us, the journey toward all this began when our kids started having allergic reactions to eggs and milk. One of our kids suffered from intestinal bleeding and another from severe excema. When these things were removed from their diets, they got better. And when our mainstream doctors began to tell us that we should avoid these foods to help with our children's health issues, it made us think. Then we researched, thought some more, researched, thought some more, etc.We were very blessed to have a close vegan friend, who guided us along the way and directed us to some great resources and ideas. Our most pressing concern was how our kids would get all the things needed in their diets to grow if we were vegan. We were directed to the blog of a family that posted some great research that soothed our minds and gave us the tools to take this on. I have included it below in the hopes that it will encourage, educate and interest you as well. Now, three months in, we are feeling healthier and more full of energy and life than ever before and so thankful for this gift and education. Enjoy...

Vegan Children: Healthy and Happy (article from PETA website)

Children raised as vegans—who consume no animal products, including meat, eggs, and dairy products—can derive all the nutrients essential for optimum health from plant-based sources.

Hot Wings, Heart Disease, and Sick Stomachs

Unprecedented rates of children raised on the “traditional” American diet of cholesterol and saturated fat-laden chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and pepperoni pizza show symptoms of heart disease, the number one killer of adults. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that at least 60 percent of children and young adults have early atherosclerotic (hardened artery) damage. It’s no wonder considering that hot dogs, sausage, and bacon are on the daily menu for a stunning 25 percent of kids between the ages of 19 months and 2 years.

The number of obese preschool-aged children and 12-to-19-year-old adolescents has more than doubled since the 1970s and more than tripled for 6-to-11-year-olds. Pediatricians are reporting an alarming increase in the number of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease that typically affects adults, and 85 percent of those cases involve overweight kids.(4)

According to acclaimed pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock in his book Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, “Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats … are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.”

Food-related illnesses affect more than 76 million people annually and kill more than 5,000. Farmed animals are fed 20 million pounds of antibiotics each year, which are designed to promote growth and prevent them from getting sick but which are retained in the flesh that people eat. Scientists believe that such involuntary consumption of these drugs by meat-eaters is giving rise to strains of bacteria that antibiotics are ineffective against when consumers become ill.

Salmonella poisoning alone affects at least 40,000 people each year (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspects that unreported cases may increase that number 30 times), yet only one in 16 million chickens is tested for it. A Consumer Reports study of 525 supermarket chickens found campylobacter (which causes illness in more than 1 million people every year) in 81 percent of them and salmonella in 15 percent, with up to 84 percent of the bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Eggs pose a salmonella threat to approximately one out of every 50 people each year in affected areas of the U.S. E. coli is a type of bacteria that can be deadly to children and sickens more than 73,000 people each year, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that half the cattle slaughtered for food in the U.S. are likely infected with it.

Fish flesh also presents health problems. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), residual industrial compounds that can still be found in the environment, have caused cancer in animals and skin problems and liver damage in humans. Fish flesh has been found to harbor levels of PCBs thousands of times higher than those in the water that they live in. Fish also accumulate methylmercury in their bodies, and pregnant women and children have been cautioned by the Environmental Protection Agency not to eat fish flesh that may contain high levels of this toxic substance.

Dangers of Dairy Products

According to Dr. Frank Oski, the former director of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, “There is no reason to drink cow’s milk at any time in your life. It was designed for calves, it was not designed for humans, and we should all stop drinking it today, this afternoon.” Dr. Spock agreed, saying, “There was a time when cow’s milk was considered very desirable. But research, along with clinical experience, has forced doctors and nutritionists to rethink this recommendation.”

Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies in infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association. Millions of Americans are lactose-intolerant, and an estimated 80 percent of African-Americans and up to 100 percent of Native Americans and Asian-Americans suffer from the condition, which can include symptoms such as bloating, gas, cramps, vomiting, headaches, rashes, or asthma. As early as 2 years of age, most people begin to produce less lactase, the enzyme that helps with the digestion of milk. This reduction can lead to lactose intolerance. Breast-feeding mothers should also shun cow’s milk from their diets, as the proteins can be transferred to infants and upset babies’ intestines.

Milk is suspected of triggering juvenile diabetes, a disease that causes blindness and other serious effects. Some children’s bodies treat cow’s milk protein as a foreign substance and produce high levels of antibodies to fend off this “invader.” These antibodies also destroy the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, leading to diabetes. Studies have also found that autism and schizophrenia in children may be linked to the body’s inability to digest the milk protein casein; symptoms of these diseases diminished or disappeared in 80 percent of the children who were switched to milk-free diets.

Other common childhood ailments such as chronic ear infections, asthma, and skin conditions can also be eliminated if cow’s milk is avoided.

Nutrition in Vegan Diets

Nutritionists and physicians have learned that plant products are good sources of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin D because they can be easily absorbed by the body and don’t contain artery-clogging fat. The American Dietetic Association states, “Well-planned vegan … diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”

• Protein: In the U.S., consumption of too much protein is a much bigger issue than not getting enough. Protein deficiency is common only in countries suffering from famine. Eating too much protein, however, can lead to cancer of the colon and the liver. Children can get all the protein that their bodies need from whole grains in the form of oats, brown rice, and pasta; nuts and seeds, including sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and spreads such as tahini and peanut butter; and legumes, including tofu, lentils, and beans.
• Iron: Some babies’ intestines bleed after drinking cow’s milk, increasing their risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia, since the blood that they’re losing contains iron. Formula-fed babies should be fed a soy-based formula with added iron to minimize the risk of intestinal bleeding. Iron-rich foods such as raisins, almonds, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses, and fortified grain cereals will meet the needs of toddlers and children 12 months and older. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, so foods rich in both—such as green, leafy vegetables—are particularly valuable.
• Calcium: Cornbread, broccoli, kale, tofu, dried figs, tahini, great northern beans, and fortified orange juice and soy milk are all excellent sources of calcium. As with iron, vitamin C will help your child’s system absorb calcium efficiently.
• Vitamin D: Cow’s milk does not naturally contain vitamin D; it’s added later. Vitamin D-enriched soy milk provides this nutrient without the animal fat. A child who spends as little as 10 to 15 minutes three times a week playing in the sunshine, with arms and face exposed, will get sufficient vitamin D because it is synthesized in the skin when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
• Vitamin B12: Whereas other primates get their necessary vitamin B12 from dirt, unchlorinated water, feces, and insects, commercially available multivitamins will ensure an adequate amount of the vitamin for your child. Vitamin B12 is also found in fortified soy milk and many cereals.

What You Can Do
A healthy vegan diet is easy to plan and maintain. Products fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 are available in most grocery stores. Mock meats are especially delicious and are also readily available in most grocery stores and many restaurants. For tips on tempting your kids with delicious vegetarian dishes, visit and check out the following additional resources.

A mom recently sent me an email that started a whirlwind of ideas in my mind. She said that we will only have 17 Springtimes with our children while they are still children at home...17!!! Each of them will be unique because our children will never again be at the developmental stage that they are right now or next year, etc. So I began thinking, this applies to all other times of year as well...17 winters, 17 autumns, 17 lazy summers, 17 is beginning to seem like a small number. I want those seasons to be filled with laughter and snuggling and beauty and fun. But that means that TODAY I need to include those things in my life. Today, I need to see my little ones and stop what I am doing. I need to wrestle, bake cookies, read, cuddle, create, listen, take a walk, look and linger with them over each and ever worm wriggling on the sidewalk, laugh with them and invoke wonder in their little hearts. How I live today makes all the difference. Will you join with me in choosing to make the most of these moments? Will you help me to see the value of laughter in my home and yours? Today is going to be glorious.
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