Dealing with doctors as a vegan

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Dealing with doctors as a vegan

By Lisa Dawn Angerame on This Dish Is Veg
July 2012

I have been vegan for over 6 years now -- I was an on-and-off vegetarian for years before that. I have been seeing the same doctor, my general practitioner, for 20 years. I have never discussed my diet with him. The only thing that consistently comes up is how great my blood work looks and how, after I delivered my son almost three years ago, I lost 10 extra pounds. Honestly, I have no issue dealing with him.

Dealing with my obstetrician was a bit more challenging. I had been seeing the same OB/GYN for 12 years and when I became pregnant, she suggested I take DHA (fish oil) supplements for the baby's brain development and prenatal vitamins, for everything else, and gave me samples of both. I told her that I am vegan and would not take the fish oil but that I would find vegan alternatives. I did (DHA and vitamins.) She pretty much left me alone after that, not questioning my diet because my blood work was always spot on and my pregnancy was progressing nicely.

Dealing with my son's pediatrician was a whole new ballgame. When my son was born, my goal was to exclusively breast feed him until the time came to start solid foods and for as long after that as possible. When you have a little baby, you have to go to the doctor every month so they can measure his growth and plot it on the percentile charts. But, at my son's 4-month checkup he weighed as much as he did at his 3-month checkup.

The first question I got was how much was he eating. I honestly didn't know as I had never pumped so there was no way to measure. She suggested pumping and supplementing with formula. I hadn't yet explained the vegan thing so I nodded my head in an effort to placate her, saying I would look into it. But, I had no intention of doing either. She scheduled an appointment for the following week, saying I would have to come back weekly so she could monitor my son's growth.

The next week he gained a few ounces. Same the following week. The pediatrician was only concerned about the numbers. Not once did she look at the happy, smiling, alert little being sitting there in front of her to see if he looked like he was doing okay. I played along knowing my son was doing fine. Plus, the chart she was comparing him to was for non-vegan babies whose mothers were not vegan either. In my mind it didn't really matter.

At 5 months, my son was "back on track" and I got a high five! Then it was time for the solid food discussion. The doctor explained how to introduce solid food. I sat and politely listened. I started my son on avocados and bananas. Then carrots and squash. Then beans and lentils. We were having a food party!

When my son was 8 months old, he decided he was done nursing. When this came up at our next appointment, the pediatrician said to start my son on cow's milk. This was the moment of truth. I admitted it! She was a little shocked but respectful. She said we could see how it goes.

The doctor doesn't even ask me about food anymore. Instead, she asks my son what he likes to eat. When he responds with spinach, tofu, broccoli, pasta, rice and beans, she smiles in disbelief! She says she never hears this from other kids his age.

Here is the best part of this story. At our last visit, we talked about protein because my son was eating a homemade protein energy bar. I started to give my elevator speech about protein but then stopped because, well, she was the doctor after all. But she was genuinely interested saying that she didn't take any nutrition courses in medial school. I told her the deal and about all of the plant-based sources of protein I base all of our meals on (tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans, greens and nuts) and she started to take notes! I handed her my card with my blog information on it and suggested she take a look.

I checked my blog's subscriber list. The doctor is in...I can't wait for our next visit!