By Dr. Holly Wilson on In
Defense of Animals (IDA)
Dear Dr. Wilson,
I would like to learn about bringing up our new grandchild as a vegan from her/his first meal onwards.
Dear Plant-Based Granny,
This is wonderful news that you are interested in a vegan diet for your grandchild! Hopefully his or her parents will share this desire. It is common for people to be skeptical, even downright scared to raise their child vegan. What we believe to be proper nutrition for our children is usually an indoctrination based on our own upbringing. Sadly, I have even heard parents state that we are "imposing our beliefs" on children with our veganism. Aside from our moral philosophy to abstain from harming others in order to feed ourselves, a properly balanced vegan diet supplies everybody, even infants and children, with optimum nutrition. Therefore it is not an imposition of beliefs, but rather a commitment to our children's health.
Our children have never been more sick. Diseases which in the past usually only affected adults are now prevalent in the pediatric population. One in five children are obese in the U.S., and adult-onset (or Type 2) diabetes is now affecting them. In fact, one in three American children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. This is both devastating and alarming. The power is in our hands to prevent a lifetime of chronic illness, even cancer, directly through our food choices.
Dr. Benjamin Spock MD, author of one of the best selling books of all time, Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care has since revamped his take on feeding children animal derived sources of food from the book's first edition in 1946. Dr. Spock died in 1998 at the age of 94, and his legacy lives on. He made major revisions to his book when his own health began to fail and he suffered a stroke in 1988. He explained that "children can get plenty of protein and iron from vegetables, beans, and other plant foods that avoid the fat and cholesterol that are in animal products".
He took a bold stand against giving babies any dairy products. He also promoted mother's milk as "nature's perfect food for babies". Cow milk induces early menarche, which increases a woman's lifelong exposure to estrogen. This puts her at greater risk for breast cancer. And contrary to the dairy industry's clever and deceptive marketing, milk does not make your bones strong! Milk protein is acidic and calcium is leached from the bones to neutralize the acid, leaving a deficiency of calcium.
This is why the largest demographic of milk drinkers in the U.S. and Europe have the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures. Milk is a toxic brew, laden with pesticides and hormones. It is tragic and shameful that the dairy industry is omnipresent in our schools, and milk is considered the ‘healthy alternative’ to soda. What's more, consumption of animal fat and protein have been irrefutably correlated with a long list of autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes and cancer- all of which are affecting the pediatric population at ever increasing rates.
The body of literature in favor of a vegan diet for children from respected health experts and the medical community is ever-growing. Dr. Joel Fuhrman MD is a strong advocate for veganism, and has written a book Disease Proof Your Child.
Alexandra Jamieson, holistic health expert and author of Living Vegan for Dummies has a comprehensive section in her book about vegan nutrition for infants and children. Ms. Jamieson's recommendations are aligned with Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), as well as Dr. Joel Fuhrman MD. PCRM’s Cancer Project has targeted information on nutrition for cancer prevention in kids.
Not only will you be supplying them with the best possible nutrition and preventative medicine with a vegan diet, but you will be living in harmony with the virtues you teach them. We encourage our children to respect animals and to be kind to others. Animals raised in food production deserve our mercy just the same as companion animals, and those found in the wild. These lessons will have a beautiful and profound impact on their health and emotional well-being. Going vegan and sharing these dietary practices with your children is truly the greatest gift you can give them.