Amanda is the writer of the Chubby Vegan Mom blog. There she records her views and advice on parenting, raising vegan kids and her amazing recipes.
1.Amanda, your website is called “Chubby Vegan Mom”. You have a great disclaimer though, where you make it clear that you do not feel chubby. You note that you chose to include “chubby” in the title in order to break the paranoid skinny hippie stereotype that is linked with vegans. Apart from “skinny”, what other things do people assume about you, when they find out you are a vegan?
People automatically assume I’m the post card of perfect health. They can’t begin to comprehend that while a vegan diet can be incredibly, incredibly healthy, we have our fair share of junk food too. I always get these almost-glares when people see me shoving a cupcake in my mouth, almost like something vegan shouldn’t be sugary, fattening, delicious AND sweet! I praise the health benefits of veganism, but I’m still working to get rid of unhealthy habits myself.
2.You have two beautiful kids, a son and a daughter. You and “Chubby vegan dad” have chosen to raise them as vegans. Was it only natural for you, since you were both vegan, to have vegan pregnancies or you had your moments of doubt? And if you had any moments of hesitation, where did they stem from?
I truthfully didn’t have doubts in myself in the beginning. My father had a heart attack at 40 and there is a plethora of different cancers sprinkled on both my and my husband’s family. Eliminating animal products was essential in helping to prevent these different ailments. To me, I would be incredibly, incredibly unhealthy if I were still consuming dairy and meat products. I had incredibly supportive doctors and midwives during my pregnancies, in addition to an even more open-minded and knowledgeable family physician for both of my children.
The hardest part of my pregnancies was something different. With my daughter, I only gained 17 pounds total, a lot of people thought for sure it was my diet. With my son, he ended up being born at 10.3 lbs, so people assumed it was gestational diabetes. It seemed impossible that I could grow such a big baby on veggies alone!
3.How did you deal with people who openly accused you of fetus/child abuse during your pregnancies and today, that your kids are toddlers? I can imagine that pregnancy can be frustrating enough and keeping calm can be hard. Any advice for vegan moms-to-be, in order to deal with pushy phone calls from relatives and rude remarks from strangers?
Just be armed with your facts. I had extra blood counts drawn during my pregnancies not because I doubted my ability to be healthy and vegan, but because everyone else did. In both of my pregnancies I never once had a problem with high blood pressure, had blood levels right where they needed to be and was in my prepregnancy jeans just two-three days after giving birth.
I feel like part of the reason my body recovered so well was because I didn’t put garbage into it for nine months straight.
I usually try to remind them that I understand there is a healthy way to incorporate meat into their diet, so they should politely offer me the same benefit of the doubt.
4.In a recent post you describe that your husband has been vegan for 5 years before you two met and you were a vegetarian. Then, one day you decided to cook a special vegan meal for him and came up with all the research and facts about the cruelty that goes into the production of dairy and eggs. And you became vegan. It seems that leading by example -like your husband- instead of pushing our views to others, is a much more efficient and loving way to help people around us become healthier and respect the Earth and Earthlings. Do you think that this peaceful approach can work with anyone in the long run or do you believe that more aggressive moves are a necessary wake-up call for some?
Honestly, I think you need to have some of the paint-throwing, soap-box standing vegans around. I can sometimes become too wrapped up and passionate about my beliefs, so I try to withhold from open battles on veganism today (or I’d probably be hurling some paint of my own). I’ve found that it seems like people want a reason to coin you the “crazy” vegan. They’re waiting for you to “act superior” and tell them how bad they are for eating meat. So instead, I try to exercise understanding and complete normalcy.
Let’s face it, I’m weird, but it’s not because I’m vegan.
5.On your blog you often post your own recipes. They look quite delicious, I have to say! I noticed that you use soy. What is your opinion about all the controversy surrounding it? You consume it as often as you like, without second thoughts, or is it a once-in-a-while treat?
Our belief with soy is the same as any foods we’re putting into our body: moderation is key. I think that soy can be incorporated into a diet in a very healthy way. Do I think we should have soyburgers for lunch, tofu for dinner and then a big glass of soymilk and a bowl of soy ice cream to cap the night off? No. Just like you shouldn’t eat red meat day in and day out if you’re a meat eater, I treat soy the same way.
There are a lot of conflicting studies; one researcher says men will grow breasts if they eat too much soy and others say you’d have to eat 10,000 times your body weight in soy for it to affect your estrogen.
With the help of our family’s doctor, we’ve come to the conclusion that as part of a varied, balanced diet, soy can be a perfectly healthy addition.
6.You are an advocate of cloth diapering. This might sound gross to many people -parents or not- but you have some very valid reasons to choose to do it. Would you please mention the most important of them?
Honestly, I was drawn to them because they were cute. But once I started using them, I fell in love with everything about them. My children have had far fewer diaper rashes with cloth diapers, I have yet to have any poo explosions (as opposed to frequent ones in disposies) and the money we save is unbelievable. We were buying the natural, chlorine-free diapers (the ones that are better for the environment) and they were adding up. We save close to $1,000 a year by cloth diapering our children.
7.You have talked on your blog about breastfeeding. You make a great point that mother milk is the ideal baby food, but it is not always easy and for some people, it is just not an option. What are the best alternatives for a new mom who can not breast feed, in your opinion? And how can a mom overcome a feeling of failure?
I am not a full-frontal breast feeder, nor am I a formula pusher. I think certain situations are right for certain families. Breastfeeding is HARD WORK. Is it a beautiful bonding experience with your baby? Yes. Is it the easiest thing you’ll do in your life? Far from it. I think the key thing I would tell new mothers is to go into the whole experience with an open mind, just like natural childbirth. Don’t be convinced when you go in that you’ll absolutely not breastfeed, because you never know, you could have a baby that latches in seconds and everything goes smoothly. On the other hand, if all you plan is for breastfeeding and you don’t consider donor milk or formula, the mother can really experience a depression and a sense of letting her baby down by not providing nutrition properly for her child. I would say for vegan mothers, if you cannot breastfeed finding donor milk might be the next best thing. Obviously it would be hard to find a vegan/vegetarian donor, but at least the milk would be coming willingly from a human. As of now, there are no vegan formulas on the market, most of them derive at least the Vitamin D from lanolin, sourced from sheep’s wool.
8.A vegan diet, cloth diapers and breast feeding are all sustainable ways to raise a baby. What other things can parents do in order to raise their children sustainably and teach environmental awareness?
I think making your own baby food is another wonderful choice parents can make. It doesn’t take much effort to blend up a sweet potato or puree some broccoli. That way, you know exactly where your child’s food was made and what is in it.
In addition, educate your children about where their food is coming from and implore them to make the right decisions. Educate yourselves. Quit believing every fad diet we see on television or read in a book and go back to food the old fashioned way.
9.I find that since I became vegan, I am much more sensitive towards humans as well. I started to notice social issues such as bullying, negative body image, exploitation of children, sexism and so on, much more. Did you notice such a change and if so, in what ways did it affect your life perspective?
I actually feel like I’ve become more callous towards humans. Being vegan has opened my eyes to immeasurable suffering of living beings. The fact that most people choose to ignore this suffering is disheartening to me. It’s one thing if you’re educated about where your food comes from and then you still choose to eat it, but to turn the blind eye to it completely feels disrespectful to the creature you’re consuming.
10.If you could eat only one fruit, one vegetable, one grain and one seed for the rest of your life, which ones would you choose and why?
My favorite fruit is hands down pineapple. You can do so much with it and it’s the perfect blend of sweet and tangy. Vegetable wise, I would have to say broccoli. You can roast it, boil it, eat it raw, any way it’s delicious. And I think as a grain, I would have to pick oats. I use them in lentilloaf from time to time, as a topping for muffins and even grinding them up into flour!
*You can check out all the “Family and Parenting” posts here*