Talking to my Kids about Veganism

In the past year or so, I’ve had to start explaining to Rian (4 years old) about what being vegan means, so I thought I’d do a blog post about how that is going for us.  I’ve always said that I won’t lie to my kids about what happens to animals, but will try to explain it to them, in an age appropriate way.  I also always said that I will never force them to be vegan (not that that’s even possible), but that I will simply give them all the information, and explain why I am vegan, and leave it up to them to decide (when they are old enough) if they want to be vegan or not.

We first introduced talking about veganism by reading V is for Vegan by Ruby Roth, since Rian was a toddler.  It’s a children’s book, for very young children, which explains what vegans do and don’t do, and the reasons why, in a simple way that won’t upset children.  It introduced simple ideas for him, like we don’t eat our friends, cow’s milk is for baby cows, eggs come from a chicken, etc.  I think it’s quite educational in general, I mean it’s amazing the amount of people who never think about why a cow produces milk or what an egg really is.  Rian found the idea of eating animals ridiculous at that age, and just didn’t think it actually happens.  Not drinking cow’s milk and eating chicken’s eggs seemed to make sense to him.  He already knew what breast milk was because he was breastfed and he saw me feeding Oran, so it was easy to explain that cow’s milk was cow “boobie milk” that is meant for their babies.  It’s interesting to see when a toddler thinks it’s ridiculous to drink the milk of a cow but most of our society see it as normal.

For a while now Rian has known that some animals eat some other animals.  He has learned about this from books and TV and asks me a lot of questions about which animals are carnivores, herbivores, etc.  He found the idea of animals eating each other quite upsetting, especially at first, but I think this is a normal age to learn about that so don’t feel it’s too early.  I’ve noticed that a lot of TV shows say things like, “lions eat meat”, instead of “lions eat animals”, and Rian didn’t know that meat means animals, so I told him that because I didn’t want him having the wrong idea.  I also explained how the carnivores need to eat meat, and they are not bad for doing it, they need to do it to survive, because he thought they were “bad animals” for eating other animals.

Our household has been completely vegan for all of Rian’s life, so he hasn’t really ever noticed people eating meat or other animal products.  Of course he has been around other people eating animal products, but he never noticed or asked for non-vegan food or anything like that.  So he didn’t actually know that humans eat animal products, and I had to tell him that.  It has been on of the hardest things for him, because he hates the idea that some humans eat animals, and gets upset and denies that it’s true.  Some people might think that it’s cruel for me to tell him since it upsets him, but like I said, I want him to know the truth, and I think all children should know.  I tell him that it doesn’t mean people are bad people for eating animal products, many of his loved ones aren’t vegan.  I explain that people just don’t feel the same way about it as we do.  He has asked me why people eat meat, and I can’t know the reasons for sure, but explain that perhaps they like the taste and enjoy eating it, and they don’t feel that there is something wrong with eating it.  It’s a good opportunity to ask Rian what he thinks about it.

Of course I’ve explained that we don’t eat animals, cow’s milk, eggs, honey or anything that comes from an animal.  The reasons I’ve given are very simple ones, and easy to explain to children, “because it’s not kind to the animals” and “because animals don’t want to be eaten”, and “that belongs to the cow/chicken/bees”.  Rian just understood this straight away.

I also try to say to Rian, “this is why I feel this way, what do you think?” so that he can think about how he feels as an individual.  I want him to be vegan, but I want him to be vegan for his own reasons, and to know why I am raising him vegan, not just to do it because I tell him to.  He says that he doesn’t want to eat meat or milk or eggs, etc. and I haven’t told him to say that, it’s what he really wants, so I guess that makes him officially vegan now!  But I think that a lot of 3 or 4 year olds would say the same if you asked them, “would you eat a chicken?” if they hadn’t gotten to like the taste of animal products already.

I also had to explain what the word vegan means to him, so I simply explained that we don’t eat animals, or anything that comes from an animal, and we just eat plants.  Rian said just the other day, “it’s not nice to eat animals, and that’s why we’re vegan!”  I’m always amazed at how simple it is for him, he just gets it.

Oran is also there when I explain all these things, and I feel like it’s also appropriate for his age too, because I don’t talk about anything too graphic, so I am also talking to him about it, though I’m not sure how much of it he understands yet (at almost 2 years old).

Rian has been asking me about death recently, and how people die, what it means, etc.  So he also asked me if animals die when people eat them.  I told him that they do (again not wanting to lie to him) and he was quite upset by this, and said, “animals don’t want to die”.  At this stage, I don’t think he knows that animals are killed specifically for people to eat, just that they are dead when they’re eaten, and he doesn’t know that animals die for milk and eggs to be produced for humans (male calves and chickens, and older cows and hens).  But I feel like that would be too upsetting for him at this age, so I haven’t gone into any detail about that.  All he knows about farms is from children’s books and TV, he knows nothing about factory farms or slaughter houses.  It’s actually a bit strange when you think about how children’s books and TV show farms just as a place where animals live, but don’t say why or that the animals get killed eventually.  So we will have to talk about that some day in the future, or maybe he will figure it out some day.  I’d like the be there when he finds out, though I’m not looking forward to breaking it to him.

I also try to teach the kids things like how we should be kind to animals, that they can think and feel like us, that we are animals too, that other animals are not that different to us.  Non-vegans may see it as brainwashing, but all these things are facts.  It took Rian a while to believe that humans are animals too.  People always talk about humans, animals and plants, as if we are separate to animals.  I remember when I was a kid some of the other kids I knew didn’t know that we are animals.  I think some adults don’t realise it either.  So I think it’s good for kids to know this.

I also talk to them a bit about healthy eating, and get them involved in cooking, so hope to teach them how to prepare vegan food and that a plant based diet can be very healthy.

As for explaining what we can and can’t eat, I haven’t found that to be much of a problem yet.  The kids are so young that I’m always with them, or they’re with other family members who know what they can have.  They also haven’t asked for anything non-vegan much, because they’re used to the food they eat all the time.  So, for example, they eat vegan sweets, so if we’re in a shop, they want the ones they’re used to, and only ask for them.  Sometimes they ask for things that look similar to the vegan products they eat, like milk chocolate, non-vegan marshmallows, or once Oran pointed at cow’s milk to ask for it.  In these cases we simply go find the vegan version of it, if possible.  At parties, I make sure to bring some vegan sweets and cake, unless I know there’ll be something there they can have.  If they see other children eating sweets, I can simply give them some vegan sweets, and so far they haven’t been bothered by having something slightly different.  I also explain why we have different things, like, “that chocolate has cow’s milk, this is the vegan chocolate” so that they are learning all the time and that hopefully will help them when they start going places on their own more.  I’ll have to learn as we go when they start going to parties without me and things like that.  Maybe they will want to try something non-vegan, and I won’t be there to stop them, and I won’t get upset with them or anything.  It’s all a learning experience for them too.

As the kids get older, I want to continue to talk to them about veganism and to learn together, because there’s a lot more I can learn too.  I also want to teach them what the reality of farming, and slaughtering, animals is like, when they are older.  I have been on farms myself from small dairy farms to intensive farms, and I’ve seen videos of animals being slaughtered, so I know what is involved.  And as anyone who has spent much time around animals knows, of course they have emotions and can feel pain too.  I think if they know a lot about animals, and about what producing animal products involves, that is the only way that they can make an informed decision about whether to be vegan or not.  I don’t even think I’ll have to try to convince them, because I think it’s fairly likely that they will choose to be vegan, if they know all this and are already used to eating a plant based diet.  Of course I will still love them if they choose not to be vegan, and I would have to accept that.

I want people to know that we do not teach them to judge those who aren’t vegan, or anything like that.  And we never want to force our children to feel the same way we do, simply to try to teach them what we believe is right (and ultimately let them make their own decisions), like all parents do for their children.

So that is how much we’ve talked about being vegan so far.  I’m really interested in hearing from other vegan parents about how that’s going for you, especially if your children are a bit older, because I have all that to come in the future.  So please leave a comment if you want to share about your experience of talking to kids about veganism.

 

Cork Vegfest 2017

I went to the first Cork Vegfest yesterday and had such a wonderful day.  I ate as much food as I could, brought more food home for the boys, and went to some great talks!  I also met so many lovely people.  I had Síofra with me in a sling and she was amazing all day, loved meeting new people and wasn’t bothered by the noise or people around her.

First stop was The Cinnamon Fiend, who had a selection of vegan and gluten free cakes (the first of many cakes I ate that day), and I had their lemon cake with coconut cream, which was so delicious!

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Their other cakes looked amazing too.  I wish I could have tried them all.  It’s not often that vegans get this much selection to choose from!

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Then to Dream to try some plant milks to wash down the cake.  I had only tried the Almond Dream and Oat Dream, which are both lovely, so wanted to try the others.

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They all tasted really nice, especially the Cashew Dream, which is creamy and naturally sweet, so I picked up a carton to bring home for the kids (who loved it!).

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Then I tried the chocolate coconut ice-cream from Oh! Naturelle, which was so rich and chocolatey.  I definitely recommend it if you love dark chocolate.  I bought a tub of the delicious raspberry rose sorbet to eat as I walked around.  I’ll be looking out for it in my local Supervalu to get some more for the kids soon.

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Then I went to get more cake from Bliss Bites Bakery, where I got a slice of white chocolate and rose cheesecake, snickers bars, and chocolate caramel bars (only some for me, some to take home for the kids).

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They were amazing and nice to know that they’re healthy too!

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I finally got my hands on some of the cheese from Little Green Leaf!  I’ve heard a lot of vegans talking about it and had been wanting to try it for ages.  It didn’t disappoint!  I tried the mozzarella and smoked garlic and black pepper chedda and they were both soooooo great.  I bought some of the chedda to bring home to the kids, though it’s too good, I might end up eating most of it myself!

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At lunch time I headed to My Goodness for a raw mezze plate.  My Goodness are at farmer’s markets around Cork and the food is all raw, healthy and amazingly flavourful.

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Later in the day I got one of their kefir drinks too.  They always make me feel amazing!

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I passed on the cake this time (I’ve tried most of them before though, and they’re lovely!) and got their raw hot chocolate instead, which was easily the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

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Then I checked out the Shine mixes, blends of superfoods that you can add to smoothies, etc.  They all look really good so I’ll definitely try them out.  I love mixes like this to add to the kids’ smoothies, it’s a great way to get lots of goodness into them without them even noticing.  Rian can be a little bit of a fussy eater sometimes but will happily drink smoothies full of spirulina, chlorella and wheatgrass!

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Next I went to try out some of the lovely Bia Beauty natural skin care products.

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Then I picked up one of my favourites, Follow Your Heart Vegenaise (and got some of the Violife smoked slices in my goody bag from Cork Vegfest too) from Art of Zen Foods.  I’m currently eating a baked potato with Vegenaise while typing this and it’s so good!  I might do a recipe with it if I don’t eat it all first…

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All Rian had asked me to bring him was bars, by which he always means some kind of healthy date and nut/oat bars, which he loves.  I found these Near to Nature bars and brought a few home, and they went down really well with the kids.  Lovely to see them enjoying something so healthy!

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Then I tried some of the delicious flavours of raw chocolate from Iswari, so good, and healthy too!

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And even though I unfortunately couldn’t try any (because I’m coeliac), I had to mention the beautiful cakes from Miam! vegan bakery.

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I’ve heard from so many people that they’re amazing and it’s really great to have a vegan bakery in Cork!

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While I really love all the food, that’s not what it’s all about.  There were several vegan information stands there too, Vegan Information Project, Vegan Ireland, and Cork Vegans, giving advice and resources to help people go vegan.

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There was also Back Into Daylight Animal Sanctuary, a vegan non-profit animal sanctuary who rescue all kinds of animals, and PAWS Animal Rescue, a charity who rescue and rehome mostly dogs.

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There were several talks throughout the day, Dr Ailis Brosnan spoke about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, Fiona Oakes spoke about her marathon world records and her work at Tower Hill Animal Sanctuary, and Patrik Baboumian spoke about being the world’s strongest vegan!  I only made it to Ailis and Fiona’s talks but they were really inspiring, and reassuring that being vegan is healthy for us, as well as being better for the animals and planet, and that’s very important to me as a mother.

There was also a yoga class with Sinéad Duffy, as well as music performances by Siân Brown, Ines Khai, and Seb Kerrbay.

I saw the very interesting fermentation demo by Virginia O’Gara from My Goodness.  It was a really fun demo and she got everyone up from the audience to take part in making fermented foods.  It really inspired to try it out at home too!

I also did a food demo, of a recipe for vegan kids, a healthier version of rice crispy buns, and the recipe will be up on the blog in a few days!  It was a really quick and easy recipe, because I knew I’d be there with a small baby so wanted to do something easy, but me and my kids love them and have been making them a lot lately.  I got to chat to a few vegan parents and parents-to-be who had some questions, and it was really great to talk to them about my experience of raising vegan kids.  I saw quite a few kids there, and it makes me really happy that there are all these kids being raised vegan now.

It was such a lovely day.  There was a really relaxed atmosphere and everyone seemed really happy to be there.  Síofra was asleep most of the day in a sling so it was very nice for me to get out of the house and get a bit of a break from looking after three kids!  I had so much great food, got to hear great talks, and wander around looking at all the stands, trying new products, and bumping into some Cork vegans that I know, and a few people who follow my blog, which was really nice.  It’s amazing to see veganism growing so much in Cork.  I’m from Co. Cork myself, so was really happy to have a Vegfest in Cork and hope that there will be many more!

 

 

Not Just about Food

I tend to talk about food and eating healthily a lot on this blog.  I think the reason why, is that as a vegan parent I sometimes worry (unnecessarily) about my kids getting everything they need and also feel the need to defend myself for raising them vegan (which I really shouldn’t have to do).  But of course there is much more to veganism than just food!  We are vegan for the animals, not for health reasons or any other reasons (though the health benefits are a bonus!).  So I wanted to do a blog post to talk about the other things that I think are relevant when raising a vegan family.

 

Other Products

Other than food, we don’t use any products that contain animal products (where possible), so I avoid buying cleaning products, cosmetics, furniture, and anything else that is made from animals or animal products.  This takes a bit of research at the start, but you get used to it.

 

Animal Testing

And it’s not just what is used to make products, we don’t use products that are tested on animals.  I have to do a bit of shopping around to find products that are cruelty-free, but it’s so worth it.  (The obvious exception to this is necessary medication, which we do use.)

 

Clothing

We avoid clothes made of materials like leather, suede, wool, fur and silk.  This is pretty easy, usually just a case of reading the labels.  It can be harder to tell if there are glues used, in shoes for example, that are made of animal products, although I’ve read that this is rare.  One way around that is to only buy from vegan companies if you can.  It may not be always possible to avoid animal products like glues 100% of the time, but we can try to avoid using animal products as much as possible.

 

Entertainment

We don’t visit zoos, aquariums, pet farms, or circuses that use animals.  We prefer instead to learn about animals from documentaries, books, getting outside in nature, and visiting sanctuaries.

 

Buying Animals

Even though I have bought animals in the past, I now feel extremely uncomfortable about domesticated animals being bred when there are animals being put to sleep every day, and I feel wrong about animals being bought and sold as commodities.  As a mother I also hate the thought of people taking baby animals away from their mothers, unless necessary.  I find it much more rewarding to adopt rescued animals, and will always adopt animals, when we are ready to add to our family.

 

Teaching my Kids 

I also feel that as a vegan parent, I should teach my kids to do what I believe is right, to treat animals as equals, including treating all groups of humans fairly.  Just as all parents teach their children what they believe, I want to teach them to be kind, caring and compassionate.  Some people may criticise vegan parents for even having children, but I think it is such a good thing to raise vegan children, who will hopefully make the world a better place.

Preparing Vegan Food for After Having a Baby

Let me start by saying that I’m the least organised person ever!  But when I was pregnant with Síofra the nesting instinct really kicked in, as well as panic about looking after the two boys with a newborn, and I decided to freeze lots of food for after she was born.  I also stocked up the cupboards with so much food that I still have about half of it left, two months later!  I started preparing a few weeks before she was due and kept buying and cooking and freezing more and more food until she was born at 41 weeks + 4 days!

I had never frozen any food before, apart from vegan ice-cream, so I really didn’t know what I was doing.  I always envied those people who were so prepared before having a baby with a freezer full of food, and also I was a bit restless waiting for the baby to get here so needed something to pass the time!  I did a bit of research and read that you can freeze almost any food and it’ll keep for ages, but will taste best if used within about two or three months.  I also found out that you can freeze cake, which has been life-changing…So I thought I’d try it out and write a blog post about my experience of it.

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Spanish Chickpea and Potato Bake

I decided to make a lot of meals from the Happy Pear cookbooks.  They are vegetarian cookbooks, not completely vegan, but most of the recipes are vegan or easy to adapt.  I had read that meals like curries, stews and shepherd’s pies are great for freezing, and The Happy Pear have a lot of those kinds of recipes.  They’re also really wholesome and hearty meals, so perfect for after having a baby.  I think a lot of vegans eat these kind of meals, so vegan food works well for freezing.

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Vegan Lasagne with Basil Cashew Cream

I got these foil dishes with lids in my local supermarket, that said suitable for freezing.  They were a little expensive but so worth it.  You could also just use regular casserole dishes to be more environmentally friendly, but I didn’t have enough dishes since I made two shepherd’s pies, two lasagnes and two potato and chickpea bakes!  I followed the recipe until the part where they’re meant to go in the oven, then simply froze them at that stage.  These were my favourite things after the baby was born, because they were so easy to cook in the oven from frozen, and were a meal all on their own, and just really comforting and nice.

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Vegan Lasagne 

I also made lots of curries, stews and chili, with plenty of vegetables and beans in them so they’d be really filling and healthy.  I put these in large freezer bags with enough to serve the whole family (keeping in mind how hungry I knew I’d be with breastfeeding a newborn).  You could also freeze them in resusable containers to be more environmentally friendly.  I just made far too much food to have enough containers!  And I guess using freezer bags saved on washing up, which is important when you have a new baby.  When I wanted to eat them, I simply took a bag out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost overnight, then heated it in a sauce pan or the microwave the next day, and cooked some rice to go with it.  They were really nutritious and filling meals, with minimal effort.  And they still tasted really good after freezing.  Some of the textures of the veg weren’t quite as good, but the convenience more than made up for that.

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Vietnamese Sweet Almond Curry
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Quinoa, Butternut Squash and Bean Burger

I also made big batches of veggie burgers and falafel, which I partly cooked and then froze in freezer bags.  These were so handy to pop in the oven straight from the freezer, and it was easy to make a double or triple batch of the recipes so we had enough for so many meals.  Then I simply served them with some simple things to prepare like salad, kale chips, frozen veg, bread, etc.  They tasted just as good after freezing.

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Baked Falafel

 

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Blueberry Muffins ready to go in the freezer

The best idea ever was making cake to freeze it!  I can’t explain how nice it was to be able to have a muffin or slice of cake every day when I was tired and hungry looking after a newborn.  As usual I used recipes from Ms Cupcake, which are always lovely.  I made a huge batch of blueberry muffins, which I simply put in a freezer bag to freeze, and a banana chocolate walnut loaf cake, which I sliced and then froze in a freezer bag.  When I wanted some cake, I either took some out of the freezer and left to defrost for a while, or defrosted it in the microwave.  They still tasted great after freezing!  I’ll definitely do this again all the time.

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Banana Walnut Chocolate Loaf Cake sliced and ready to freeze

I also stocked up the freezer with lots of store-bought bread, rolls, wraps, pitta and bagels, so that we always had some and I didn’t have to worry about shopping.  We ate wholegrain toast with houmous or beans on toast for many, many lunches, and it’s such an easy but still nutritious meal.

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Sweet potato wraps with houmous and salad

 

I also bought plenty of frozen veg, which I don’t usually bother with much.  I found these Strong Roots sweet potato fries especially handy, as well as frozen peas, sweetcorn, broccoli and spinach.

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Homemade veggie burger with sweet potato fries

 

 

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Vegan shopping haul from Nourish

I said how I stocked up the cupboards with food, well I might have gone a bit overboard!  It’s all stuff that lasts a long time, so worked out well.  I haven’t had to worry too much about running out of food or getting shopping in.  There’s always something you can prepare when you have plenty of grains, beans, lentils, tins of tomatoes, and a well-stocked spice cupboard.  I don’t usually buy ready-made sauces or things like that, but I found them really useful with a new baby.  They worked out a little expensive, but all the beans, lentils, rice, etc. were really cheap so it didn’t cost that much to fill up the cupboards.  There was another cupboard also full of wholegrain pasta, wholegrain rice, and more tinned food!  Another convenient thing I found was buying both wholegrain rice and white rice.  I prefer wholegrain and it’s healthier, but sometimes I only have the time to cook white rice so that’s fine.

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My food cupboards before Síofra was born

These Janet’s Just Delicious sauces were great.  We eat a lot of pasta because it’s so easy and the kids always love it, and the sauces contain no added sugar or salt so are great for the kids.  With some wholegrain pasta and a few tinned chickpeas or lentils thrown in, that’s a pretty good meal in about ten minutes!

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Lots of healthy pasta and pizza sauces

I also got a few of these Green Saffron curry sauces, which are suitable for vegans and fairly healthy, and a few jars of Korma, Tikka Masala and Thai curry pastes.  My favourite really quick curries are with tinned chickpeas, just add some to the sauce and simmer it for a few minutes, maybe add some spinach too.  So easy.

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Green Saffron curry sauces

And I got a few pizza bases.  (These are gluten free ones because I have coeliac disease, and are also suitable for vegans, but it’s usually easy enough to find regular vegan pizza bases too.)  These with some store-bought pizza sauce, a few vegetables and some vegan cheese (I like Violife pizza cheese or Mozzarella) makes a really easy meal.

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These didn’t last very long once the kids saw them!

I also stocked up on lots of different Amy’s Kitchen soups.  They made a really nice and filling quick meal or snack when I was really hungry (which is all the time).

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And I bought a LOT of cereal and UHT soya milk to have something easy to give the kids whenever they got hungry, or if I didn’t have time to cook, and so that we could all get breakfast fast before I got cranky from lack of food/sleep!  I always like having a few cartons of UHT soya milk in the cupboard so we don’t run out.  I had to hide a lot of the cereal because the boys wanted to eat it all before the baby got here!

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And after the baby was born I bought a lot of vegan convenience foods most weeks, like soups, houmous, etc. which really made life easier too.

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Happy Pear Country Vegetable Soup and Happy Houmous

And that’s pretty much it.  I hope I gave you some good ideas for preparing and buying food, whether you’re having a baby or just want to stock up on food.  It was definitely worthwhile doing, and a lot of fun.  I cooked so many meals that I’ve only finished eating them all recently, and it made the first few weeks with a baby so much easier.  I was able to concentrate on just spending time with my baby, and not worry too much about cooking or whether the boys were getting nutritious enough food.  I got all the food cooked over about three days, and as an added bonus everyone thought I was really organised for getting it all done!  Seriously though, I’m really not a very organised person, but it was much easier than it seems.  Even if you cook bigger batches of the meals you’re making anyway, then you can freeze half of it to eat later.  So it’s definitely worth freezing a few meals if you’re having a baby soon.

 

 

Salt of the Earth Rock Chick Sweet Strawberry Review

Crystal Spring sent me a sample of one of their new deodorants to try out so I wanted to post a quick review of it.  They have a range of Salt of the Earth natural deodorants that are suitable for vegans and not tested on animals.  I always use their Pure Aura Lavender & Vanilla spray deodorant or their Crystal Classic deodorant and love them.  They’re the one brand of natural deodorants that I found to be most effective.

They’ve brought out three new scented deodorant sprays, Pure Aura: Melon & Cucumber, Rock Chick: Strawberry Sweet, and Pure Armour: Explorer.

The Rock Chick: Strawberry Sweet deodorant is aimed at pre-teen girls especially those going through early puberty.  It has a fun and sweet strawberry scent.

I don’t have kids that age myself, but being a mother I think this is a great product for vegan kids who need an effective anti-perspirant and/or want a nice smelling spray.  I mentioned this new product to a few of my vegan friends who have pre-teen daughters and they thought it was a great idea that their daughters would love.

I’m pretty child-like at heart, so I love this deodorant too!  I’ve been using it for the past few days on myself.  I thought it might be a sickly sweet scent, but it isn’t at all.  The scent is quite subtle once it’s on, and really nice.  I also find it a quite effective anti-perspirant and deodorant.  I love that it’s natural so much nicer than using harsh chemicals, which I’m sure people wouldn’t want their kids to use.

Of course it’s wonderful that it’s suitable for vegans and not tested on animals, so is a great product to have available for our vegan kids!  Hopefully they will expand the range even more and I’m looking forward to trying even more of their products in the future.

Salt of the Earth deodorants are available in most health shops and at http://www.crystalspring.co.uk.

*This is not a paid ad.

 

The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids Review

We already loved one of Ruby Roth’s vegan kids’ books, V is for Vegan, so were really excited when she brought out The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids.  It’s full of easy and healthy vegan recipes that kids can make, with just a little help from grown-ups.

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Oran enjoying the Chapati Pizzati

I’ve always thought it’s really good for kids to learn how to cook.  If they can make a few homemade meals then that’ll generally be healthier and it encourages kids to eat healthy food if they helped to prepare it!  My boys are 4 and (almost) 2 and they already enjoy helping me with making food, even if it’s just mixing things in a bowl or putting ingredients into a blender.  It’s lots of fun, really messy, and takes longer to do with them, but they learn something and they always seem really proud to eat the food that they made.

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Cashew Cream Cheese

 

Even though my kids aren’t old enough to make the recipes in the book on their own, or even to read the recipes, there are lots of things they can do to make the recipes with my help.  So I would recommend this book for any age, as they get older they can make the recipes on their own, with a grown-up just doing any more dangerous things, and eventually make the recipes completely on their own.  Even if you just have really young kids, the recipes are mostly suitable for toddlers (or babies who are doing baby led weaning) and all the family can enjoy them.

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Sweet Beet Sauce
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Chapati Sweetati with nut butter and Sweet Beet Sauce

 

It’s a really lovely book with cute illustrations and colourful photos that would really appeal to kids.  It focuses mostly on how the recipes are good for us and the planet, with little bits of information about why vegans don’t eat animal products, explained in a child-friendly way.  It’s really important to me that my kids know why we are raising them vegan so I loved that.

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Rian loved the Presto Pesto in a wrap

 

The book has over 60 recipes including drinks, sauces & dips, smaller meals, bigger meals, salads & dressings, and desserts, as well as an explanation about some common ingredients in vegan recipes and tips about kitchen safety.

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Presto Pesto which is full of spinach and cashew so really healthy!

So far we’ve tried out a few of the recipes like the sweet beet sauce, cashew cream cheese, presto pesto, cheezy sauce, granola crumble, chapati 3 ways, and yam bams!  They’ve all gone down well with the kids, and I really enjoyed them too.  What I loved about them is that they’re so simple but taste great.  I think my kids have pretty simple tastes too so they prefer these to more complicated meals.

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Cheezy Sauce made with cashews, nutritional yeast and red pepper, one of my new favourite foods!
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Chapati Pizzati with Cheezy Sauce and Presto Pesto

There are lots more recipes I want to try from this book, and I think we’ll get years of use from it.  It’s good motivation for me to get the kids involved in cooking more often.  I’m looking forward to when they are old enough to make all the meals on their own and can cook for me occasionally!

 

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Granola Crumble, I made it with flaked almonds instead of whole almonds

I’d recommend this book to all vegan families or even non-vegans who want their kids to eat a bit healthier and learn how to cook healthy food.  We can’t wait to read some of Ruby Roth’s other kids’ books soon.

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Yam Bams! with Avo Butter, so simple but delicious!

For more information about Ruby Roth’s books, visit www.wedonteatanimals.com.

 

Vegan Lactation Cookies

The other day I had some oatmeal cookies (ok, lots of oatmeal cookies) and within a couple of hours my boobs were pretty engorged and leaking milk, and were engorged all night after that, until the baby had a huge feed in the morning and then got sick all over my bed!  I guess it’s safe to say that my milk supply is good at the moment, but I decided to try making my own lactation cookie recipe anyway.  Well maybe I just wanted to eat more cookies, but I had been meaning to try making lactation cookies and they might come in handy sometime when I feel like my milk supply needs a boost.

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Lactation cookies can be a yummy way to try to give your supply a bit of a boost for people who already have a good supply.  If you truly have low supply then it’s best to contact a lactation consultant or a group like La Leche League for advice as lactation cookies won’t help people who really have low supply.

While there is no scientific evidence of oats increasing milk supply, many people say it works for them.  Lactation cookies also commonly contain brewer’s yeast and fennel seeds, which are thought to possibly increase milk production.  I’ve added lots of nutritious ingredients that I thought would also be beneficial to breastfeeding parents.  Even if it doesn’t work for increasing milk production, it’s a yummy treat that provides goodness and can be eaten one handed while holding a baby!  So I thought it was a recipe worth trying anyway.

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In my recipe I added ground flax seed, walnuts and pumpkin seeds to provide protein and omega 3’s (important for breastfeeding parents), ground almond to provide more protein and calcium, raisins and dried cranberries to make it sweeter and chewy and yummier, and dark chocolate-chips because I definitely need lots of chocolate when I have a baby to feed!  And ground fennel seeds, which adds a subtle flavour that I think goes really well with the chocolate.  I used coconut oil and coconut sugar to make them a little healthier than most cookies, and I think it gives them a nice flavour and the coconut sugar gives them a lovely golden brown colour.

I want to note that you don’t need to eat super healthily to produce enough milk or good quality breast milk.  As long as you’re not malnourished then your milk will usually be perfect.  But it is good to have some healthy stuff too (and cookies are always good!).  My aim was to make these cookies a nice balance of being healthy and a sweet treat.

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Feel free to change it up a bit, you could replace the chocolate with more raisins, or the raisins with more chocolate, use all walnuts instead of walnuts and pumpkin seeds, add chopped almonds, chia seeds, cocoa powder, or anything you feel like really!  If you don’t have coconut sugar, use granulated sugar or brown sugar, and you can use any other fairly neutral flavoured oil or melted vegan butter instead of coconut oil, if you like.

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I made these cookies gluten-free because I have coeliac disease, so if you want to make them gluten-free, simply use a self-raising gluten-free flour mix (I like Dove’s Farm ones), certified gluten-free oats, and omit the brewer’s yeast (which I believe is not considered to be gluten-free).  They might not be as effective without the brewer’s yeast, but hopefully still are quite good with the oats, fennel and all the other healthy ingredients.

I’ve been eating these all day and really like them.  The kids also love them and Rian calls them “superhero cookies”!

So let me know if you try them and how they worked out for you.  I’m going to try making a batch of them whenever I feel like I need a bit of a boost, or just feel like some cookies.

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp. ground flax seeds

1 cup of porridge oats

1 cup of self-raising flour

1/2 cup of ground almonds

1/2 cup of coconut sugar

1 tbsp. brewer’s yeast

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1/2 tsp. salt

4 tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla essence

45g raisins, dried cranberries or a mix

45g vegan chocolate chips or chopped up chocolate bar

30g chopped walnuts

30g pumpkin seeds

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How they’re made:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Mix the ground flaxseed with 6 tbsp of water and set aside.

Melt the coconut oil over a gentle heat.

Grind the fennel seeds with a pestle and mortar.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, ground almonds, coconut sugar, brewer’s yeast, ground fennel seeds and salt.

Make a well in the centre and add the flaxseed mixture, the melted coconut oil, the vanilla essence and 1/4 of a cup of water.

Add the raisins/dried cranberries, chocolate-chips, chopped walnuts and pumpkin seeds and mix it all well with a wooden spoon.

Take 1 tbsp of the dough at a time and shape it into a cookie shape with your hands.  Place the cookies on a lined baking tray with a little space between them.

Bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown.

Leave to cool before serving.

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