If you’re afraid that raising a vegan child is difficult, fear not, as a Facebook page called Vegan Pregnancy & Parenting is here to help. Run by Janet Kearney (and 25 volunteers), the page includes recipes, charts, and general information on how to raise a vegan child. The topic is something Kearney knows well, as she went vegan in 2012 after watching Earthlings. After viewing the film, Kearnery instantly “went into our pantry and threw everything out.” Since she’s taken over, Kearney has expanded Vegan Pregnancy & Parenting into a website, Twitter and Instagram. We spoke to Kearney about how she is supporting vegan parents who want to remain vegan during pregnancy and/or raise vegan children.
VegNews: How have people’s attitudes changed towards mothers who are vegan during pregnancy since you first went vegan?
Janet Kearney: When I had Oliver in 2013, people were horrified that I was raising him vegan. For the first six months, nobody cared, but when we started the first solid foods, people were really concerned. I stopped telling people we were raising him vegan. I didn’t want them to call Child Protective Services. Then I had Millie, his little sister, in 2016, and no one batted an eye. It was like, “Oh, you’re raising her vegan? Ok, cool.”
VN: What are some of the most pressing questions vegan parents face about pregnancy and parenting?
JK: I think B-12 is the top thing we get asked about. Once somebody says your child is going to die or have a deficiency, you’re going to second guess yourself. We have to keep reminding people that animals are supplemented with B-12, so just take the supplement. The second one is probably cow’s milk. We did a chart to explain why doctors recommend dairy milk, and what you can do to replace it. We are going to do more charts that are easy. Little things like that. The other one is calories because it is hard to get kids to eat. Parents are worried about them getting enough calories. We really want to provide easy work-arounds for parents.
VN: So, can you quit your day jobs for this?
JK: No. I wish I could dedicate more time toward it. Two of my friends came on board because I couldn’t answer people—it was too much. People were sending me angry emails because I couldn’t reply fast enough!
VN: Vegan Pregnancy & Parenting has evolved from its humble Facebook beginnings. How has the response been since the larger launch?
JK: Almost too well! We launched for the first time on August 1 and the traffic was so high that the website stopped working. So, we were like, “We’re such idiots.” Everyone is on social media, so we thought we’d be sharing things off the site, and that would be enough. But we just got the new site up and running, so it should be fine now.
VN: Do you have any favorite snacks or tips that make feeding the little ones less full of conflict?
JK: One thing I personally do is tell a lot lies. To get them to eat stuff, our kids will eat fries, so we’ll make fries out of every kind of vegetable you can think. My husband will mash them down, make them into fries, freeze them, and bake them when we need them, and tell the kids they are just fries. We also mash potatoes with avocados to give them a little more fat and calories. We make nuggets out of sweet potato and broccoli. It’s a strategy of making things look they weren’t a sweet potato or whatever they started out as. We also have all of our recipes on the website.
VN: Any next steps you want to share?
JK: We are exploring an app for tracking kids’ nutrition. We don’t know how feasible it is or if we can afford it. We wanted to do one for pregnant women and for kids who are vegan. The goal is that they can enter their food and then at the end of the day it will say things like, “Your child didn’t get enough calcium today, so give them X amount of broccoli tomorrow.”
VN: Any favorite products or cookbooks to recommend?
JK: I’m never getting into that. I like my own website and the recipes there. There’s a lot of stuff I like, but if I say one, I’ll leave someone else out. We put together lists, like a list for new vegans, to help people out, as well as posting our own recipes.
Madeline Vann, MPH, is a freelance writer based in Williamsburg, VA.
Photo courtesy of @knowingtracy