vegan tips

My friend’s son Tommy calls out, “Mum, Alex has a marble in his mouth.”

His Mum looks at Alex to see that he’s actually blue in the face and can’t breathe, as the marble is jammed in his throat.

How many times have you been talking to a friend when she reaches down to swiftly remove objects from her child’s mouth? Or are you this mother, living braced and ready with ninja fingers prepped to go down Simone’s esophagus at any moment? 

I’m not this mother. I’m the friend who watches her friends do this, in disbelief at the reality of what could have been, just like that. I believe that there is good reason that in my daughter’s 2.5 years of life I have not once had to remove something from her mouth that shouldn’t be there.

Imagine that—not once. 

Not one choking episode. Not one meal where I’ve stood at the ready, “just in case.” I’ve feared no marbles, no legos, no arts and crafts bits and pieces, no lollies and no pebbles. 

We’ve all heard about the benefits of a plant-based diet. Is it possible that this is not only a healthy diet, but also a hazard prevention for our children? I believe—and have seen in my own family, friends’ families and clients’ families over the past 6 years—that children eating a whole foods, high raw, plant-based diet generally don’t have trouble with this. 

Why? Because these children learn what foods go in their mouths and what things don’t. I’ll give you 3 scenarios:

Baby 1: lives on formula and a standard American diet of jarred baby food, mashed veggies, custard, yoghurt and some steamed, mushed fruits.

Baby 2: lives on breast milk and a cooked vegetarian diet of yoghurt, mushed beans, mushed banana, and mashed potato mixed with veggies and butter.

Baby 3: lives on breast milk and a plant-based diet of whole foods such as avocado straight from the rind, whole banana (not mushed), and occasional whole jacket potato (potato in its skin) and kidney beans (exactly what my daughter ate when she was still breastfeeding).

Babies 1 and 2 could not point out any of these foods on a farm to let you know that they would love to eat that particular food (i.e. they couldn’t and wouldn’t point out a cow to let you know that they’re hungry for flesh—nor would they point to her udders to let you know that they are thirsty for her milk). With the tinned, jarred, mixed and mashed veggies, these children have no idea how to point out a vegetable or legume that they enjoyed in that mix and let you know they want it because…they have no clue what it was. And when fruit is peeled and steamed and chopped it is simply unrecognisable to the child upon serving. They may know what an apple in a book is, but they may not know that they actually eat apple every day. When hungry or desiring comfort, these children may reach for anything lying around.

Baby 3, on the other hand, knows what an apple in a book is and what an apple tastes like and how to chose an apple when she sees one if she wants it. She will know what an avocado is—how it tastes and how it feels in her belly when she eats it. She will know that cows are friends and fruit and vegetables are food. She knows that seeds aren’t for eating, and that you spit them out. That skins can usually be peeled of or eaten out of. She feels safe and able knowing what is and is not food—and even what food she likes.

Baby 3 also has the advantage of trusting the person feeding her because she is getting what she expects when she sees her food. I was feeding my baby grapes with seeds earlier than most would even dream of. As I sat there enjoying organic grapes with her by my side, I knew with 100% comfort that she knew how to spit out seeds. Animals in nature know this, so why wouldn’t a human? Young children don’t know only because we don’t give them the respect and time to learn. We shovel in mushed and mixed foods at high speed in order get on to the next task, whether they like it or not. My daughter, now 2 years and 3 months of age, eats custard apples with seeds, plums, jackfruit, dates, olives—she can eat any seemingly complicated fruit with ease, joy and safety, because she is a plant eater. Just like any other fruitarian or herbivore animal in the wild, she too knows what to do.

Here are my 3 tips on how to stop your baby putting dangerous non-foods in their mouth—before they start:

1. Only eat whole foods, and eat them together with your baby. Let her learn by watching you. Talk to her about what she’s eating. Teach her what the seed is in each fruit, and as you eat show her how you deal with it.

2. Prep food together and keep it simple. When prepping foods, it’s great to consider what your children can do with you. Whole avocados cut in half and eaten straight out of the rind are a super healthy meal for babies and toddlers. Whole bananas out of the skin. Passionfruit served with a spoon. Half a watermelon and a spoon (tip: if you sprinkle lemon or passionfruit on top it looks and tastes so good!). Whole kidney beans cooked, and not mushed, served with a fork or eaten with fingers. Whole potatoes served in the jacket (skin) with a spoon. Fresh dates (seeded if you so wish). Kids love simple foods. They’re more pure than we are; let’s nurture that in them and feed them from nature!

3. Don’t disguise the food. No mushing (unless they want it mushed, then that’s great), no hiding, no lying, no tricking. Help your children to trust you on every level. If you’re not willing to tell your child the full details of where meat comes from in fear that they will get upset…then consider that they would get upset because it’s not in their heart to hurt animals. They don’t need meat for any health reasons (the leading science will show you this, and you can head to my website to get this data). Humans love animals by nature. They’re our friends; we are here to protect them, and we have a conscience for a reason—to choose to not eat them.

Not sure where to start with a plant-based diet for you and your family? My 30-day Plant-Based Mum Program makes it simple, easy and totally delicious. You and your family’s best health is right there—what are you waiting for?