Raising Healthy Kids– The LovIn Way

Hi guys!

At this point I’m probably on Bourbon Street, knocking back a couple of hand grenades, or digging into the blackened beef at Commander’s Palace.

Juuuust kidding. I love New Orleans, but my version of the city is a tad different from most visitors’! There’s a good chance that Chloe and I are curled up at her new house right now, making a veggie-full dinner. Maybe we’re out hearing some local music. Or maybe we’re being sickeningly girly and looking at bridal magazines (Chloe just got engaged!). Whatever the case, y’all will have to forgive me in advance if I don’t come home with tales of debauchery.

What I hope I will come home with are some fun recaps; some thoughts on maintaining a healthy lifestyle in a highly unhealthy (yet awesome) city; and some meals.

In the meantime, I’m turning you over to a blogger who needs little introduction from me. She’s someone most of you know and love, even if you haven’t heard from her in quite some time. She’s a mother of two, a wry chronicler of all things pop-culture related, a high-raw vegan with a vengeance, and a pretty hot lady. Any guesses?

sarahIf you guessed Mama LovIn, you’re right! Please join me in welcoming Sarah, the extraordinary blogger behind the now retired LovIn my Tummy blog. Though Sarah has been on a small blogosphere hiatus recently, she was generous enough to be my guest here at Choosing Raw for the day. She’ll be discussing one of my favorite topics: raising vegan kids.

I’m often asked whether or not I’ll be raising my kids vegan. The answer is, if I have children, of course I’ll feed them vegan at home. If I believe something’s right for my own body, why would I not want the same for my children? Whether or not they’ll be raw is another story: right now, I plan on giving my children plenty of raw fruits and veggies, but their diets will be a variety of both raw and cooked. When they’re not at home (friends’ bday parties, etc.), they’ll be totally free to eat what other kids are eating. And as they venture into the world–in their teen years and beyond–they’ll be entitled to decide what sort of lifestyle they’d like to lead. I hope I’ll have instilled a lifelong passion for produce and whole foods in them, but I’ll also respect whatever choices they make.

But parenting will be a long time coming for this blogger. So let me turn the mic over to a lady who knows a thing or two about the reality of raising vegan kids. Welcome, Sarah, to Choosing Raw!

* * *

Well, hello!

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Sarah, and I used to have a blog here. It started as a food and fitness blog, tracking my daily eats and workouts, and it quickly turned into a labor of love: where I still shared my food, but I shared my family as well, particularly my now 2 and 4-year-old daughters.

Those who followed watched me transition from a meat eater to a vegan early in 2009. After a few months of preparing three different meals every evening at the family dinner table, a vegan meal for myself (ever had a Hugh Jass salad?), a meaty meal for my husband (he loved my Beef Stroganoff) and a kid friendly meal for the kids (such as Annie’s Mac & Cheese), my amazing (ahem* hot lawyer* ahem) of a husband agreed that going vegetarian/semi-vegan was best for ALL of us. After all, how could we take the kids to petting zoos and farms on the weekend, only to come home and eat cows, pigs and chickens?

Though my blogging days have been cut short for personal reasons, I still get asked quite frequently from both “real life” friends and friends in the blog world, “How do you get your kids to eat that?!?” Admittedly, we were starting in a pretty good spot before we made the switch: my kids have never been to McDonalds and weren’t downing nuggets and hot dogs for every meal. Still, it hasn’t been effortless. A few rules have guided me on my way in turning our SAD meals into REALLY “Happy Meals.”

Lead By Example

When I asked my kids what they think Mommy’s favorite food is, here are the answers I got: “Broccoli” and “Special Salad.” Thank goodness she didn’t say “Hugh Jass.” My girls know that I love these foods though, because they see me eat them all the time. We don’t have chips in our cupboards and we don’t have soda in our fridge. And after the initial excitement of seeing junk food at friends or relatives houses, after a few bites or sips, they have a “meh” reaction.

Instead, they always seem to want what I’m having, even if it is green. My rule is, if I wouldn’t want the girls to have it, I don’t buy it. Diet Coke stock may have had the most shocking downturn in history, but I can proudly share whatever I’m having now, knowing if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for them.

Level With Your Kids, but Lie When You Have To

While my 2-year-old may not understand what it means to be a “vegetarian,” my 4-year-old does. It dawned on me last year that she had no idea that the same “chicken” we harass and chase visit at the farm is the same “chicken” that is on her dinner plate. I, for one, think she has the right to know. And while I don’t go into graphic details about how meat gets from the farm to our dinner tables, I do explain that animals are our friends, and we simply don’t eat our friends. Honest, direct and simple.

On the other hand, I’m not afraid to bend the truth or be a little sneaky.Sometimes an extra vegetable sneaks into a smoothie.

Sometimes, I just make things up entirely.For example, every Halloween our girls give away all their candy that they get Trick-or-Treating, save a few select pieces to be enjoyed that night (by them and a certain hot dad I know).In exchange for their bags of HFCS and artificially colored junk, the “Treat Fairy” brings them whatever toy they want.I’m told there is a purple My Little Pony Pegasus that a 4-year-old “Cleopatrick” in our house will find in her empty treat bag.

Is there really a Treat Fairy? Is that spinach or kiwi in that green smoothie?I’ll never tell.

Don’t Assume Your Kids Won’t Like Something Based on Your Perceptions

This same rule applies to me at any movie my husband wants to see. I almost missed out on seeing sexy Daniel Craig as “007” and Matt Damon in all his Bourne glory, simply because I didn’t get my way and get to see whatever romantic comedy happened to be playing at the time.

My kids may have my stubborn streak (who me?!), but they still surprise me with things they are willing to try and end up enjoying. Who knew that toddlers could be down with hemp seeds, tempeh, spinach and broccoli? Young taste buds have both short and long memories, so don’t give up. Just because they passed on something last week doesn’t mean they’ll hate it the next time, and when they are older, the foods you encouraged them to at least try won’t be unfamiliar.

Play Favorites

This next rule applies both to finding new tools in your new lifestyle, and into modifying old favorites to fit the new mold. Finding resources for vegan/vegetarian recipes has been crucial to getting my family to eat healthier. I haven’t been shy about telling everyone who asks, and many who don’t, that Dreena Burton’s cookbooks are like Bibles in my house. Not only are her vegan recipes delicious, but most are kid and husband friendly.  Now that my family has tried so many of her recipes, they trust me when I tell them that dinner is going to be delicious.

Still, there are certain times when they want the comfort of their old favorites. I swapped the Skinny Cows (which should be called SAD Cows) for Tofuttis, and as you can tell, they were pretty bummed.

Why am I reminded of this classic SNL skit?

Then this weekend my daughter caught her first cold of the season. Here’s what I used to reach for:

Royally disgusting, if you ask me. “Mechanically separated chicken?” Really?!

So with a little ambition and confidence, I came up with a vegan (and educational, I might add) replacement.

Mama LovIN’s Alphabet Soup

4 c. organic vegetable broth

1/3 c. diced carrot

1/3 c. diced celery

¼ t. dried sage

½ t. dried oregano

½ t. dried rosemary

1 t. curry

1 t. paprika

1 t. sea salt (adjust to taste)

1 t. minced garlic

1 c. whole wheat alphabet pasta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Do NOT overcook.

In a separate pot, lightly sauté vegetables until softened. Add garlic, spices and salt and sauté for an additional minute. Add broth and pasta and heat until hot. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

Not only were the girls excited to eat it, but they liked finding letters in it too…and not finding mechanically separated chicken.

Maybe my girls won’t be vegetarian/almost vegans for their entire lives.Maybe once they get out into the real world they’ll swap their bean burgers for Big Macs, their hummus for “special sauce” and their sweet potatoes for French fries.

But for now I know that everything that is going into their growing bodies is safe, is healthy and was made with a lot of LovIN. And maybe someday, they’ll thank me for it.

(Gena’s note: Does it get any sweeter than this?)


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  1. I a definitely motivated by this article. Visit me for more advice and ideas about how to raise strong healthy children in todayโ€™s ever changing society.

  2. I know I am more than late with my response, but I wanted to say thank you to Gena for coming up with the brilliant idea of having Sarah write a post on this subject and also to Sarah for writing such a humorous yet very informational post. You are the epitome of a good mom and I only hope that if I am a mom one day I can be half as good as you. Thanks so much to both of you!

  3. Lovely post, and I wish you were still blogging. Maybe I’ll check out the old posts.

    My kid loves broccoli too. My older nieces and nephews think it’s weird.

    My 16-yo nephew said “I can’t imagine being vegetarian…you’d be so weak and sickly!” Um, do I look weak and sickly? Admittedly, we’re not 100% veg, but we eat flesh maybe 2x a month, at someone else’s house…

  4. Great post! I used to enjoy Sarah’s blog so this was a delight to read!

    I am raising 5 (FIVE!!) high-raw vegan kiddos. They are all big, adventurous eaters, and it is a JOB to keep them all fed! It’s a hoot to have my 4 yr old ask for a kale smoothie, and my 1 yr old thinks hempseeds and gojis are the best snacks EVER. We’ve been vegan for many years, and skip the processed foods and focus on plant-based, organic vegan meals — my kids are happy, healthy and thriving from a fresh, whole food vegan diet. Despite that, people continue to judge! It’s very odd.

    Thanks, Sarah, for a refreshing read and sharing such cute pics — always a pleasure to read your posts ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. Yah! I used to read your blog on the daily and I was so happy to read this guest post! My guess it that you have instilled a huge amount of love and respect regarding life and all things food in your girls. Sure they might dabble one day but they will probably come around to see that you were right about giving them healthy and nourishing foods. I hope to raise my kids in the same way (me and the hubs are veggie too!). Keep up the awesome example, you are so darn funny girl!

  6. mama lovin…LOVE this post. i don’t have kids, but one day, i do hope to have them. i have thought a lot about how i would want to raise them. you obviously have two hilarious spunky healthy little girls, and you are obviously doing something right ๐Ÿ™‚

    too dang cute!

  7. I think the hardest part about raising vegan or veg kids is just dealing with the comments/judgment from other people who think you’re starving your kids or doing something wrong.

  8. This is an issue that is dear to my heart but also a daily struggle. I have 2 daughters ages 4 and nearly 8. My 4 year old has always been very open to food since she was a baby. She’ll try anything and loves all kinds of fruits and vegetables. My oldest daughter, however, is an extremely picky eater and always has been. She will only eat a few fruits and vegetables and is constantly asking for unhealthy food and treats (which she doesn’t get.) If she thinks something is healthy she won’t eat it. I’ve read and researched different articles online for ideas but they don’t help if your child won’t eat any of it. She doesn’t even like things like fruit smoothies. What makes it worse is that junk food seems to be plentiful at every school party or birthday party. Can you believe that after her soccer game the kids were given frosted donuts?! I don’t want to force things on her because I feel that it will backfire and she’ll eventually rebel. She’s always asking why she can’t have the same types of treats in her lunchbox as her friends. I try to lead by example and talk to her about how food makes our bodies feel but sometimes I just feel at a loss for what to do. You started your girls when they were young and I think that must be the key. I wish that I could turn back time.

  9. Sarah- it’s so fun to read a post from you again! And, I have to say that I am LovIn the bangs in your photo:) I do not have kids yet, but I do find myself thinking about how I want my future children to eat. I am vegan and my husband is a meat eater. I make healthy choices but my husband does not really make healthy choices on his own. Most of the food that he consumes is healthy because I prepare it for him. I want my kids to love healthy foods and I agree that the best way to do that is by setting the example for them. I am sure that I will find a healthy balance when the time comes and I appreciate your insight on the subject.

  10. Sarah,
    So fun to see you and your girls again!!! I know you’re still blogging on Facebook, but I loved reading this guest post from you.

    I’ve often ask my friends with kids about what they feed their kids, and it is so refreshing to see your girls loving salads, broccoli, and hummus. I hope if I ever have kids, I am as fortunate when it comes to their taste buds. Like you, I will do my best to lead by example.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Again, loved this post. I’m so happy right now!

  11. Lovely healthy pictures – my baby is now 23 and a junk food eater!

    I share life with 3 daughters….and we started out vegetarian, often vegan, but my children failed to thrive after breast feeding…

    Two of my children have Celiac Disease and after extensive allergy testing I added some organically – free range meat to their diet and then they really thrived……My oldest is vegetarian, but does not do raw as her system still needs some help breaking foods down. She eats fish and sea food.

    #2 daughter eats mostly vegetarian but we add chicken and organic pork into her diet for her to thrive. I learned how to make potassium broth when she was ill and wow does everyone love that as a healing food.

    #3 kiddo eats junk – those is modifying her eating a bit as she matures. She has a repaired cleft palate and was born with no ear tubes. She could not suck from a bottle – even though adopted I used breast milk for her…
    Chewing is a night mare, her behavior is a nightmare….I think is she would eat with health in mind we would not have to use a drug to get her through her day…..we also have to use caffeine for her to be able to focus to take exams….

    Very good article and I will say my friends who raised their children vegetarian spend a lot deal less on medical needs….
    Kids usually eat what we model…

    My Korean heritage child wants to be blue eyed and blond haired and belong so much she eats only what her peers eat….racism has many ways to victimize

  12. sarah, you give me hope for my future children. which i plan to brainwash into vegetarian runners. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I have two boys and it is a fine line that you have to walk when it comes to food. I make almost everything from scratch here and they love that. They actually brag to others that I make all of there favorite foods “healthy”. I love it when they do that. I don’t ever want to deprive them of things they think they may want (they are 8 1/2 and 11 and just had their first twinkies because they were curious). I then made a homemade version…they liked it better! I know if you keep things from kids, they will sneak things later. So, I let them have what they want (for the most part) and then make it better for you from then on. I want them to want to make the right decisions later in life. I love what you write and I am happy to see you guest blogging!

  14. How I’ve missed the LovIn on the blogosphere! What an awesome guest post Sarah! Seriously Sarah, I want to be your child. Not only do I love the messages and life long values you instill in your children, but also I wouldn’t mind the amazing genes you’ve passed on. Your children are beautiful and I’m LovIn the pictures of them.

    My favorite rule you shared is “Lead By Example”- I really believe that there’s no better way. Kids have amazing intuition and are really sensitive to the moods and energy of those around them. Your children are so lucky to have you as their LovIn momma.

    And Gena- I hope you and Chloe are having a wonderful time.

  15. i cant get enough of this family.
    sarah, i hope to god im half the mom you are.
    gracie is looking SOO grown up! ok,so is livy…i miss your blog. more guest posts!!!

  16. Love this post:) What a beautiful family.

    Children can make healthy food choices…my 5 year old neighbor asked to “borrow” a few cups of greens for a salad the other day!

  17. Great post! I often have a challenge with my client when they ask about food for their kids. I always suggest giving the same healthy food they eat and they ALWAYS respond “My kids would never eat that” and I always reply “Let them surprise you!”.

  18. Sarah – That was soooooo well written. How could anyone bash you for that? Pshhh. Haters to the left!

  19. What a fantastic post! While I do not have kids myself, I could not agree more with this approach to parenting.

    My mom became a “pescatarian” when I was 8 and my dad followed suit. They have always been big fans of eating whole, real foods. They shopped at TJ’s before it was cool and grow most of their veggies in their own garden. We almost never had packaged food in our house, and, though I acquired knowledge of it from friends, I was never super-big into eating it.

    In college, I “rebelled” to an extent, with nachos, pizza, and margaritas. But, when I later wanted to start taking care of myself, I had a pretty good information base to draw from, as well as a great model for healthy living. Children are always listening!

    Thank you for the great post!

  20. Sarah, you have been so missed! I love hearing your thoughts on parenting/food and always keep them in my back pocket (for future, future use!). Thank you, Gena and Sarah!

  21. Yay, Sarah!
    What a wonderful post, I hope to one day raise my family with as much intelligence and love as you do. Miss reading your blog, thanks for checking back in!

  22. aaawww, I miss the LoviN family! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I gotta bookmark this, for when I have kids…

  23. This is a topic I think about a lot actually. I’ve come to the conclusion that I will not prepare meat for my husband or family either–I just don’t think I could lead such a double lifestyle. As always, thanks for the insight, Sarah!
    Hollah for the ED&BV love. Vive le Vegan is on my Christmas list–is it as magical as ED&BV?

  24. Hi Sarah I too am raising my 2.75 yr old as a vegetarian. She’s free to choose when she’s older but for now, I can help guide her toward plant-based choices. Today as I was making pesto (raw walnuts, spinach and organic basil) she was asking for “a taste” straight outta the Vitamix. What 2 yr old begs her mom for raw spinach? Apparently one who’s been raised on amniotic fluid and breastmilk flavored from a high raw vegan mamma ๐Ÿ™‚ This is all by way of saying that I totally concur with your don’t assume your kids won’t like it sentiment. They may and if they don’t, keep trying, gently.

    I am also not opposed to M & M’s when potty-learning or a Lifesaver with HFCS if it means the difference between a Target meltdown or not. It’s all a give and take this motherhood thing, isn’t it.

    I really miss your posts because although I love all my food blogging friends, there are few who are moms and blog about life as a mom. In real life, I feel a bit too alternative to hang out with suburban soccer moms and a bit too old somedays for the fabulous but childless set ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess in the blogosphere it really doesn’t matter, but nevertheless, your presence has been missed. I never comment on your Facebook stuff b/c I then get 28 people behind me and their comments in my inbox LOL

    Anyway, welcome back, and thanks for the lovely post.

    From one veggie mamma to another ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Love this post Sarah but I have one question for you. What do you do when you have a husband who is not on board and brings the junk in the house and takes the kids to Mc yuck? Any suggestions?

  26. Those children are adorable! So cute! And very interesting post too…I like the candy/fairy gift exchange idea.

  27. Gena: I’m sure you are having a great time right now… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Sarah: What a great post. I had started blogging and had found your blog just a little bit before you had to make the decision to retire your blog. And I have missed you blog ever since…

    I so agree that children are very much influenced by what we eat and what they see us eating. I think so often people assume that children won’t like vegetables. Who came up with that idea? Why wouldn’t children like vegetables??? (Okay, well, maybe they don’t like all veggies, especially not at first, but I think they like a lot more than “we” think….).

    I have a 2 year old and an 18 year old. My 18 year old has been really easy when it comes to eating (the 2 year old is already a lot more opinionated; it’ll be interesting…). The 18 year old has always liked a wide variety of vegetables and has always eaten lots of salads and veggies. I used to get so mad when people would make “a big deal” about him eating veggies. It has always been normal for us to eat lots of salads and veggies. I didn’t want him to think there was something “wrong” with that because of all the comments we were getting…

    My 2 year old is really into eating and drinking everything we are eating and drinking right now. And he HAS TO HAVE some green lemonade whenever we have some.

    I love the “Treat Fairy!” What an awesome idea! ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I may “borrow” it… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Okay, this comment is getting really long… Again, I loved reading this post and looking at all the pictures! ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Those of us who aren’t knee-high to a grasshopper are allowed to eat that soup too, right? If it takes pigtails, I’ll do it.

    Lovin’ the LovIN, as usual.

  29. Thank you so much for this post! Sarah, feeding my future children is something I think about all the time. Your handle on this is incredible. I want to now order the Dreena Burton cookbooks (I love having a recommendation!) and start practicing with my boyfriend. So well written and informative!

  30. This post makes me miss LovIN my Tummy so much!

    Hope you’re having fun, Gena!

  31. LOVE the Mama LovIN!!!! I wish you all lived closer so we could hang out… you all healthy high-raw vegans and me the omnivore ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. LOVE this post!! If Sarah ever starts bloggin again I would love to be alerted!

    As a child who raised vegetarian I love so much of what I read in this post. I remember at times it was weird being the kid with hummus and pita sandwiches and blue tortilla chips from trader joes (before it was cool) in the first grade but I came to love the taste buds I feel my mom gave me.

    To this day the only sweets I care for are pumpkin pie (holidays) and carrot cake (what we had for birthdays) and the occasional chocolate. So much of what my Mom taught me about eating has stuck with me. My friends are shocked when I, a 27 year old, has never eaten certain processed cereals or other junk food.

    Sure I rebelled when I was a teenager and tried steak and ribs for the first time ever (my mom did let me eat what I wanted to at friends house so I had been exposed to chicken, hotdogs, pepperoni, and hamburgers at parties?sleepover, etc) but I have gone right back to where I was raised. I LOVED reading Sarahs perspective!!! Thank you Both!

  33. Love the post! Such sweet girls – I love Sarah’s approach. Enjoy Bourbon st!

  34. @Gena: … digging into the blackened beef at Commanderโ€™s Palace. <—- Oh my goodness – I almost fell out of my chair! LOL Phew, you had me for a minute!!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Sarah: Ah, it’s soooooooooooo good to read your blog post again. Love the photos, love the wisdom, love the recipe, love all the LovIn! So beautiful, you – and your family!!!!


  35. I’ve been missing miss lovin so I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was guest posting!

    The girls are simply adorable. LOVIN them!

  36. I love this post and I love seeing kids eat straight-up broccoli! It is so great that you are open to your kids eating meat down the line but I think that you have given them such a wonderful foundation that they might just pass….

  37. This was an amazing post! I don’t have kids (I’m ONLY 23!), but I plan to have them someday (when I’m in my 30’s). I wanna raise my kids just like you’re doing..you’re a model..and a really really good one! Congratulations!
    Thanks Gena, for such a good post.

  38. That was the most adorable, awww-inducing thing ever. Seriously. I’m dying of cuteness. What a terrific mother you are, Mama!

  39. This is the sweetest post I have ever read! ๐Ÿ™‚ I love how genuine and honest their communication is with the girls (and I even love the Treat Fairy idea! Should I ever have kids, I’m using that!).

    Positively darling.

  40. Sarah, this is SUCH a heartwarming post. I love seeing you happy and healthy and with your darling family again!! Love it ๐Ÿ™‚

    And Gena, you are too hilarious, haha – you better NOT be knocking back those grenades ๐Ÿ˜‰

  41. Beautiful beautiful post! Sarah – lots of love to you! I hope I’m as good a mom as you are ๐Ÿ™‚

    Gena – have fun!

  42. Sarah, you are my favorite MILF. I love the example you lead for the girls! I hope to be that awesome when/if I have kids. Hooray, vegan kids!

    (And to Gena: I hope you’re having a great time!)

  43. Beautiful salads and even more beautiful children!!! ๐Ÿ™‚