Mom Charged for Feeding Baby Only Berries & Nuts -- That's Abuse, Not Being a 'Vegan'

child with berries

Elizabeth Hawk is a 33-year-old mother who, according to CBS Pittsburgh, was recently charged with endangering the welfare of her 11-month-old son after he was found to be undernourished by the "vegan" diet she fed him. The diet allegedly consisted of just of fruits and nuts, which sounds decidedly unlike any "vegan" diet I have ever heard of.

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For the most part, the choice to become a vegan is both emotional and political. People come to the diet both out of a desire to be healthier and to have less of an impact on the earth and other animals. It is very rarely a choice made to lose weight or look a certain way. So when vegan parents get in trouble for feeding their children a "vegan" diet, it's important to examine exactly what "vegan" means. Especially since many headlines about this particular incident are vilifying the vegan diet:

A Vegan Mom Was Arrested After Feeding Her Child Only Fruit and Nuts

Vegan Mom Arrested for Feeding Her Baby a Strict Diet

Extreme Vegan Mom 'Starves' 11-Month-Old Son

For most parents who embark on a vegan lifestyle (you could argue that veganism is far more than just food), there is a lot of research that goes into the decision. But it is perfectly possible -- and plausible -- to eat and live an entirely vegan life (while raising your kids the same way) and still get your family every nutrient needed. You just have to do a little more work. The Academy of Nutrients and Dietetics and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree:

"Well-planned vegetarian and vegan eating patterns are healthy for infants and toddlers," the AAP said in a piece detailing the options for vegan moms in terms of supplementation of vitamins and nutrients. They advise that vegans work directly with a doctor to help support their values as well as their child's nutrition.

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Lauren Ng, a mom of three and vegan of 11 years who runs her own vegan store and blog, is proof that raising kids vegan can work. "The growing popularity of veganism and plant-based living makes people question their choices and puts them face to face with having to change their habits of convenience," she tells CafeMom. "So the term vegan gets thrown around without a lot of education or tolerance mixed in."

In other words, fruits and nuts is hardly a "vegan" diet. A real vegan diet is full of nutrients for growing children.

All three of Ng's children have been raised vegetarian and/or vegan and are now healthy and strong at 10, 8, and 5, she says. Though her youngest "cheats" occasionally when she is not around with Goldfish and cookies, her children are generally pretty committed to the lifestyle and have stuck with it, says Ng.

"My kids see the benefits for their own health, energy levels, concentration, and focus at school and in sports. And they love being different," Ng says. "I think teaching our kids that being countercultural for a good cause is awesome. And choosing to live vegan is living that 'difference' out every day."

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With a doctor's support, vegan children can grow and thrive as much as any other child. And it is stories like Hawk's that give veganism a bad name. Fruits and nuts do not a vegan make. Vegans choose from all kinds of proteins and grains and vegetables and fruits and supplements and legumes. There is no end to the choices of foods and options for a diligent mom or dad.

Stories like this make vegans out to be child abusers when in most cases, they are just doing what they think is best for their kids. And doing it in a healthful way, to boot. Hawk may or may not have been doing right for her child, but either way, it wasn't "vegan."

 

Image via Kolomiec/Shutterstock

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