Darlene Jones-Bey knew that she had to change her way of life.
"I was really
Inspired by her boss, she decided to adopt a strict
"He eats everything I give him," says Jones-Bey, a stay-at-home mother. "He even ate okra, which is something people don't like, and he ate it steamed."
Jones-Bey, a former pediatric phlebotomist, is studying to become a naturopathic physician and is dedicated to reading medical research because raising vegan children requires vital knowledge.
"I do think it's tricky," says Claire Dalidowitz, manager of clinical nutrition at
The concern is the fast, critical brain development that occurs in an infant's first year of life, especially at the age of 6 months.
"At that point, we begin to worry about some of the minerals —
Fat-intake is also an incredibly important issue. To achieve optimal brain growth, toddlers need 50 percent of their calories from fat, most often consumed through milk and meat. Dalidowitz says some parents with vegan beliefs "negotiate" and supplement a low-fat soy milk with a complete soy formula, but she notes that testing of this bean product is controversial: "Look for 'GMO-free' labeling on these foods."
"I tell people [that] with veganism, you just learn to cook again," says Jones-Bey, who doesn't have trouble finding Eleon's favorite almond milk, mock-meat substitutes and nutritional yeast in many area grocery stores. While these foods are expensive, she's willing to spend the money because she blames her 10-year-old daughter's
But she is clear that this diet works for her family because she is informed: a crucial requirement for a vegan parent.