The vegan lifestyle isn’t mainstream yet, but it’s surely on its way thanks to the whole food movement inspired by the likes of “Forks Over Knives” and “Food Inc.” Trendy vegan cookbooks, blogs and personalities continue to multiply as we all get “vegucated,” as do the vegan options served at restaurants. I don’t remember the last time I was in a restaurant that didn’t serve kale or some sort of braised greens. Then again, this is L.A.
But is pushing veganism onto children taking things too far? Ruby Roth’s children’s book, “Vegan is Love,” which comes out April 24, has already ruffled some feathers. The colorful book is meant to serve as an introduction to, as the author puts it, “veganism as a lifestyle of compassion and action.”
Critics say that the book oversimplifies things. “While a vegan diet can be nutritious if properly planned,” reports ABC News’ Mikaela Conley, “parents may have trouble getting children to eat the proper amounts of all the necessary food groups when kids can be finicky with food already.”
Of the backlash, Roth says, "[Veganism is the] embodiment of the philosophies our country was founded on: independence, rugged individualism and self-reliance.”
OK, sure, but that doesn’t address the concern over nutrition.
“If early humans had been vegans, we might all still be living in caves,” Swedish researchers suggested in an article Thursday. Booster Shot’s Thomas H. Maugh II continues: “When a mother eats meat, her breast-fed child’s brain grows faster and she is able to wean the child at an earlier age, allowing her to have more children faster. That provided a distinct competitive advantage for early humans when limited resources and a small population made it difficult for them to thrive.”
That was then, this is now, right? Not quite.
“Nature created humans as omnivores. We have the physical equipment for omnivory, from teeth to guts. We have extraordinary needs for nutrients not found in plants. They include fully formed vitamins A and D, vitamin B12, and the long-chain fatty acids found in fish,” explains Nina Planck, author of “The Farmer’s Market Cookbook,” on the New York Times’ Room For Debate. She continues: “For babies and children, whose nutritional needs are extraordinary, the risks are definite and scary. The breast milk of vegetarian and vegan mothers is dramatically lower in a critical brain fat, DHA, than the milk of an omnivorous mother and contains less usable vitamin B6. Carnitine, a vital amino acid found in meat and breast milk, is nicknamed ‘vitamin Bb’ because babies need so much of it.” And she concludes: “You may choose to be a vegan. Your baby doesn’t have that luxury. Let her grow up omnivorous and healthy. Then watch her exercise her own freedom of choice with justifiable pride.”
Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter: @alexletellier