The Future Is Vegan: Raising Compassion, Interview #4 with Jessica Rasekhi

For the fourth of six interviews with local mothers and mothers to be who follow a vegan lifestyle, Lauren Lockey interviewed Jessica Rasekhi, and her baby boy Kasper. See the interview below:

LL: What inspired you to become vegan and what is the biggest change you noticed in yourself?
JR: My husband actually inspired me to become vegan 2 months after our son Kasper was born. He had done a lot of reading and research on the subject, and had experienced many health benefits himself from transitioning to a vegan diet. He suggested that I watch the 2011 documentary Forks Over Knives. I also read The China Study. Though I was reluctant, after learning more about the benefits of eating a plant based diet, it became the obvious choice for me to make for myself and my newborn baby boy. The first thing I noticed when I changed my diet was when I lost 10 lbs after only 3 weeks. I have never gained that weight back!

LL: Did you have cravings during your pregnancy and what were your amazing vegan alternatives?
JR: I wasn’t vegan during pregnancy. I was mostly vegetarian. I became completely plant based about 2 months after my son was born.

LL: Did you find it difficult to find vegan prenatals?
JR: I am not completely sure if the prenatal vitamins that I took were vegan. Again, I hadn’t made that change yet, and I was just looking for organic ingredients at the time.

LL: What has been your biggest obstacle in raising a vegan baby?
JR: It was difficult when close friends and family first questioned our decision to feed Kasper a vegan diet. Some considered it to be somewhat irresponsible and an unhealthy way to raise a growing child. I felt like I was always having to defend our decision to skeptical loved ones.

It has turned out that raising a vegan child has been a lot easier than I had anticipated. I found that early on I, myself, was one of my own biggest obstacles. I would worry needlessly about things in the distant future that would never come to fruition. Things like, “How hard it will be for Kasper to be the only vegan among his class mates.” Or, “How hard it will be to be a vegan kid during Halloween or other candy and treat centered holidays.” Or “We will always be telling him ‘No’ and ‘You can’t have that.'” And “What if he resents being different than everyone else.” But so far, none of these worries have ever been legitimate concerns. Kasper is confident, comfortable, and happy being raised on a plant based diet. Teachers at school have always been respectful and accommodating. Holidays have been wonderful and filled with plenty of vegan treats. Most friends and family have accepted our diet/lifestyle and respect our decision, especially now that they see how well Kasper has thrived being raised as a vegan kid for almost 6 years. 🙂

 

LL: What foods do you feed Kasper to make sure there is adequate nutrition? What about milk/formula alternatives?
JR: We have never questioned whether or not Kasper was getting adequate nutrition from eating a plant based diet. He was always a very healthy (and very chunky!) baby, toddler, and is currently a thriving little boy. He was breastfed past the age of 2, and he never needed any type of formula or milk supplement. He has never been underweight and he hasn’t ever had any nutrient deficiencies. We introduced him to a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables when he started eating solid foods at 6 months old. Now, at age 5, I’ve noticed that he is far less picky, and he eats a larger variety foods than many of his non-vegan peers. I always have parents commenting and saying things to me like, “How do you get him to eat like that?” “Wow! I can’t believe that he will eat raw kale.” “Does he really like sauerkraut and seaweed?” “My kids are such picky eaters and will only eat 3 kinds of foods, none of them being vegetables.” “That is so funny that Kasper actually knows the difference between different kinds of potatoes.” The key for us has been eating a variety foods from a young age.

LL: How do you handle the social pressures your child receives about eating meat and dairy?
JR: Since Kasper was raised from birth on a vegan diet, that is all that he knows. He has no desire to eat meat, or dairy products and they do not appeal to him in any way, whatsoever. Whenever meat is cooking somewhere, or even if we walk by the cheese section in the grocery store, he is so sensitive to the smell and he always mentions to me how “yucky” it smells to him. It is very interesting to observe this reaction in a child who has never had meat or dairy in his diet. He is naturally, almost intuitively and instinctively deterred from eating it. He won’t even touch vegan cheese.

LL: What did you say when Kasper makes the connection that meat, dairy, eggs and fish comes from animals?
JR: We talk very openly to Kasper about the food choices we make and why. We started talking to him about food and where it comes from as soon as he started to eat solid foods. We have found some great reading materials by the vegan children’s book author, Ruby Roth that are age appropriate. We don’t overwhelm him with graphic pictures or videos, but we are very upfront and honest with him about where meat and dairy products come from and why our family has chosen not to consume them.

LL: How do you respond to people/doctors that say “you are hurting your baby”?
JR: I have never had anyone respond to me in that way, luckily! It has been more subtle responses like, “But won’t he need more fat in his diet as a growing baby?” People also express the same concerns about lack of protein, B12, DHA, and calcium. Again, Kasper has never had any protein, B12 or calcium deficiencies. From my experience, people don’t really have a hard time with Kasper not eating meat…but it is much more difficult for them to understand not giving a baby/child any dairy products. Having a diet without cow’s milk, yogurt or cheese in it, regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or not, is a really hard concept for some people to wrap their minds around for some reason.

LL: What resources/blog/websites/books helped you the most?

LL: Anything else you would like to add?
JR: I mentioned before that it hasn’t been hard for Kasper to resist the social pressures of eating meat or dairy products, because he simply has no desire to eat those things. But, what has been the most difficult for him is resisting non-vegan products like baked goods, candy, or dishes where things like milk, butter and eggs are easily masked. A lot of baked goods and treats look similar (vegan or not), and sometimes Kasper wants something at a family gathering, event ,or party that he knows he has had before and enjoyed in vegan forms. Things like cakes, cookies, donuts, candy, chocolate, and popcorn. I have to explain to him, “That isn’t vegan chocolate, it is milk chocolate.” Or, “Even though it is hard to tell, that popcorn actually has butter melted on it.” Or “That cookie is baked with eggs.” And the most recent one, “Those fries are fried in animal fat.” Even breads and rice can have dairy hiding in them. Once I explain the ingredients to him, he understands and it is no longer an issue. He has learned that he has to ask questions to find out if something is vegan or not. And if he is unsure, it is best just to say, “no, thank you.” We have been teaching him to look for and recognize certain symbols on packages and ingredient lists, so that he can feel empowered to start identifying the contents of items that aren’t obviously vegan to the naked eye.

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