Kevin and Annmarie Gianni, my good friends and self-proclaimed health renegades, have been educating people worldwide about eating a healthy whole foods diet, using “safe” cosmetics and cleaning products, and making the world a better place.
Their family recently expanded with the birth of Hudson just a few weeks ago.
This sparked all sorts of dialogue on their blog and questions about how healthy it is to raise kids on a vegan or raw foods diet.
Below is my response.
Dr. Ritamarie Responds to Kevin Gianni: Raising Healthy Vegan Children Without Food Dogma
Food “religions” are not healthy, in my opinion.
I eat a “mostly raw” vegan diet that consists of pounds and pounds of vegetables each day. Some of the veggies are cooked on some days, and some days it's all raw.
I raised 2 vegan babies, with one exception.
My babies were adopted at birth, and their prenatal environment was SAD plus smoking!
I fed them a homemade formula in lieu of breast milk, which consisted of whey protein, flax oil, DHA and other nutrients made to be as close to breast milk as possible (the recipes I used are on my website in a book called nut milk formulas).
At 4-6 months, they began to eat fruits and veggies, and I began to make the “formula” using vegetable juice and nuts and seeds.
We avoided all grains until they were 18 months old.
Their diets were high in raw food, but also included lots of lightly steamed vegetables. At 7 months, my first born ate more broccoli at Thanksgiving dinner than anyone else in the room except for me.
Their diets have evolved over the years based on what they gravitate towards and on what makes them feel most energized.
They were never vaccinated, except for whatever they were given in the hospital right after birth.
Both had difficult pregnancies and births. One was delivered via a C-section. And the other had the umbilical cord triple wrapped around his neck and was in the ICU for 48 hours on IV antibiotics.
Nurturing with Natural Foods, Nutrition, and Love
Neither of my adopted boys had a good start nor good genetics. Their birth siblings are all sickly and overweight. Their birth parents are on a plethora of medications and are not healthy. Both of my boys are strapping, muscular, and athletic now at ages 14 and 18. Other than occasional colds, they have never been sick. This, I believe, is a testament to their outstanding nutrition and a loving home.
I supplemented both with vitamin B12 (once a month or so), DHA, and vitamin C as needed to support immune system health. Neither has ever been on a medication of any type, except for the oldest at birth.
Even though I raised them on a whole foods vegan diet, high in greens and raw foods, I did not do it dogmatically. Had there been evidence of deficiency or failure to thrive, I would have been looking at what needed to be changed to feed them optimally.
I originally thought I would raise them on all raw, but I discovered early on that they needed and wanted more. So we included cooked vegetables (lots of them!); legumes; and whole, non-gluten grains.
I approach my patients similarly to how I approach my kids.
My job is to guide them to the most appropriate diet for them, not to adhere to a food religion.
My Br-raw-ny Vegan Boys!
So there you have it… the story of 2 vegans since birth: very healthy and hearty young men. They are not scrawny, they are muscular and strong. They had dental issues with their baby teeth (I believe baby teeth issues are caused primarily by prenatal issues, especially poor nutrition and exposure to toxins in the womb), but they have perfect permanent teeth now. The only fillings they had were in their baby teeth.
Given they didn't come from highly intelligent parents, they are amazingly intelligent. My older son starts college soon, and he was awarded several scholarships.
I believe their nutrition has helped them overcome genetic tendencies.
So Kevin and Annmarie, you will make choices for Hudson based on what you believe is right and by how he is developing. And I know you will test and reassess and change and tweak as needed along the way.
I wish you the best.
Choose the Best Path for You and Your Family
Everyone else, know that there is no one right way to eat that is perfect for all.
Start somewhere, know how to assess how it's working for you, and adjust as needed. This is what I teach in my coaching programs, the latest and most comprehensive being Energy Recharge Coaching.
Many blessings to Hudson. He is truly lucky to have such amazing parents. The time does fly by.
I get teary-eyed thinking that my 18 year old — who will be living in another city over 1,000 miles away for the next four years to attend college — was just a little newborn “only yesterday”.
Additional information on raising healthy kids can be found on my radio show interview with Karen Ranzi, author of Creating Healthy Children.
We all have a commitment to give our kids the very best in nourishment, via food and love.