by Sonja Watt
My children, ages 7 and 9 have lived a raw-vegan lifestyle from birth and have managed to stay that way, so far. Yes, I am sure there will be phases when they want to know about all the other types of food, and that is okay. But while they are young, I believe it is important for me to stand my ground, believing in and living what I am teaching them. This will increase the chances of them following my lead. The same goes for you.
Fortunately, children who have eaten raw from birth haven't had their natural tastes altered by cooked foods. With their non-tainted taste buds, children sincerely enjoy pure fruits and vegetables, lettuce and such over mixed dishes. Their digestion is different, so raw children are usually more sensitive to mixes since they haven’t had a bunch of artificial flavors ingrained in their minds. Eating raw-vegan food, exclusively, is therefore easier for them in this regard.
Here are some ideas to make it easier for you and your children as you transition into or journey through a raw-vegan lifestyle:
Have fun with raw food: Build funny faces. Create art pieces. It is totally different if you can look at food from another point of view. Raw food is beautiful food. It's like flowers that make you smile. Soak it up and let it allow you to feel good.
Let your children take part: Children love to help, so let them take part in this life-learning! My children just love to eat raw foods because they can handle it themselves! They feel “big” which is very motivating to them!
Don’t stress over the mess: Don't worry about how your kitchen is going to look afterwards. As parents, we often look to save time and do not want to clean everything again. However, just step back and think “fun.” Be happy to be a part of the process. When I allow myself to do this, I can literally see my children grow. How amazing! Those times don't return to us, so think about what is really important to you. House cleaning can be fun, too, by the way. Children do love to get involved with it as long as they can do it together with you. Just relax and don't worry if it takes longer than usual. All you need is time and patience. Pull yourself out of the circle of trying to be perfect. Show that you want to help your children with the cleaning, like how they want to help you. It’s most amazing to me with the ideas they come up with during this time. Observe! Build life-long valuable memories by not stressing over the mess.
Encourage your children to create recipes: Simply provide enough of a variety of fresh, yummy fruits, etc., and let them go at it. Of course, you can stay nearby so your kitchen doesn't get chopped up in the process. Try to focus on positive communication. For instance, "Let me know if you need some help,” instead of, "Nooo, you will cut off your fingers. Nooooo, the whole hand!” Children can end up resisting and rebelling from a negative communication approach.
Host parties and events: Invite friends and offer loads of yummy stuff. Make fruit porcupines (they can add the spikes, or you). Make delicious ice cream with strawberry sauce, shakes, or cakes. If you can get their friends to eat it without making a deal out of it, often no one will even realize it's raw, which is all the better for your children. Your children will go with the flow and be happy to not be so different this time.
Take raw food to friends: Bring a big bowl of something wonderfully raw to share with everybody! Again, your children won’t want to feel left out. If everybody else eats it, chances are, your children will, too.
Let it be the norm: Have plenty of different types of fresh, ripe foods at home (that your children like), so they can help themselves whenever they get hungry. If you pull out lettuce and just eat it, they will, too. My children would rather eat a whole apple instead of a complicated mix. So, keep it simple. Experiment! Just do it...don't talk! Action is most important! We all learn and move forward by watching and imitating. Your job is to filter (not shelter!) what should be imitated.
Don’t let your children get too hungry: Prepare filling shakes before they get too hungry and then go somewhere where “other” things are served. Whey your children are full, they are more satisfied and less attracted by other food.
Answer their questions: That's it. No begging, etc. Just fill them up with honest information if they ask you. Don't preach to them or make them uncomfortable. Don't bribe them. Children want to be able to understand and tell others. Point food differences out to them, so they know for future reference. Make sure you keep it positive!
Take them grocery shopping: Let them pick things they like and what’s on the list.
Use puppetry: Let their dolls, cars, etc. "talk" about it. Use those toys as puppets, and you will see how fun that approach is for your children and how aware they are. They will start asking you questions based on what they just heard from their dolls, etc.
Make commercials: Turn off the TV since there are so many negative influences there. Just watch how creative your children become.
Sell their creations: Let your children make raw crackers and sell them at park days, school functions, etc.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. For transitioning, I suggest you try to find recipes that work for your children. Don't worry too much about all the right combining, etc. That will come by the time they are ready -- when their taste buds have changed to a desire for better quality food.
Again, be sure to have lots of fruit handy since children have a better chance of connecting with flavors they enjoy. Most importantly (for all of us), the fruit should be ripe, fresh and, if possible, organic!
If you want your children to live of raw food, make it happen! Do things such as replacing processed chocolate with your own raw chocolate; they will love it! Don't talk about it - just do it! They will be surprised. The point is to simply be a fun example for them. Before long, they’ll be living that life with you.
I would love to hear from you and about your experiences. Let me know what helped with your family’s transition to more or all raw food.