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Karen Ranzi with children Gabriela and Marco

Can We Raise Healthy Raw Vegan Children?

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The Best in Family Health by Karen Ranzi - Fruit-Powered Magazine

There are vegan YouTube personalities who seem to think that it’s impossible to raise healthy raw vegan children. I’ve been surprised most recently that former raw food proponents publicly condemn loving parents who strive to raise healthy raw vegan kids.

First there is the calorie question. In the early years, the child should be breastfeeding to get the necessary fat and protein needed. I recommend a minimum of two years of nursing, hopefully even longer, and best is according to the child’s own weaning decision. Most nursing problems can be taken care of by a good lactation consultant from La Leche League, and there is only a very small percentage of women who really can’t nurse or need to discontinue.

A baby breastfeeds

Breast Milk: the Choice for a New GenerationEven healthy raw plant foods cannot take the place of mother’s milk, especially in the first year. I’ve known of parents who stopped nursing during the crucial first year and substituted with raw vegan solid foods. Some children are not ready to eat solid foods during the first year and still require the fat and protein of mother’s milk.

Then there is the issue of the food and nutrition the mother is getting. If the mother isn’t getting good nutrition, then she can’t expect her child to be healthy. The word “raw” can mean a lot of different things today, as there are plenty of even dehydrated packaged foods called “raw and healthy.”

When a child is ready to eat solid pieces of raw plant food, fruit has plenty of calories, such as just one banana, which has about 100 calories. Fruit is known to be the easiest food to digest, moving quickly from the stomach to the intestines and then into the bloodstream or out of the body.

A male toddler eats a banana

One raw vegan author said that the raw vegan children he saw were hyperactive and always seeking food and that they were underdeveloped and stunted. Certainly, a mother who decides to give raw food and stop nursing during the first year runs the risk of her child being stunted in growth.

What I have seen of children growing up on raw food is pretty much the opposite. I’ve seen children with great energy, yet they can also be very calm. This same author told a pregnant woman who attended one of my talks that she should eat eggs during her pregnancy when we know from significant amounts of research, presented in books such as The China Study and The World Peace Diet, that eating eggs is harmful to us on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

In the book Food for Life, Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, explains that vegan children grow up more slowly and normally. My children, Gabriela and Marco, grew up according to the lower end of the growth chart, but our pediatrician believed they were still growing up normally. He also said that the height of a child is more dependent on the parents’ height whereas children of today are growing up taller because of growth hormones in their food. This pediatrician completely supported the raw vegan diet I was raising my children on, and each year during our annual wellness checkup, he told my kids just to listen to their mom.

Gabriela and Marco Ranzi are photographed in Hawaii
Karen Ranzi‘s children, Marco and Gabriela, are photographed in Hawaii in 2015.

Some people fear that children raised raw vegan will have numerous deficiencies. Supplementation may be necessary, but I believe that fresh and local produce as much as possible will give our children plenty of good nutrition if it comes from mineralized soil. I’m not dogmatic in regard to supplementation. I had my blood and urine work done, and everything was fine except my B12 level, which was a bit low, so I began supplementing. B12 deficiency can result in irreversible neurological symptoms. I hadn’t supplemented for many years, but when I learned my B12 was low, I didn’t want to take a risk.

People are often concerned about getting calcium without dairy products. My kids grew up on figs, leafy greens in smoothies, green juices, mulberries, oranges and some almonds. These and other foods supply calcium needs.

A Vitamin D deficiency can be a very real issue for any child as food and nutrition will not provide this necessary hormone. Getting out into the sunshine is crucial, and if this isn’t possible, or if a family lives in a northern location in the winter months, then Vitamin D3 supplementation may be required.

A family having fun outdoors

The vegan YouTube personality says that childrens’ tummies are too small and that it would be easier for them to digest rice and beans. That’s very interesting, since rice and beans were exactly what we were eating when my son had severe asthma and chronic ear infections. Complex carbohydrates can be hard on a young child’s developing digestive system. I had to take a digestive aid called Beano just to digest grains and beans. So is she saying I should heal my son with raw vegan food, but then go back to grains and beans, which gave him the problem in the first place? The speaker then says that there is no evidence that a raw vegan diet is appropriate for children and that we are putting our children at risk for malnutrition by feeding them these healthy uncooked fruits, leafy greens, vegetables, green juices, green smoothies, salads and sprouts.

It’s been known in the news that both vegetarian and vegan parents have been jailed for harming their children with their diets. My son and I were both unhealthy vegans. And then, of course, there are the more mainstream diets in which it’s looked at as acceptable to raise our kids on animal flesh and secretions along with processed, packaged nonfoods.

I look at fresh raw vegan foods to be real foods for humans.

A woman holds fresh berries

The YouTube speaker then went on to talk about raw vegan children being socially ostrasized, or left out. Certainly, a child who perceives the need to fit in will feel socially ostrasized, but there are children who are content and happy living as raw vegans. I did try to keep my own children eating raw vegan foods even at a point when they wanted to experiment. I then realized it was important for us to have a healthy relationship. They explored an unhealthy vegetarian and vegan way of living until they returned to this healthful way of living on their own and became empowered by it. Going to fruit festivals and raw food potlucks to connect with other families and to make friends are ways to bring in community so children will have many other healthy role models and feel part of a cohesive group.

Raw Food Levi climbs a treeRaw Food Levi, a 10-year-old who was raised on raw food since birth, says, “I feel good—strong and healthy.” Levi is happy and never gets sick, has tons of energy and loves eating fruits and salads. This raw vegan boy, although eating differently from his peers, lives a very normal life. He attends school, has lots of friends, plays sports, goes to birthday parties and has sleepovers.

Anne Osborne in sky-print dressAnne Osborne, mother of two children raised as raw vegans, says: “I think it is disappointing that many former raw food people say that it is impossible to raise children on a raw vegan diet. When my elder boy, Camlo, was 6, he had his diet evaluated by a state (government) nutritionist, and his diet was found to meet all RDAs with the exception of B12, which can be supplemented; and his calcium was 70 percent of the RDA, but Camlo has got great teeth with no fillings. So a government nutritionist said the diet was possible, but people in the community are saying it is not!”

View Karen Ranzi’s Video Responses, “Yes, We Can Raise Healthy Raw Vegan Children”

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