My name is Eva and I’m a raw foodist of two kids aged 2 and 4 years and we live in Australia. Me and my husband Michael currently live job & debt free lifestyle, traveling the world and sharing our lifestyle with others on our blog www.raweva.com. We have been on our raw food journey since 2012 and I love making and sharing raw food recipes here on this web as well as helping families introducing and increasing raw foods into their daily diet. I studies Nutrition and Public Health Medicine which I practiced for over 7 years.
I would like to share the most common questions and answers I receive with regards to raw food parenting as well as give you some tips and kids’ friendly recipes you can try.
1. Is raw food lifestyle suitable for kids? Do we need to be 100% raw vegans to feel the benefits?
I asked the same question myself as we all want the best for our kids. I’m not the promoter of 100% raw food lifestyle for small children as according to my personal experience as well as research 100% raw food ‘diet’ might not be suitable for everyone, especially if you live in colder climates and don’t have access to ripe tropical fruits and experience limited sunlight.However, I’m a big advocate of incorporating as much raw foods as possible into kids’ daily diet due to its health benefits.
So my answer to this question is: Yes, raw food lifestyle is suitable for even small kids and you don’t need to be 100% raw vegan to experience the health benefits. However, if you decide for your small children to be 100% raw vegans, you should educate yourself first and consider some supplements in case your kid shows sign of deficiency! I need to stress here that you can become deficient on any type of diet.
2. Can I start raw foods with a baby?
Firstly, I need to mention the huge benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk is the best source of all nutrients and the best food for the little ones. I am a big advocate of pro-longed breastfeeding (over 2 years of age). You can start introducing raw foods from about 6 months of age or later (you’re baby would let you know when ready for weaning). We started by introducing green juices and green smoothies (not too sweet) and offering a few teaspoons first. If your baby is taking a bottle you can offer him a green drink and experiment what your baby likes. Breast milk should still be the main source of food. If you cannot breastfeed for whatever reason and are not comfortable to introduce a typical baby formula (cow’s, oat’s, rice or soya milk) then you can make a substitute using raw coconut milk mixed with filtered or distilled water, dates to sweeten it a bit or another natural sweetener of your choice and vanilla bean or extract. You can also add calcium supplement if you are concerned about calcium intake. Be careful about iron as supplementing iron incorrectly might be toxic! If you suspect any type of deficiency, please consult with your doctor first.
3. Shall I supplement my child?
This is very difficult to say in general as we are all different, living different lifestyles and consuming different foods in different amounts. There is not yes or no from my perspective (although I personally prefer not supplementing). This is very individual and I will mention supplementing in more details as we move on to ‘nutrients to watch’. I personally haven’t seen a 100% raw vegan child in my life that hasn’t been on supplements for a while. Especially now days when the food we eat is not as nutritionally rich as it used to be in the past.
4. What nutrients shall I watch on raw food lifestyle?
Raw food lifestyle is extremely rich on most of the nutrients so you shouldn’t be worried too much or counting calories or % of recommended daily intakes (RDI). If you can ensure your kids consume leafy greens on a daily basis and eat well balanced raw food diet then they should be just fine.
However, as a parent you need to bear in mind that your raw food kid might get deficient as on any other diet. There is no need to be obsessed and you don’t fail if your kid is not 100% raw vegan! Please, be gentle on yourself as a parent and on your child. The most important thing to remember here is that raw food lifestyle should be pleasant and fun journey rather than a struggle on a daily.
Here is a short list of the most important nutrients to watch on raw food diet, basic information to keep in mind and some tips how to get enough:
a) Vitamin D – the main natural source of vitamin D is sunlight and the main animal food sources are egg yolks and fish. Raw food sources of this vitamin are leafy green vegetables such as nettles and some mushrooms. You should watch your kids’ levels of vitamin D especially if you live in colder climate with limited sun light (you can become vitamin D deficient although living in Australia for instance if you use sun screen lotions all the time and don’t let your skin to be exposed to natural sun light!). Twenty minutes of sunbathing without any sun screen protection should be enough to ensure enough vitamin D. Although if you have darker skin you need to be exposed to sun a bit longer! If your body is lacking Calcium then Vitamin D cannot be synthesised that well. If you live in a country with limited sunlight you may consider supplementing your child.
b) Calcium – as mentioned above Calcium is interconnected with vitamin D. Calcium as well as vitamin D is important for bone growth and healthy teeth. Leafy green vegetables contain Calcium as well as poppy seeds, tahini, almonds, quinoa or chia seeds. Poppy milk is great source of calcium as well as chia seeds porridge with coconut or almond milk (I don’t recommend making nut milks such as cashew milk as some children and babies might be allergic or nuts sensitive).
Here is a recipe for a ‘calcium juice’ which would give your child approximately 250mg of calcium:
2 big handful parsley
2 big handful watercress
2 cups kale
1 cup broccoli
1 pineapple and mixing with coconut water to make the juice digestible for small kids as they probably won’t like the bitter taste of green juices. This juice would cover a daily calcium intake recommendation for babies up to 1 year old. You shouldn’t give your baby anything except breast milk or alternative source of milk up to the age of 6 months! From 6 months and later you can gradually introduce this juice and for older kids you can make chia seed porridge (chia seeds soaked in almond or coconut milk with mashed banana and and cut fruits).
c) Vitamin B12 – if your child is raw vegan, you should be conscious about this vitamin as the main food sources of this vitamin come from dairy products such as eggs and animal products. Some algae contain B12, but one shouldn’t rely on it. So if your child doesn’t eat eggs or meat than you should look at some supplements. We found the sublingual sprays most suitable and they work well. If your kids don’t like the spray action, just spray it in a cup and mix with a bit of water, coconut water or almond milk. If you don’t want to supplement, you may consider adding eggs to your child’s diet.
d) Iron – this mineral is available in haeme and non-haeme forms. Haeme form of iron is absorbed by your body easily than as non-haeme iron. Haeme iron is found in meat and non-haeme iron in plants and eggs. Now you understand why vegetarians and vegans might be at a higher risk of iron deficiency. So, how to get enough? You need to be careful here as supplementing iron (I’m not talking about natural sources of iron) might be toxic. Before you start supplementing your child, please ensure the iron deficiency by a blood test. To ensure a good absorption of iron ensure to consume foods rich in vitamin C. Here are the top raw food sources of non-haeme iron and rich in vitamin C as well: Wheatgrass, spirulina, amaranth, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, sun dried tomatoes, goji berries and more. Mix these foods as much as you can i.e chia seed porridge with goji berries for breakfast as body absorbs the most of iron in the morning. You can make wheatgrass juices or smoothies mixed with fruit and ground seeds to sprinkle them over salads or soups. If you have a little baby and still breastfeeding you shouldn’t be too worried as iron passes through breast milk. Just make sure you are not iron deficient. In case you need to supplement your child due to deficiency, I highly recommend ionic iron which is 99.9% absorbable and you can add it to your kid’s drink.
These were just the top nutrients to watch on a raw food diet and I would also watch vitamin K1 and K2 as well as omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA).
5. What is the first baby food?
We started with green juices, smoothies, coconut water and coconut meat which is highly nutritious. Coconut water is nutritionally very similar to breast milk. Later on I used to mash avocado, papaya or banana with my breast milk. Babies, especially if they are breast fed don’t need much solid food until they are about one year old.
6. How to start with older kids?
Remember that you are your kid’s raw food model so if you eat what you are expecting your child to eat than you are giving your child the right message. Be careful about mixed messages i.e.: You say to your child: ‘You should eat breakfast in the morning otherwise you might get hungry very soon’ BUT you are in such a hurry yourself that you wouldn’t sit down and eat your breakfast. Your child might get confused. Be patient with your little one and introduce one raw food group at one time. i.e. if he eats porridge with cow’s milk for breakfast, start introducing almond or any other seed or nut milk first and then when he feels comfortable with it start introducing raw porridge.
Here are some recipes which might help:
Banana Chia pudding recipe
1 1⁄2 cup almond milk
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons raw honey or sweetener of your choice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1⁄2 pineapple or other fruit your kids love such as strawberries
DIRECTIONS: Soak chia seeds in almond milk for about 5 minutes. Stir well to break up any lumps. Mash bananas and add to the mixture. Add the sweetener and vanilla extract and mix well. Pinch of cinnamon and grated apple is great during cold winters JFor summer, I tend to add more chopped fruits such as pineapple, blueberries, mangoes and apples. Great alternative especially for those kids who don’t like mashed food. Great source of calcium and protein!
Raw rolled oats with apple recipe (please note this is not a gluten free recipe!)
1 cup raw oats
1 cup fresh almond milk
Pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon raw honey or coconut nectar. You can sweeten it with mashed bananas too
Soak raw oats in water overnight. Add almond milk, raw sweetener of your choice or bananas. Grate apples and mix well. You can add a pinch of cinnamon.
Fruit Salad recipe
5 raw cashews nuts
handful of shredded coconut
pinch of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of raw almond butter (or whatever raw nut butter you like)
Spoon of raw cacao powder
DIRECTIONS: Cut bananas, apples and prunes and put in your favourite bowl. Chop cashews and almonds and mix with the fruit. Add one spoon of almond butter, pinch of cinnamon and mix well. Sprinkle coconut on the top.