When celebs like The Bachelorette’s Jillian Harris want plant-based nutrition tips, where do they turn?
Erin Ireland is a food reporter, social media star and new mom who’s inspiring the next generation of parents to give peas a chance and rethink what their kids eat.
Several years ago, Ireland was anything but vegan. Her meals were basically meat with a side of meat. “Then I watched Forks Over Knives,” she says. “I couldn’t ignore the science behind it, but it was a gradual process. I’ve been vegan for about four years now, and I wish I’d gone vegan sooner!”
“I feel amazing,” Ireland notes. “I always get asked where I get my energy from, and I truly believe it’s from plant-based nutrition.”
Today, her new lifestyle has opened up new doors, with hundreds of thousands of people following her blog and social media. “It’s funny how I was scared that going vegan would end my food-blogging career, and now I’ve completely built my career on it,” she reminisces.
And her 11-month-old baby Roen is along for the ride.
Tots for turnips
When Ireland became pregnant, she wanted reassurance. So she talked to dietitians and doctors, and they all assured her that being a vegan mom was perfectly healthy for her developing child.
Nothing has changed now that Ireland’s daughter has arrived.
“Raising my baby on a vegan diet isn’t about giving up anything,” says Ireland. “It’s about gaining everything! My baby gets more nutrients than if she was on a typical meat-and-potatoes diet.”
And yes, in case you were wondering—breast milk is vegan! For moms who don’t breastfeed, a health care practitioner can recommend the best formula for baby.
Once your baby is ready for soft foods, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of healthy options. “Most moms don’t realize that so much of the baby food out there is naturally vegan,” notes Ireland.
Walk the aisles of any store and you’ll see what she means. From cereals to puréed vegetables and fruits, many parents are already feeding their kids vegan food without even thinking about it.
Nutrition from the other side
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says a vegan diet is healthy and offers unique advantages. Some parents worry about certain nutrients, but there’s no need to stress. For example, dried fruit is rich in iron and almonds are high in calcium. To make extra sure your little one is getting the right range of nutrients, check with your health care practitioner or a registered dietitian.
Keeping it real simple
“I’m glad you watch my Instagram Stories,” she laughs, when I tell her about my cyber sleuthing. “My goal is to show people the simple steps. Anything new can seem hard, but you can do it!”
“People think it’s more difficult, but a vegan diet is actually easier,” says Ireland. From grocery shopping (you don’t have to rush home worried about dairy going bad) to prepping (less finicky cooking times and no fears about handling raw meats), she says being plant-based saves parents time.
Making the switch
“There’s nothing I can’t have that a non-vegan eats,” says Ireland. “We’ve got vegan alternatives for everything!”
Your family doesn’t have to go cold turkey—er, cold tofu.
“If you have kids, you can slowly wean them off of animal products,” Ireland says. For example, start with 75 percent cows’ milk and 25 percent almond milk, and gradually adjust the ratio. They’ll never know the difference.
And as a parent, equip yourself for the adventure.
“Arm yourself with good cookbooks and know what grocery stores have plant-based alternatives,” suggests Ireland. “The biggest thing for me was really knowing why I was going to eat plant-based and why I was going to raise my child plant-based,” she says. Whether it’s watching health documentaries or reading about animal welfare, knowing what motivates you can keep your momentum going.
Why did she go vegan?
“I love animals and I love the planet,” Ireland says. “I realized you can’t really be an animal lover or an environmentalist while being omnivorous.”
Join in on the plant-based journey
“Raising children on a plant-based diet is one of the greatest gifts we can give them,” says Ireland. “To solve some of our world’s biggest problems, we have to move toward a vegan lifestyle. And by embracing an animal-free diet, our kids will be healthier than we are, live longer lives and have a lower carbon footprint.”
Ireland points out how kids grow to love animals through their stuffed animals and bedtime stories.
“I believe that if given the choice to eat animals or plants, children would choose plants every time,” she says. “We are all born with compassion, and a plant-based diet allows us to live in alignment with these values.”
PHOTOS BY Brian Van Wyk