Why I decided to switch my toddler to a plant-based diet


This is a question that I get asked often, why did we go plant-based? And why was it important for me to switch River? 

The decision to stop eating meat was never because I didn’t like the taste but a lifestyle choice that aligned with my values of holistic and sustainable living. It’s about being kind to our bodies, the environment and the other living beings we share this planet with.  

While working in the holistic healthcare field, I noticed a correlation between diet and many chronic diseases. As I delved deeper into the side effects that meat and animal products had on adults, I quickly learned that children are much more susceptible to these adverse reactions, since their immune and digestive systems are still developing. 

The following reasons lead to my decision to switch River and myself to a primarily plant-based diet. 

Meats and animal products cause a bio-accumulation of environmental pollutants and heavy metals in our bodies.

Where we eat on the food chain directly impacts the level of environmental pollutants and other heavy metals that can accumulate our bodies. The lower on the food chain we eat, the more we limit our exposure to these harmful chemicals. Animals ingest environmental toxins through their food and water supply.  As time goes on, these chemicals become stored and concentrated in the animal’s fat cells. The higher up the food chain we move the more bio-accumulation of these toxins occurs.

This principle of bio-accumulation is the reason it is not recommended to eat tuna while pregnant. Tuna is high on the food chain and contains high levels of mercury which can cause neurological defects in utero.

High levels of aluminium have been found in shellfish and cheese. Unfortunately, buying organic meats, fish and dairy will not protect us from exposure to these toxins and heavy metals. 

Health effects linked to exposure of environmental pollutants and heavy metals include impairment of the immune system, endocrine system,  the developing nervous system, and reproductive functions. They can also cause skin irritation, liver problems, and certain types of cancer.  In children, they have been shown to negatively affect cognitive systems, including reduced IQ and behavioural changes.      

Processed Meats increase the risk of childhood cancer 

I have said it before and I’ll say it again, hot dogs and processed meats are the new tobacco smoke.  Due to the fact, they are both classed as group 1 carcinogenic by the World Health Organization. Processed meats contain harmful compounds, including ammonia, arsenic, and nitrites, the last of which has been shown to increase the risk of childhood leukemia and brain tumours.

Hormone disruption

Most people are very conscious of avoiding meat and animal products that have been injected with artificial hormones. Did you know the naturally occurring hormones that animals produce are thousands of times more powerful than the ones being artificially injected?

Now don't get me wrong the artificial ones still aren’t good for you, all I am saying is, buying meat that hasn’t been injecting with hormones isn’t going to prevent you from possibly experiencing symptoms of endocrine dysfunction. Such as fertility issues, endometriosis, early onset of puberty, obesity, thyroid disease and certain types of cancers. Since the GF-1 hormone found in animal products may be a powerful tumor-promoter.

Prevention of the following childhood diseases: asthma, atherosclerosis, obesity, and pre-diabetes.  

As time goes on research has proven that the standard American diet is making our society very sick. A diet that is high in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. 

In Canada, the number of obese children has tripled in the last 30 years. Studies have shown that children who are overweight at the age of 6 will likely stay that way through adulthood making them more susceptible to pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries was found in children as young as ten, the number one cause was high levels of bad cholesterol.

Another study found a high prevalence of asthma and respiratory symptoms in children that consumed low amounts of fruit and vegetables and noticed an improvement of symptoms when eggs and dairy were removed from the children’s diet. There also seems to be a direct correlation between the gut and allergies. Children with low levels of intestinal flora are more likely to suffer from allergies.

The Environment

Over the years Chad and I started noticing certain trends, that slowly led to our decision to go primarily plant-based. As a chef, Chad started noticing the effects that animal agriculture was having in the restaurant.  The food cost associated with meat and seafood products were in constant flux. Wild fish prices would spike due to unsustainable fishing practices. Fish that was easy to farm and could be mass produced became increasingly more popular and pushed on restaurants to order. In his conversations with local fishermen, they reported having to go further out to sea to find the local fish that they used to be able to catch just off the coast. 

Chicken prices started dropping due to mass production. He also noticed that many companies started injecting water and sodium into chicken and seafood to increase their weight. 

Produce was being recalled due to e.coli outbreaks - often a result of the waste run off of factory farms contaminating the water supply. 

Animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels and is a leading cause of deforestation, water, air pollution and biodiversity loss.

River's love for Animals

In River’s most authentic form he completely embodies pure light, love and compassion. I believe this to be true for all children. His ferocious love for animals was one of the reasons it seemed so fitting to raise him plant-based. 

Looking back to when he was a baby, well before the fussy toddler stage kicked-in, he never really took to meat. After talking to other mothers, this seems to be quite common.  Most babies seem to have this instinctive aversion to meat.  

I believe we have just as much to learn from our children as they do from ourselves and maybe this is just one of the lessons they are trying to teach us.