Mama Julie & her children
Photo provided by Julie
I was introduced to Julie online when I wrote to Vegan Cuts asking if they had any vegan parents on their team who I could interview for this series. I’m a big fan of what Vegan Cuts is doing so was excited about the prospect of including one of their own team members in this series. Originally from Holland, NY, Julie currently lives in Baltimore, MD and is mother of two. Her family is active in local vegan meetup groups there including a vegan family meetup group. She is the Operations and Marketplace Manager for Vegan Cuts. Visit them on FB and IG @vegancuts.
Annika: How did you get involved working with Vegan Cuts?
Julie: I saw they were hiring on social media. At the time I was working an office job in publishing and my son was an infant. I wanted to make a change that would allow me to spend more time with him. It was also my dream to have a job that aligned with my beliefs.
Annika: When did you become vegan & why?
Julie: I become vegetarian when I was 11 due to a very traumatic experience with what I perceived to be my pet duck. The longer I was vegetarian the more I realized it wasn’t enough. Shortly after my husband turned 30 in late 2010 I told him I wanted to go vegan and keep a vegan household (my husband was vegetarian at the time as well). He agreed to be vegan in the house while continuing to eat eggs and dairy outside the home. However, after just 6 months eating primarily vegan his cholesterol dropped almost 70 points! This convinced him and he has been fully vegan ever since.
Annika: Were you vegan through pregnancy?
Julie: Yes! I was pregnant with my son in 2012/2013 and my daughter in 2014/2015. I had very easy pregnancies and did not suffer from extreme nausea as so many of my non-vegan mommy friends have. My doctor actually gave me a high-five when she saw my bloodwork and said “You’re vegan. You’re doing it right!”
Annika: Can you share any special changes you made (i.e. with diet and nutrition
Julie: Well, with my first pregnancy I craved peaches and oranges! Unfortunately, I was mostly pregnant over the winter months so peaches were not in season but I never had cravings for non-vegan items and the cravings I did have were for healthy things. I actually did not want to eat any mock meats during that time. With my daughter I craved all kinds of fruit. I just made sure to take my vegan prenatal and ensure I was getting enough B12. I cut out caffeine but one of the best parts of being a pregnant vegan is that most of the list of off limits foods aren’t vegan items anyway! The only real change I had to make was avoiding alfalfa sprouts.
Annika: Did motherhood have any influence on your vegan outlook?
Julie: Definitely. Our extended families are not vegan. We get more comments than ever now about feeding the kids meat and people questioning how we can “force” them to eat this way. Honestly, children are very compassionate. Our son loves animals so much. I would have to teach him to eat them, not the other way around. I think it would be a very hard and traumatic thing to make him eat all his friends. Cows are his favorite animal. He doesn’t even conceive of them as food. He has a play kitchen with pretend fruits and veggies and one egg. He takes the egg out of the kitchen and puts it on the couch pillows in a “birdie nest.” All parents make decisions for their children to raise them to be the best people they can be. We want to raise strong, independent, thoughtful, compassionate kids who think about their actions and choices.
Annika: It’s great and fascinating how you point out how your son does not even conceive of cows as food. This is a really important distinction and it seems that in our time there will be more vegan children than ever, so many of the “mainstream” conceptions of what food is and what animals are will be naturally challenged by not only us in the adult vegan community who broke away from that brand of societal conditioning but by the humans beginning their life on Earth as vegans as well. Do you notice anything else unique about having vegan children in our society?
Julie: My son is just beginning to be fairly vocal but even before he was talking he always showed so much love for everything around him and people outside of our family notice that. Yes we are vegan so he has not seen my husband or I harming animals, but we haven’t gotten into the really hard truths about the dairy, egg, and meat industries with him yet. Some aspects of his behavior are just defined by compassion. He wants to hug every dog and cow he sees! He sometimes will tell me that a polar bear on a nature show is cold and needs to “keep warm.” He is also very loving and caring of his little sister. I think the best thing a vegan lifestyle is doing for our children is allowing them to live that love. He gets the chance to start out as his authentic self and not be forced to accept that harming animals and the planet is okay, when he knows it is not. I am excited to see what this new generation of children will become. To have had this chance.
Annika: What are some of your children’s favorite foods?
Julie: Ari is unfortunately going through a bit of a picky phase but he loves fruit of all kinds, non-dairy yogurt, and popcorn. Maggie will eat anything she gets her hands on. We feed them just what we eat as children love to imitate!
Annika: Is your child’s pediatrician very vegan friendly? Did they express any specific concerns with your child being vegan?
Julie: She is not vegan herself but we told from the beginning that we were vegan and were going to raise our children vegan. She is very supportive. As Ari was transitioning from breastfeeding to eating table food she would give us suggestions for meeting his dietary needs that were vegan (e.g., cubed tofu and beans vs meats).
Annika: How do you navigate situations like your children attending peer’s birthday parties where there may be predominantly non vegan food?
Julie: Aurelius goes to a preschool that has a list on his wall of children with dietary restrictions. They let me know in advance if they are celebrating a classmate’s birthday. Sometimes I will send in a vegan substitute for him and other times he will have one of the standard snacks. They have pretzels, fruit, and cheese crackers that they provide for the kids. I send Earth Balance Cheddar Squares for him to have on the cheese cracker day.
Annika: What are some of your favorite foods?
Julie: Toast of all kinds, cantaloupe, cherries, spinach, Brussel sprouts, chocolate chip cookies…
Annika: Favorite meals to make for your family?
Julie: My husband is Mexican so it has been very fun for me to veganize all of the traditional dishes he grew up with. We also make pizza weekly and love tofu scrambles and stir fries. I usually have beans in the pressure cooker at least once per week!
Annika: Favorite restaurants?
Julie: Great Sage in Clarksville, MD. We are also really fortunate to have a lot of vegan-friendly pizza places popping up…and access to Vegan Treats sweets at local vegfests!
Annika: Any specific challenges you face as a vegan mother & how you handle them:
Julie: I am happy to have found the local vegan family meetup group. It will be nice as my children get older for them to have friends that share their lifestyle. I know the social challenges are still to come as my children grow older but we will be compassionate and understanding and share our reasons for our lifestyle in an informative but nonjudgmental way.
Thank You Julie!
Photo provided by Julie
This interview is part of an ongoing interview series by Annika Lundkvist with vegan mothers and fathers around the globe. For more interviews and information please visit this page: Interview Series: Vegan Pregnancy, Parenting & Kids.