Vegan Mother Interview Series
Vegan Italy magazine
Born in 1977 in southern Germany near the beautiful city of Heidelberg, Carmen Hercegfi now lives in beautiful Hamburg with her family. A mother to two, she is a nutritionist with a special focus on vegan families, pregnant and breastfeeding woman, vegan babies and kids. Her cookbook and companion book on vegan pregnancy will be published in Fall 2017. She writes a blog for vegan families, has a column in “Welt Vegan Magazin” and gives lectures about vegan family food The field of understanding about vegan nutrition and health is growing exponentially right now so it was fantastic to have a moment to ask Carmen a few questions about her life, family and work.
Annika: What inspired your decision to become vegan?
Carmen: In 2008 I felt burned out, my body functions where totally unsettled and I felt really bad. A friend of mine told me to read the book “ph-Miracle” by Robert O. Young. I changed my died immediately and after only one week without meat, dairy products and bread my digestive system was working completely normal and 95% of all my troubles disappeared. 3 years later I visited a lecture of the Austrian Writer Dr. Rüdiger Dahlke concerning his book “Peace Food”. This evening changed my view about the ethical aspect and and I decided not to make exceptions like cheese or honey anymore.
Annika: How did your community of friends & family react?
Carmen: They were happy that I felt better and most of them changed their diet as well.
Annika: Is your whole family vegan?
Carmen: My small, nearly-2-year-old son is completely vegan. My 12-year-old son is only vegan at home. He may decide on his own what to eat in school and when he is visiting friends.
Annika: Would you consider your city vegan friendly?
Carmen: Yes! Hamburg turned out to be very vegan-friendly during the past 5-10 years. There are some vegan-only cafés and restaurants and lots of vegetarian spots. Most restaurants in popular districts also serve vegan dishes. We have 2 vegan supermarkets and many many organic supermarkets with a big variety of vegan products.
Annika: When did you establish vegane-familien.de and why?
Carmen: I started the site in 2014 due to my own vegan pregnancy when I realized the lack of information in Germany about vegan nutrition during these special times in life.
Annika: How has your pediatrician responded about your and your children’s vegan lifestyle?
Carmen: When they knew what my profession was, they responded immediately that I have more knowledge in nutrition than them and I never heard a word against my decision.
Annika: Is your children’s school vegan friendly? Do they serve vegan snacks or meals or do you send food with them?
Carmen: Oh that’s not easy honestly. The kindergarten agreed to serve vegetarian food, which means serving the side dishes. I also have a confirmation from a vegan doctor that he may not consume dairy products. But they really don’t know how to cook. I offered to coach the kitchen for free, but unfortunately they are not interested.The school meals for my elder one are disgusting as they serve fast food most of the days. They do have a vegetarian alternative, but it’s also unhealthy as well.
Annika: What are your favorite vegan restaurants in your city?
Carmen: Leaf and Froindlichst.
Annika: Favorite vegan restaurants elsewhere?
Carmen: Cat Bar – Barcelona (Spain)
The Bowl – Berlin (Germany)
Veggie Victory – Lagos (Nigeria)
Annika: How has it been to experience the growth of interest in Germany over recent years?
Carmen: That’s been really fantastic. It’s getting really easy to eat out. But it’s also easier to eat junk food…
Annika: What are your children’s favorite meals?
Carmen: Spaghetti with tofu-Bolognese, Oven-potatoes with Guacamole, Pizza and Avocado-Mousse-au-chocolate
Annika: You specialize in information and advice for vegan pregnancy. What do you think are some of the greatest misconceptions about being vegan and pregnant?
Carmen: Most people think that a vegan pregnancy is not possible or forbidden. Vegan food for adults – ok. But for babies and toddlers? Impossible and irresponsible. No, that’s a misconception. If I experienced the vegan diet as healing and healthy it must be the best thing for my children as well, right? But it’s necessary to deal with the nutrition facts by reading books or consulting a specialist (like me for example). Most vegan moms who ask for my help are already informed extensively and only need somebody to check it.
Annika: Were you vegan through pregnancy and if so what changes did you make during pregnancy?
Carmen: I didn’t experience any differences between my “normal” pregnancy in 2004 and my vegan pregnancy in 2014. Of course I supplemented vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, which everybody should take. I used oils which are rich in Omega 3. I prefer to use an DHA oil. I also used iron drinks, which I took during my “normal” pregnancy as well.
Annika: What are some basic nutritional tips you offer to vegan breastfeeding mothers?
Carmen: Eat an whole foods plant-based diet with lots a colorful fruits and vegetables. Please eat and drink enough to prevent weight loss (compared with the weight you started into pregnancy), because a detoxification progress will start and we don’t want to give our babies these detoxed traces.
And if possible breastfeed your baby until the 2nd birthday or even longer.