My interview with Mayim Bialik on raising vegan kids

January 26, 2016 Yael Greenberg

About the blogger: Yael Tamar balances her two lives: a techie and a mom to a toddler and a baby, 3 cats and a dog. Yael has recently become vegan, taught herself to cook healthy foods and is now creating new kinds of natural superfoods available on her site Pure Standard. She blogs on a variety of subjects, from health to technology. She lives in Tel Aviv.

I recently had a chance to interview one of my favorite TV actors/actresses, Mayim Bialik. Besides being an Emmy-nominated actor, Mayim has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, which corresponds to the career pursuits of her current TV character, Amy Farrah Fowler, on the Big Bang Theory. She is raising two vegan boys, aged 9 and 6. 

Her book Mayim's Vegan Table, which came out last year, features simple and easy-to-do vegan recipes of delicious foods anyone can make to increase their consumption of vegetables and to move toward a cleaner, healthier and a more balanced diet. Mayim talked to me about raising her kids vegan and the challenges that come with that. She also gave a few examples of Attachment Parenting.

Yael: What is the toughest thing about raising your children vegan?

Mayim: Social things are hard, things like work dinners or large functions or weddings. When you travel with kids, who are vegan, you need to absolutely always have snacks on hand. Teaching children to appreciate simple food is a wonderful thing that we all should do, but especially for vegans because if you go to parties or events, sometimes the only vegan option is a fruit platter or a veggie platter, and if your vegan child doesn’t like eating fruits or vegetables, your child may not have anything to eat. So that’s kind of a neat thing to raise children to appreciate fruits and vegetables. If that is their only choice, and they already know how to eat it and enjoy it, your child will be satisfied with that option.

Yael: Did you ever have any doubts about raising your kids vegans? Any concerns about their nutrition?

Mayim: Sure. We have a pediatrician who happens to be vegan is also a pediatric nutritionist, and so that is really helpful. I know most people don’t have that, and like almost every other vegan family, but my ex and I got a lot of challenges from people surrounding us, including our families, about nutrition. However, with a little reading and a little preparation, it is not hard to raise children vegan at all. They are very healthy. They have never been on antibiotics. They’ve been breastfed until they were over one and they have shiny hair and all their teeth. They grow, they run and they jump. You can raise vegan kids for sure, and you don’t need to be rich to do it. It’s not about buying expensive food.

Yael: What is the single most important advice from Mayim to new parents?

Mayim: You have all the wisdom you need in your DNA for raising your kids. You don’t need fancy books, and you don’t need anybody to tell you what to do. Just trust your instinct.

Yael: You were quoted as saying that the life of a research professor would not have suited your needs in terms of parenting, which caused you to return to TV acting. What did you mean by that?

Mayim: After I had my first son while I was in grad school, it became very clear to be that I would not get to spend the amount of time with my child that I wanted to if I remained in a Research Professor position. Although I had planned to return to acting after finishing my Ph.D. and having my second son, I honestly was just hoping to get enough work so that I could get health insurance. I did not expect to be a regular on a TV show; and when that happened, I was very surprised. I went back to work full time when my youngest son was almost two years old, and I pumped on set until he was three.

Yael: Imagine that you are in a store, and your child is throwing a tantrum asking for some item like candy. Does that ever happen? And what do you do then? Do you have vegetables stuffed in your pocket?

Mayim: My kids are normal kids. I had to leave stores and abandon a shopping cart full of products because the kids were freaking out, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I wrote a book on Attachment Parenting, and it included my thoughts on a lot of that kind of difficult stuff. I was taught about knowing the signs very early that your child is hungry or tired and so I could act preemptively. Also, if you don’t teach them to have a sweet tooth they often don’t have a sweet tooth.

Yael: When is it important to potty train the children?

Mayim: That’s every family’s personal decision. We practiced elimination communication with both boys. That’s a method of learning a baby cues for going to the bathroom. There a lot of different opinions on this, but for us it worked to be with our kids and teach them to use the potty very early; but that’s not for everyone, like I said. I talk about this in my first book. In our culture we teach children to be comfortable sitting in their waste, and then we have to get this out of them, which is very, very complicated.

Yael: What’s one thing that parents do that they shouldn’t?

Mayim: Like I said before; a lot of people do what their friends or what their well-meaning parents think they should do. I think sleep training is one of the bigger assumptions of something you quote “have to do,” but there are a lot of different perspectives on that. A lot of times, the assumption is that sleep training is the only way to get a child to sleep or to teach them to be independent. It’s more popular in western culture, where the assumption is that it’s the only way. Like the assumption is that the only way to consume protein is by eating meat.

Check out Mayim's book on Amazon

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