Dear Birdy: Vitamins and Supplements
My wife and I are vegans and have been for years and have one daughter, who is three. I am worried about vitamins and supplements because our daughter is a really picky eater. My wife is adamant that our daughter will crave food if she is lacking any nutrients and becomes an expert on the subject when I try and broach it. I don’t have as much confidence in that statement. Apart from secretly giving the supplements to my daughter and causing a massive argument, how do I discuss it with her, without it turning into a standoff?
D from Portland
I think, too often, we vegans get lumped into the “hippie-dippy” crowd. Probably due to our shared love of vegetables and mutual distaste for violence. While our communities do overlap, we’re not all magic-believers. We often end up falling in love with those enchanting, bonfire-dancing, hula-hooping unicorns. I did. I’m sure your wife has good reasons for not agreeing with your solution, but you both have a 3-year-old to worry about.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all picky children were just intensely obsessed with cruciferous vegetables. Snubbed their noses at grilled cheezes and vegan chik’n fingers, and demanded carrots and avocados? If that’s your girl, congratulations. Yet I’m guessing it’s not. Unless your three-year old is picky in the correct direction. I’m on your side in thinking she could do well with an age and size-appropriate vitamin. You are also correct in resisting the urge to sneak a vitamin past your wife. So, what are you left with?
The first route I’d take is to seek an expert. You’re going to need someone smarter than “funny typing computer person” to help you. You know, like your daughter’s pediatrician. Be frank when you discuss her pickiness at the next appointment, ask about ways you could ethically introduce more nutrients into her diet: maybe your wife will listen, but if she believes in body-cravings, she might not. The next thing I would do is commit to understanding her point of view on the topic. Many people our age weren’t regularly fed vitamins as a kid, especially as young as three, and if your daughter isn’t showing signs of malnutrition. Your wife might not see it as necessary to start worrying just yet. She might see you as being a little hypochondria on this issue, and gets ultra-defensive about it, rendering her an expert on nutrition (at least for the duration of the fight).
Seek to compromise. Maybe she’d be more comfortable with just one vitamin to start: whichever one you think she needs most. “Look Hun, I’ll shut up about this if we can at least squeeze a tablespoon of flax oil on her rice every now and then.” Or maybe your wife doesn’t want to shove traditional vitamins down her baby’s throat, but she’d be okay with supplemented smoothies. There are tons of vegan, vitamin-laden, “super food” smoothie mixes on the market. Many of them formulated just for kids. (Olly, Amazing Grass, NuMedica, Vega, etc). Just prepare her one, see if she digs it. Pro tip: if she’s not a smoothie-chick. Freeze it and present it as ice cream.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of persuasion. Instead of focusing on your wife’s beliefs on cravings. Work together to encourage your daughter to eat more healthily. You don’t want to wait until she’s a teenager to harp on her French fry habit. And just because she might be eating brown rice and fresh fruit, she might still be missing key elements from her diet. Whatever it is she’s picky about might be a phase, but it won’t hurt for both of you to commit to helping her tackle it as a team.
Don’t give up on this issue with your wife. You’re right to be concerned about your daughter’s vitamin intake. It sounds like she is, too, but not as urgently as you are. Remind her that symptoms of malnutrition don’t usually show up until you have a real medical problem. And remember when you’re having the conversation, that although you have differing opinions on supplements, you both care deeply for your little picky one. Respect is key, and you’ll never get someone to agree with you without softening yourself first.
You’ll figure it out together,
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