This Spring, VegCharlotte had the honor of hosting Dr. Leanne Campbell at Whole Foods for a talk on creating The China Study Cookbook and raising vegan kids.
In case you’re not familiar with Dr. Leanne Campbell, she’s the daughter of T. Colin Campbell of China Study fame. LeAnne is the author of the bestselling The China Study Cookbook, editor of The China Study All-Star Collection, and editor of a new cookbook released this spring, The Quick and Easy China Study Cookbook. She received her B.S. and M.S. degrees from Cornell University in Human Service Studies and her Ph.D. from UNC Chapel Hill in Education. She has over 30 years of experience designing education initiatives, specifically leadership programs, professional development for teachers, cultural immersion programs and curriculum development workshops. She’s the executive director and founder of Global Roots. And, oh yeah, she’s also a working mom who raised two vegan sons.
So what is this intimidating powerhouse of a woman like?
Surprisingly, not intimidating at all. Instead, Dr. Campbell radiates warmth, friendliness, and glowing good health.
The VegCharlotte audience at Whole Foods was diverse.
There were people in their 20’s and people in their 70’s.
There were Caucasians, African-Americans, Latinos, and Indians.
There were vegetarians, vegans, and raw vegans. Flexitarians and reducetarians. And a few of the simply curious.
Dr. Campbell began by discussing her father’s groundbreaking research that led to The China Study – one of the all-time bestselling books about nutrition. The China Study examined the relationship between the consumption of animal protein and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. She talked about the basis of the China Study eating plan – plants only, and ideally a wide variety; minimally processed; low sugar, salt, and fat; and absolutely no casein!
But a real connection was made when Dr. Campbell discussed raising vegan kids.
“When people found out we were vegan, they acted like I was doing something really horrible to my child.”
(Heads in the audience nodded vigorously.)
“Everyone asked, where did they get their protein?”
(“Oh, lord, I get so TIRED of that question!” someone in the audience murmured.)
“Where did they get their calcium?”
(“If I had a nickle for every time someone asked me…”)
“Even the doctor refused to sign the form for their sports physical unless I promised to give them supplements!”
(Eye rolling and exasperated sighs from the audience.)
“Fortunately,” Dr. Campbell continued, “there has been a tremendous shift in medical doctors in recent years. There’s a huge interest in plant-based diets and the connection to disease. Doctors are asking, ‘Why weren’t we taught this in medical school? Why is it we are just now learning this?’ And the reason they are asking is because this way of eating is working. They see it working. They see the results in their patients.”
Dr. Campbell spoke some more about her sons. Both are healthy and athletic. The oldest is now a 6’4″ Soccer All-Star. And the youngest?
“My youngest son surprised everyone when he was in kindergarten. He weighed in among the heaviest percentile in his class – even though he wasn’t fat and there were other children who appeared to be much heavier than him.” Dr. Campbell theorized it might have been bone density or more muscle mass – possibly due to his vegan diet?
At any rate, the vegan diet certainly didn’t stunt their growth.
There was an enthusiastic group discussion on public schools – “cafeteria food” – and peer pressure.
“The key to dealing with peer pressure is to make sure your child feels secure and self confident,” Dr. Campbell advised. “My sons ALWAYS knew the reasons why we ate the way we did, so that helped them withstand peer pressure … My youngest son would even have fun with it and would treat it as a game. We ate a wide variety of foods many children aren’t familiar with. So he would have them ‘guess his lunch.’ He’d call it the ‘mystery mix.’ One of his favorites was fiesta potato salad, which has beets and makes the salad pink. He would have all his friends trying to guess the ingredients.” She then went on to note that many children would then be curious to taste his lunch and to their surprise, often liked the food.
“But how do you get your children to eat vegetables and fruit?” one woman asked.
Dr. Campbell paused and smiled. “Children WILL eat vegetables .. if they don’t have many other options!”
She then followed up with a few more tips on children and vegan diets.
Set a good example. Children will eat what their parents eat. So, if they see you snacking on fresh fruit and eating broccoli, they very likely will, too.
Get them involved in the kitchen. “Kids WILL eat what they helped to prepare.” Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to bond and spend time with your kids.
Talk to the parents of your children’s friends. “Most people do want to be accommodating, but may not understand what your child can eat.” Most will appreciate the information.
Teach your child what their options are at fast food restaurants, where they are likely to eat with their friends or teammates.
Dr. Campbell also discussed menu planning and the meals she relied on to feed her family. (Many of the recipes can be found in The China Study Cookbook.)
For dinner, she often relied on crockpot meals, served with a big salad and salad dressings with no extra oil.
Whatever dinner was, she made a large enough batch so her sons could take leftovers to school for lunch. If there were no leftovers her sons knew how to make simple sandwiches, such as hummus and veggie wraps, or fruit, nut butter, and granola wraps.
Breakfast was often oatmeal with fruit, homemade granola with no added oil, or pumpkin pancakes.
Just as there was a variety of people in the audience, people took away a variety of things. Some just enjoyed meeting a leader in the field and hearing an expert speak. Quite a few found reassurance and inspiration in Dr. Campbell’s experiences bringing up her sons. And a few “newbies” found major motivation for continuing to explore and follow the vegan path.
Continue following this blog for China Study recipes, China Study cookbook reviews, and an interview with Dr. LeAnne Campbell about her work with Global Roots.