Kicking off the Clean Living Week here on the blog, I interviewed a close and dear friend of mine, Tianna McCormick.
Tianna is one of the co-founders of Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting and just all-around badass. Join us as we talk about why she made the choice to go vegan, how her children are adjusting, and what role did Billy Joel play to convince her to stop sucking her thumb.
For those who don’t know you, introduce yourself!
Hey everyone! I’m Tianna. I’m married to Eamon and mom to 8 year-old Dylan and a 5 year-old Mia and a crazy pup named Lola Sue who has adopted us. When I’m not trying to change the world one vegan at a time, I work in a hospital laboratory doing some sciency stuff while trying to save lives.
Describe your parenting style.
Whatever style helps me to stay alive and sane without drinking all the wine. Haha! But seriously, my kids are both on the spectrum so everything I always knew about parenting was thrown out the window. So I would say I’m pretty laid back and try not to take life too seriously. My kids require flexibility, thick skin and an incredible amount of patience. My husband and I try to keep life as light as possible, laugh a lot and just go with it.
What made you decide to become vegan?
The animals, it was always the animals. However, it was a multitude of things for me that made the final decision. I had wanted to be vegetarian since I was a teenager. At that time, I didn’t really know/understand the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan. I honestly cannot say why I never pulled the trigger, so to speak, laziness is probably the answer.
I have lectured, and basically harassed, everyone I personally know about not using products tested on animals. I’ve been buying vegan cosmetics for as long as I can remember. And now, looking back I think, what the hell took me so long? I’m ashamed to admit actually, that it took several major health scares for me to finally give up animal products. The shameful part comes from how much I adore animals and how, it took health to get me here instead of them.
I’m glad I finally made it here though…it’s where I need to be. Back to the animals, though, – I love them and I wholeheartedly believe that they are not here for us…we are here for them.
You recently became vegan and said while most people are encouraging, there have been some pushback from others. How do you handle the criticism of those who think it’s an extreme lifestyle and that your children aren’t getting enough nutrients?
I laugh it off now, I have to or I will become angry and bitter. In the beginning, I got all puffed up, ready to word vomit all over people. I realized rather quickly though, that behaving like that just turns a possibly open mind off, which perpetuates the idea that vegans are crazy or part of some cult. I know, that most of the foods I give my kids are healthy.
They eat beans, legumes, brown rice, avocados, almost every fruit and vegetable under the sun really and they love them (well, most of them). And sure, we indulge in some chips, plant based ice cream and other comfort foods but I’m teaching my kids about their health, about how to take of their body and most of all, about compassion, something this world could use a lot more.
So having that knowledge in the forefront of my brain, allows me to just let it go. I won’t lie though, haha, some people still have the ability to wind me up, to make sure I understand how much life my kids are missing out on. I just do my best to educate people with kindness and respect. Everyone has a road to travel.
Are you the only vegan in your family? If so, how are you adjusting to your new lifestyle? If not, how is the family adjusting?
My husband and kids are vegan too. I thought convincing them would be hard but I’ve gotten surprisingly little fuss about it. My husband even turned down meat at a bbq so that made me really happy (score!) It was difficult in the beginning, relearning how to shop appropriately and remembering what staples you need in your pantry.
You have to figure your new easy ‘go to’ meals for when you don’t feel like Julia Child and that takes time, which can be frustrating. I think it’s definitely harder for the kids since they only understand to a certain extent and animal products are pushed on them at every turn. However, my son is also a celiac so he, and us by extension, aren’t new to food restrictions.
How are the children handling being vegan away from home? Do you give any instruction to their friends’ parents on what they can consume?
I really feel like I have been lucky so far. I haven’t come into contact with any adults who are determined to sneak my kid some meat or dairy so they aren’t ‘missing out on life’. Did you know that was an actual thing? It’s weird to me. I’ve met with my kids’ teachers and after school staff. They all asked me a lot of questions and allowed me to provide a box of emergency snacks.
We make the kids their lunch every day and we try to make it fun and delicious so they aren’t tempted to buy a school meal. I think the tough part comes during parties and going to a friend’s house. I’ve sent my son to birthday parties with his own vegan cake and pizza and he was successful. Also, his friend’s parents have texted me to ask what he can have.
I know that when I am not there, they don’t eat meat (which makes me really happy) but they do struggle with cheese – we are working on it. My kids are stubbornly independent so my husband and I try to educate them about veganism and their health as much as we possibly can with the hope that they will make good decisions. Ultimately, I want them to choose for themselves and I know that they will choose the vegan options if they have positive reinforcement from us.
You’re the co-owner/creator of Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting. I find it to be fascinating because despite how mainstream veganism is becoming, there’s not a lot of online resources for parents to explore the vegan lifestyle. Can you explain the motivation behind the website?
Really, I have to give the credit to co-creator Janet Kearney, because the website was her idea and without her hard work, the facebook group would still be filled with nudies and spam. The motivation is truly what is in the question: the almost complete lack of education, guidance and resources for vegan parents.
In so many cases, it goes even further than a lack of resources, many physicians and other medical professionals will strongly discourage anyone from having a vegan pregnancy and raising their kids vegan. One of the main misbeliefs regarding veganism is that it’s not healthy and that people often suffer from malnutrition, which is just not true IF you do your homework and understand what your body needs – something that is important to do whether your vegan, vegetarian or omnivore.
While you can find endless information on veganism for adults, those same reputable, scientific sources just aren’t there for having a healthy vegan pregnancy and raising vegan kids. So in addition to our main Facebook group, Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting, we have six different subgroups, three of which are in different languages, Spanish, Portuguese and German (links below).
Our other co-creator, Miranda Graham, is a medical doctor who specializes in plant based eating and nutritional guidance. The main goal for providing these groups and our website is to provide this package of scientific knowledge of nutritional needs for pregnant people and children in such a way that it excludes all animal products while still promoting a healthy, nutritious and (most of all) compassionate way of life. We will offer advice on poo too – because really what it all comes down to in parenting, is poo.
Looking back at your life up until now, what is the one event you could say, ‘Hmm…I probably should’ve thought about that one a bit more.’ It could be any event. It’s not necessarily a regret; it could also be a triumph. But what is something that happened that makes you wonder, ‘I probably should’ve thought that one through…’
I’ll go with a bit of a regret…Student loans….my gosh, I took out way too many. I don’t regret my education, in fact I love it. I have an undergraduate and a graduate degree in science and they certainly keep me grounded with the knowledge that coconut oil cannot cure everything. However, it was a fairly expensive endeavor and I wish I could go back and do some things differently so that I didn’t have this enormous, mortgage sized bill dancing around in front of me.
For those who are starting out in the vegan lifestyle, what tips can you give them?
I think the best thing a person can do for their own empowerment is to educate themselves from reputable sources. There is a lot of adversity to being vegan, from ones own family members to ones own medical care givers. In addition to that adversity is the deeply ingrained animal product consumption society that we live inside. Couple that with extreme viewpoints on the magical powers of coconut oil and the medical community as a whole, it’s a recipe for disaster if you go down the wrong rabbit hole.
I would obviously recommend that people explore our website and facebook groups as the first place to go. In addition, Miranda runs a nutritional website called www.thepuredoctor.com. She is constantly posting new articles and information on adapting to this lifestyle.
Finally, I would recommend researching vegan recipes, not only for healthy foods, but also for comfort foods. You wouldn’t believe the amount of vegan comfort foods that exist out there – many of them super easy to make. I don’t necessarily recommend one book over another because many of them have their good and bad aspects.
Really, I would just check out our Instagram and Pinterest (links below). We often feature our own home cooked meals as well as the meals from people in our groups. We also have a YouTube channel (linked below) that we are building and hope to have recipe demonstrations on it in the very near future. Some of our favorite youtubers are Mic the Vegan and Bite Sized Vegan.
To avoid failure and the temptation to return to an animal consumption life, build up your personal recipe database and keep adding to it. One of the biggest struggles is learning how to replace that section on your plate that you used to put meat on. Take the time to find things that will satisfy that deficit rather than longing for it.
Did you know that the liquid inside a can of chick peas whips up as fluffy as egg whites and can be used as such in baking and other recipes? It’s called aquafaba! Who knew?
Fun time! Name five fun facts about you.
- I am literally terrified of ketchup: the thought that it might touch me gives me the heebie-jeebies….sometimes I even start breathing really fast if it gets close to me.
- I grew up in a town so small, it’s called a Village.
- My favorite music is pretty much anything from The Beastie Boys.
- I once started a new job and quit after 27 minutes. They mailed me a check for those 27 minutes.
- I sucked my thumb long past it being socially acceptable for a kid. I quit by pretending that Billy Joel (uptown girl days) was watching me sleep and he most definitely would not think I was cool at all.
Thank you, Tianna, for such an informative interview! Please click on the links in the interview and subscribe to the YouTube channels.
For more information, here are some additional websites:
Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting
Vegan Eats for Smaller Feet
Plant Based Pregnancy and Parenting
Plant Based Families
Gravidez e Criacao Vegana
Embarazo y Crianza Veganos
And a special treat just for Tianna…I just happen to love this song: