Toddler Health the Natural Way

Toddler's Health



(This article was originally written over twenty years ago, when my kids were preschoolers. I think it applies today as well.)

Without showing any slides, photographs or home movies, I'd now like to address a very common question asked of me: "What do you do to keep your family healthy?" People look at my two children, who are life-long near-vegetarians, and wonder why they look so good.  It is to a great extent because they are life-long near-vegetarians! From what I've seen, I'm convinced that eating virtually no meat at all (including practically no chicken or fish) is a tremendous health advantage. By age four, my son had only had a teaspoon of fish in his entire life, and daughter, then aged two, had never had meat in any form.

 When my wife and I started out with our first baby we didn't know what to do. We'd never been parents before, and we, like you, wanted only the best for our kids. For this reason we decided to raise our children from day one on as natural a diet as possible. We soon realized that this meant breast milk and vitamin supplements for the first eight months to a year or so, with the gradual addition of whole grain cereals, vegetables, fruits and juices. We couldn't see giving an infant meat. Now we didn't know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this would be the best baby diet, but we'd read about it, and we had friends with exceptionally healthy, active, bright-eyed babies who were totally vegetarian. We reasoned that we could always add meat to the children's diet if they really wanted or needed it. So, we decided simply to wait until they asked. They were each about eight years old or so before they did. They tried it, were unimpressed, and have had little since. 

 Our children have been as least as healthy as other children, and I think much healthier than most. They've been to the doctor only for physicals, and my little girl hasn't seen a pediatrician since we dismissed him the day she was born. They miss only a day or two of school a year (sometimes none) which is much better than average. This is because the kids are healthy and robust and happy. We keep a close eye on their health though, believe me. If they needed to go to the doctor, we'd certainly take them. But aside from the usual colds and such, they are simply healthy. This is largely due to their natural foods, vitamin-supplemented, virtually meatless diet, in our opinion. What we thought would be best for them has proven in our experience to be best for them.  What better evidence is there than success?

 The children's good health is owed to the continued grace of God and nature. My wife also gets lots of credit for haven taken the time to feed them right and also for taking exceptionally good care of herself during both pregnancies. You learned that she took her vitamins in other articles that I've written. She ate a small amount of meat during the first pregnancy, and less during the second as we both learned more about the benefits of vegetarianism. She also ate a lot of peanut butter, all dairy products, and fish, becoming a near-vegetarian over time.

 You know, neither of us was raised as a vegetarian. I'd attack a turkey or roast just like any other kid that was raised with meat. The point that I'd like to make here is that children do not require meat to be healthy, and in fact are probably better off without it. I'm sure that little children should not be started on meat, and it should not be offered to older kids until they ask for it. Naturally, if your home meals are complete without meat, they're not likely to ask for it.

 My wife and I became lacto-ovo-vegetarians, meaning we eventually did not eat meat, poultry, fish or any dish containing them. (Were we ever a hit at family reunions. Not!) We rarely eat eggs, and then usually only when they're part of a baked food. We do eat a good bit of cheese, a fair amount of yogurt, and milk. The kids eat as we do.  Perhaps you'd like more details on just how the children eat. Each child gets a simple but balanced vegetarian diet consisting of at least one serving each, each day, of corn, beans and squash. You will remember these as the "three sisters" of the Iroquois Indians. Corn, beans and squash together make up a complete protein just like meat, only without the toxins resulting from meat metabolism. However, my kids do not live entirely on corn, beans and squash! They also get cheese in many forms, especially cottage cheese, which is rich in enzymes conducive to good digestion and uptake of protein and calcium. They love other cheeses, too.

 For years, their mother baked all of our bread, which was partly but not entirely whole grain, and made with organically grown flours. The children eat peanut butter, walnuts, almonds and other nuts (under supervision when they were younger), ice cream, lots of fruits, all kinds of vegetables, salads, home-baked desserts, casseroles, juices, pasta (including whole-grain macaroni and spaghetti), and really quite a variety of foods. They are not finicky eaters, either, for these real foods appeal to children's appetites. Try them on your kids and see for yourself. Start early, preferably in infancy, and you too will have the pleasure of seeing your daughter eat borscht, your son drink lettuce juice, and your visits to the doctor vanish.

 Each of our children has always received a quality multiple vitamin (liquid, chewable, or tablet, depending on age) twice each day plus extra vitamin C at each meal. As babies, they had liquid vitamin C, then chewable C's (which they loved) when they got a bit older. Before they could swallow capsules, about every other day they each got a few drops of vitamin E (about 50-90 IU) squeezed from a capsule onto their tongue. Believe it or not, they liked the taste of it. It's simple to do, and you can easily control the amount you give them. Vitamin A and D, plus the B vitamins, are all in the multiple vitamin. For kids, choose a multiple preparation containing a natural, chelated form of iron. 

We never used fluoridated vitamins, nor does our community have fluoridated water. Our kids have had only a very minimal number of cavities. To this day, my son [now (1998) in college] has only two fillings in his mouth. Always choose vitamins that contain no saccharin, no aspartame, and no other artificial sweeteners. Look for natural flavors, and look to avoid all unnatural additives. We select multiple preparations containing iodine, plus many additional trace minerals. You can powder a tablet between two spoons and mix it with an infant's pureed fruit. This trick works for vitamin C as well. 

That's about it, aside from the fact that our children get no brightly colored (meaning artificially colored) "foods" like "Jello," and no foods containing chemicals including, but not limited to, preservatives. Why feed children paint and poisons?

"Vitamins, yes; meat and additives no. OK, now what do you do when your kids get sick?" is a reasonable question at this point. First and foremost, they do not get sick very much. Active prevention takes care of that: a mostly-vegetarian diet, home-made vegetable juices, regular vitamin supplements, the avoidance of food chemicals, and plenty of vitamin C all see to that. Raw-food vegetarian Dick Gregory said in his book, Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat (1973), that his kids raised on natural foods simply have not gotten any of the "usual" childhood illnesses such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and such. It seems that these diseases are in fact major, youthful attempts on the part of the child's body to rid itself of accumulated effects of poor diet. If the child eats right, the clean-outs are not needed and do not occur. This is certainly in agreement with nature-cure theory as we've discussed it: diseases are body cleansings and result from wrong eating.

This is so much more than just dry theory. I have simply copied Dick Gregory's diet as much as possible, and my kids never got the common diseases of childhood either! 

Truth to be told, when I met Mr. Gregory in 1970 I thought he was off his rocker.  At a college press conference, I sat three seats away from him and watched him calmly juiced bags full of organic produce while under the bright lights of TV cameras.  (Incidentally, we had to supply the organic fruits and vegetables as part of his contract.) I have since forgotten exactly what he said in his lecture that night, but I will never forget his example. At that time, seven years before the birth of my first son, I had no idea how important natural diet would become for my family. 

 When our children show symptoms of a cold or fever, which is seldom, we do not use medicines because we have seen that natural methods work better. Knowing that appetites should and do decrease in illness, we switch the kids to an all-fruit diet when illness comes on. Think of it as a "kiddie fast." This light, cleansing diet is very effective for reducing the severity of any illness, naturopaths believe. I would have to agree and I follow this same plan for myself when I'm not feeling well. The all-fruit diet continues for a few meals or a few days, as long as there's a fever, or sore throat, cough, or runny nose. Remember that these are symptoms of Nature's decision to rest and clean the body. A fruit diet is accepted by the children quite easily, for it is just what Nature wants them to have at this time. Fruit or especially vegetable juices, their usual vitamin supplements, and lots of extra vitamin C are given throughout the illness.

 We monitor sickness in the usual way with temperature-taking, bed rest, and consulting reliable references. Be sure to consult your doctor for your own situation. During a fever we do not give milk or other dairy products. Milk and dairy products are traditionally considered to be mucus-producing by many nature-cure authorities. When kids expel a lot of mucus, fewer dairy items in the diet may be indicated. High temperature, of course, needs attention. Very high doses of vitamin C act as an antipyretic (fever-reducer). Moderately cool baths can help to lower very high temperature. Dr. Benjamin Spock in his Baby and Child Care (1976) standby tells exactly how to do this without aspirin or Tylenol. We ignore the drug parts of the book, and use the rest when needed. How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor by Robert Mendelsohn, M.D. (1984) is radical but recommended reading.

When your child is sick, you will feel a lot more confident if you keep in personal touch with a knowledgeable, naturopathically-oriented physician or teacher at first.  Believe me, this is what I did!  It's one thing to write a how-to book for other parents; it's another thing to have that real inner assurance that you're right when it's your own child. The confidence and experience comes as you learn by doing. Make it easy on yourself and keep in contact with someone who has been through this before.  Someone both supportive and knowledgeable of Nature's ways of healing is best. Wellness self-reliance doesn't mean that you can't ask advice and share your health needs with others! Over the years, I always turned to my favorite professor from college when my academic but untried knowledge of healing wasn't enough to reassure me when it was a question of my kid's health. With time you will see your own self-sufficiency, and ability to help healing, grow and grow. With experience you'll gain the very real knowledge that Nature will heal your family members most every time.

 Remember the Four V's:
 1.) Vegetarian Diet
 2.) Vegetable Juices
 3.) Vitamin Supplements, especially vitamin C
 4.) Very liberal quantities of knowledgeable support.

 Very effective! 

A Retrospective, Twenty Years Later:
How effective? My son had two visits to a pediatrician in his life, and both were for checkups. My daughter never even met her pediatrician. Yes, we had pediatricians.  The secret is that we never needed them.

Copyright 2008, 2005 and previous years Andrew W. Saul

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )

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Andrew W. Saul


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