Vegan Family of the Month: December (Click on the photo to read the full article)

Daniella Alvarado + kids
For Decembers Family of the month, we’re excited to talk with a wonderful american mama, Danielle (Danni) who lives in Italy with her husband and two sons. I discovered her on Instagram through her inspirational page “Veganwondermamas”. Danni is a progressive, ethical vegan, all about zero waste and living a natural, free-spirited lifestyle in the mountains. Through her company Wondermamas she help people all over the world discover delicious, healthy (and easy!) meal plans. I’m delighted that she agreed to let me ask her 10 questions about raising a vegan family so let’s get to the questions!

Q: Why did you decide to go vegan and what was the transition like?

I was living (stationed with the United States Navy) on the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii when I turned Vegan! My friend and I were in the mood for a documentary and decided to watch “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”. As soon as the movie ended, I vowed to never eat an animal or their byproducts ever again. I began my extensive research and would spend over 3-4 hours a day highlighting endless studies, trying out recipe after recipe, and teaching myself how to thrive! Being Vegan in Hawaii is probably the easiest place in the World to transition. I was able to eat lots of beautiful raw fruit and vegetables each day and meet tons of amazing like-minded people at the local farmers markets and vegan communities. After learning all that I could from my friends and local farmers in Hawaii, I took my Veganism on the road and travelled to Asia and Europe. Keeping up with my Vegan lifestyle abroad was quite difficult but I was lucky enough to have tons of cooking experience under my belt! I now live in Italy with my two beautiful children and their handsome Papa and we enjoy my home cooked vegan meals every single day.

 

Danielle Alvarado

 

  • Q: Were your children vegan from birth, or have you changed their diet as they grow up?

Yes, they were Vegan from birth! Vegan pregnancy and all. It has been tremendously easy and I was able to research everything that I needed to during pregnancy to ensure all of their nutritional needs are met.

 

  • Q: Even though your kids are still very young, do they ask about why they are vegan?

They have not yet asked but they are only 20 months old so I believe they are far too young. I am curious at what age they will begin asking questions!

 

  • Q: If so, what do you share with them? 

I plan on telling them the truth of it all. In our small town, children as young as 6 visit the slaughterhouse to see where the meat comes from. If the boys ask, I will absolutely let them visit. I must say that the meat market is much different here than in my home back in America. The animals all live much longer lives, they are kept in large farm areas (some cows have the entire mountain range to themselves) and the culture seems to respect the animals much more than in America. I have even seen some pray before and after the death of their farm animals. I have also noticed that the children actually know where the meat comes from and what they are eating. It is remarkable coming from a place like Chicago where, as a child, I had no idea what I was eating! I believe, that with a compassionate guide, my children will continue their Vegan journey as they grow older and make their own decisions.

  • Q: Tell us about the vegan community in Italy!

It is very small but I have met a few Vegans here! The vegetarian community in Italy is quite large. Italy is known for its pasta and pizza and is very easy for a vegetarian to live out their days. For a vegan, however, it takes a bit more patience and education. We have our short list of vegan spots in our small town in North Italy and stick with those to ensure animal products stay out of our food. The larger cities, like Florence and Rome, have wonderful Vegan communities and delicious restaurants.


  • Q: Are there any like-minded parents?

We live in the Italian Alps (next door to Switzerland and Austria) and most of our friends and neighbors love to hike, ski, garden and explore. Most parents are as into adventures as our family, but only a few are into our way of eating. The beautiful thing about the people here is that everyone respects everyone else’s way of living. When I visit a friend’s home, they always cook Vegan food for us (even if they have never heard of such things before!). I am so thankful for how respectful and kind everyone is here. I am very lucky.


  • Q: Do you ever ancounter judgement from other parents about your lifestyle?

The only judgement I have ever encountered was from Martin’s grandparents and it was pretty funny to be honest. We went out for dinner and I ordered a Vegan pizza without cheese and just vegetables and garlic on top. The look on Martin’s grandfathers face was priceless. Martin’s grandmother looked at me like I was insane. We all had a great laugh! Now, whenever we visit their home, I am always gifted with a beautiful basket of fresh vegetables from the garden!


  • Q: What are your favorite parts of raising a vegan family?

Oh my…where to start! The beautiful foods, the gardening, the farmers markets, the amazing energy that I have all day to chase after twin boys….it is all just so amazing. It feels so good to wake up every single day and fight for the good. To fight for the innocent with simple choices of what we eat. Turning Vegan not only changed my diet, it changed my World. From our cleaning supplies to clothing, it has opened our eyes to so much wrong in the World and has also opened up our eyes to all the amazing companies that are being created to fight the good fight.

  • Q: Are there any aspects of your vegan lifestyle that present the challenges to you and your family?

I had a heck of a time trying to find warm clothing for my sons that were not made from local wool or animal products. Thank goodness for on-line shopping, even out here in the mountains!

 

  • Q: Will you allow your kids to try non-vegan food if they express an interest? 

My children will make their own choices as soon as they can express it in a clear and concise manner. If they want to try something non-vegan, I will educate them and if they still choose to eat it, so be it. I cannot run their lives for them, but I can educate them and lead them in a compassionate way. Trusting my children to make their own decisions is very important to me.


  • Q: Given your background in nutrition, what advice can you share about ensuring your children get all nutrition they need out of their vegan diets? 

I am a big believer in research and getting down and dirty in the books. Taking notes, creating a binder for your new lifestyle, sorting out a meal plan, and finding a plant-based nutritionist to check up on you and your children throughout the years. If anything, the plant-based nutritionist will be all that you need to ensure that your nutrition is on point.


  • Q: Do you have any Christmas Recipe you'd like to share that might win a meat eaters heart? 

My absolute favorite Christmas Recipe is a simple Vegan Mac n’ Cheese. I was a real cheese addict and this always hits the spot!


Vegan Mac n’ Cheese

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 ounces macaroni noodles (gluten free option)
  • 4 tbsp arrowroot powder (or all purpose flour)
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • ½ cup vegan parmesan cheese
  • 6 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Cook pasta according to package. Once finished, simply drain and set aside (covered).

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet and add ¼ cup water and minced garlic to saute. Once brown, add in flour and whisk for 30-60 seconds until thick. Add in almond milk slowly while whisking at the same time. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add skillet mixture to blender with salt, pepper, nutritional yeast and vegan parmesan cheese. Blend until creamy. Taste and adjust as need (salt/pepper). Return sauce back to skillet and heat for another couple of minutes until thick. Add in cooked pasta and bread crumbs.


Option to transfer mac n’ cheese to the top rack of your oven and broil for 60-90 seconds to crisp up. No longer than 90 seconds! Serve immediately.


  • Q: Do you have any tips for families that are interested in transitioning into a vegan lifestyle but are hesitant to take the first steps? 

If you are hesitant to take the first steps, I highly recommend hiring a plant-based nutritionist and/or starting a vegan meal plan. You can create a meal plan all on your own from your own research and taste preferences or you can choose one of many available today! Our family shares our very own meal plans every Friday with the WonderMamas community and it has been a hit. I cannot believe how many people have joined our Vegan Meal Plan service – it is wonderful! We have built a beautiful community of healthy and happy families from all over the World!