Vegan Family of the Month: February (Click on here to read the full article)

For this Vegan Family of the Month, I had the pleasure to speak with Hannah Stackawitz at her beautiful home in Langhorne, PA. I put the address in Google maps and when I hit the entrance to their home I thought I must have ended up at the wrong house. The house has old charm and is made out of stone with a beautiful yard. Once I called and confirmed that this was in fact  the right house, I parked outside and Hannah came out the backdoor, gave me a big smile and waved me inside.

Her 9 month old son, Asa, and their dog, Scout, (both vegan), were there as well. As with many of the other vegan families I meet, our first interaction was through Instagram. Hannah is a customer of Dynur and she sent me a couple pictures of Asa in his clothing. I thought it would be great to have Hannah share her experiences with us, since she is the first mom I’ve spoken with who is raising her child vegan with a non-vegan partner. Hannah is a super friendly, smart and beautiful woman and it’s incredibly easy to forget that the hours pass by while you're sippin’ on a healthy, super delicious golden (coconut) milk and talking about all things vegan. I’m happy to finally share this conversation with you guys!

1. So Hannah, what do you do for work?

I teach yoga. Before I gave birth to Asa I also worked as an Experience Designer at Johnson and Johnson. I loved working there but time flew so quickly after I had Asa, and I made the decision to spend as much time with him as I can. So now my family is my full time job!

2. When did you decide to become a vegan?

I have been on and off vegetarian for my whole life. I’ve always known in the back of my mind that it is not ok to eat animals. But, as with most of us, I was not taught that in my home or by popular culture so I ate meat as part of a mainstream diet. When my parents raised me, they thought we needed animal products to survive and be healthy. They did the best they could with the knowledge that they had. While I ate meat and animal products, my parents told me that as early as in the age of 5 I preferred a salad over burgers. We would walk into Wendy’s and I’d order a salad and fries. I have always liked, maybe even preferred, plants as food and I think that made the transition easier for me.

There were three things that made me eventually go vegan:

  1. I got diagnosed with PCOS. PCOS is a common condition in women causing a hormone imbalance, which can lead to all types of complications including infertility. I led a healthy lifestyle before I was diagnosed, but the diagnosis and our desire to grow our family nudged me a little further, since diet and lifestyle changes can really help with symptoms.
  2. I was exposed to the truth about factory farming and the dairy and egg industries.  In 2016 and 2017, I watched lots of documentaries and learned more about all the reasons a vegan diet is beneficial for our health, the animals and the environment. The vegan lifestyle is the only choice that allows me to live out my ethics and achieve health for myself and our planet.
  3. I started studying yoga on a deeper level, and I wanted to ensure that I was doing no harm to any living being around me. This included harming, killing or forcing animals to do things they would not naturally do themselves.

For example, before I was a vegan I thought that we were doing female cows a favor milking them, making them comfortable more comfortable. Once I knew that was far from the truth it was kind of game over.

And finally, when I became pregnant with Asa my decision was cemented. I started to feel even more solidarity with mothers of all kinds. Cow mothers love their babies just as human mothers love theirs. I would never personally harm another living thing, and that includes animals. And if I wouldn’t do it myself, how could I justify paying another person to do it for me? Because it’s tastes good for a moment? There is no moral justification for it, and that was it for me.

All of these things on top of the growing body of research that is showing how beneficial plant based diets are to our health and the environment and I was sold. I knew this was how I could make a difference. All of this happened at once and now I’ve been vegan for almost two years.

While we are talking, we’re sipping on the Golden Milk Hannah prepared for us. It’s so delicious so I had to ask her for the recipe.

Oh it’s easy! Just heat up these ingredients on medium heat while whisking in a saucepan:

  • Flaxmilk (you can use any kind of plant milk)
  • 1 tbsp Coconut oil
  • Grated fresh or ground Turmeric to taste (I usually use about 1 tbsp for each of the next 3)
  • Grated fresh or ground Cinnamon
  • Grated fresh or ground ginger
  • A few grounds of fresh black pepper
  • Maple syrup to taste

If you use grated fresh ingredients you may want to strain it as you serve.

Golden milk is a great mood booster, full of antioxidants and really good for inflammation. Plus, it’s super yummy. :)

3. How did you meet your husband?

We sat next to each other on a flight to Scotland. We were each going there (separately) for work trips. I tried my hardest not to talk to him, ha! I had absolutely no interest in talking to anyone and particularly not a man at that point of my life. But he was interesting--and maybe a little relentless--so we talked for a while. He had actually worked for my company in the past, so I thought maybe he could be a good connection to have in my professional life. He gave me his card and said we should keep in touch professionally. He had been to Scotland a bunch of times and mentioned that if I want to meet for lunch or something while we were there I could let him know. Long story short, something told me to follow up with him so we ended up grabbing a snack one afternoon between meetings. We chatted and parted ways, I was pretty sure I’d never see him again. But the universe had other plans--when it was time to fly home, I boarded the plane to see that he was seated next to me again! Unbelievable. The rest is history! 

4. Is he a vegan?

Jeremy is not vegan. Maybe it’s not ideal—I mean, I wish everyone were vegan! But I’m always very open and honest with everything I feel, why I am vegan and why I think everyone should be. At some point you have to trust that other people have the ability to figure things out for themselves. There were people who were vegan long before me and who am I to say that everyone should evolve at the same pace I did. It’s the same with our other kids. I have two stepkids, 10 and 13 years old. I talk openly about my choices and if they have any questions I am very honest, but we are a part of a coperenting situation so I have to be respectful. And at the end of the day they are going to have to do their own thing.

5. Is your husband getting adapted to it?

He is very supportive. I cook most of the time, and he eats what I eat. He has probably decreased his meat and dairy intake by 50%, most of which from what we keep in the house.

6. Is there anyone of your family or friends that are negative towards you raising Asa as a vegan?

Actually no, I don’t think people care much about it. But sometimes it feels like people think two things about you when you say you are a vegan. Either:

  1. You are a super crazy healthy nut or
  2. You are an anemic extremist nut who won’t survive

In reality our lives are much more “normal” than either of those. Our health is very important to me, but, girl, you know I love me some vegan cupcakes and Newman’s Os!

I digress… If I had to guess, I’d say many people don’t know much about the vegan lifestyle, so they don’t want to talk about it or criticize. Maybe when Asa gets older we’ll have to have conversations about why we won’t share when other people offer non-vegan snacks or something along those lines. But, for now it’s been pretty easy!

7. When Asa grows older, will you talk to him about why you feed him a vegan diet?

Absolutely! I wish that I could’ve understood where meat, dairy and eggs came from when I was growing up. The REAL story. Before I turned vegan I just consumed these things like they were vegetables, not knowing the consequences of my actions. I want Asa to be vegan until he fully understands what is happening to animals when he consumes or uses animal-derived products. I don’t want him to unknowingly hurt animals like I did.

And let’s not forget about these HEALTH BENEFITS. More and more and more studies are published every day showing the benefits of a plant based die. Even the Harvard Nutrition Source’s  Healthy Eating Plate has all but eliminated dairy and eggs, advises against consuming processed meats, red meat and bacon, and includes beans and nuts in the “healthy proteins” quadrant.

It’s easy: I want the best for my child, so I want his diet to be plant based.

8. What do you feed Scout?

We feed him V-dog (vegan dog food brand) and he loves it!

9. What do you feed Asa on a stressful day?

My go-to easy dinner for both of us is baked sweet potatoes. I cut them in half, pierce them with a fork a few times and pop them in the oven at 375 degrees until they’re soft (30 minutes?). That’s it. I usually cook a pot of quinoa at the beginning of the week and have it in the fridge, so I’ll add some of that to a plate, scoop out the inside of the sweet potato, add some spice (he loves cumin or cinnamon) and give him some applesauce as desert. Then, to mine, I like to add scallions, a combo of miso paste and vegan butter, and crumbled sauteed tempeh and we are both good to go. Easy and delicious.

My other go-to is pasta and leftover vegetables.

10. What do you think is the most challenging part of living a vegan lifestyle?

Information. I was trying to buy new shoes the other day, and it’s so hard to know about hidden animal products. Some shoes might be made of vegan leather, but there can be glue made out of animal products, or rubber and so on. I think you just have to do your best and not beat yourself up if you can’t figure it out every single time you make a decision.

I don’t feel worried about things that I know lots of people usually are when they are adapting to a vegan lifestyle. Like being a pain in the butt in a restaurant or telling people you're vegan when going out for a work dinner. I just try to go with it and own it. Be authentic without talking their ears off about it. Since I know why I’m doing it I feel very confident about my choices.

11. What would you recommend to someone that want to raise their child vegan but haven’t taken the step yet?

Start by educating yourself on where non-vegan things come from. This will motivate you more than anything else, in my experience. If you know you are feeding your child puss, which is present in all dairy products, that has forcibly been taken from a manually impregnated, now babyless mother cow, it makes choosing non-dairy items a lot easier! And so on and so forth.

Also, approach making the switch from an abundance mindest, not a scarcity mindset. Try not to approach each decision from a place that says “I can’t give my child this or that, this is so difficult”. Instead, imagine saying to yourself “This planet has given us so many healthful and delicious plant foods that I don’t have to harm a single living thing to give myself and my child a wonderful life!” This approach may sound silly, but it works wonders. You’re doing a great thing for everyone involved. Be proud of yourself for every effort you make, even if you’re not perfect at first!

If you'd like to follow Hannah or ask her specific questions you can check out her Instagram page @what_hannah_loves <3