Carolin Wiedmann is a specialist in pediatric, adolescent and nutritional medicine. Carolin has been working on a healthy, vegan diet for children for years.
1. Why did you turn your passion into a job?
Since early adolescence I have been interested in the human body, its structure and functionality, what keeps it healthy and what makes it sick. I find it fascinating how great the influence of our lifestyle has on well-being and our own health, but also on the health of our planet. Nutrition in particular has great potential in both directions: It can make us tired, energy deprived and sick, but it can also can give energy, keep us healthy, prevent diseases and in some cases even heal us. We can choose a diet that destroys our planet's resources or conserves them. Child and adolescent medicine is primarily preventive medicine. Preventing diseases and maintaining and strengthening the health of children is one of the main tasks of us pediatricians. As a pediatrician and nutritionist, I can pursue my passion for lifestyle medicine and healthy eating all day long and share it with other people. I consider this to be a great privilege.
2. Are there any of your own personal projects that you are currently working on?
There are many nutrition-related topics that concern me at the moment, including the supply of nutrients to children and adolescents: in our practice, we place great value on preventive examinations and, among other things, determine various values in the blood in the youth care "J1", including markers of iron metabolism, iodine supply, vitamin D status, thyroid health and vitamin B12 metabolism. I find it interesting that we find abnormalities and deficiencies relatively often in our patients, who mostly eat mixed-food meals. The nutrients mentioned are often mentioned as so-called "critical nutrients", especially in the case of a vegan diet. However, we see that the supply of these important minerals and vitamins is often inadequate, even for mixed food enthusiasts. There is a lot of need for education here, especially when you consider that a healthy diet in childhood and adolescence is the basis for health in adulthood.
3. Since when have you been following a plant-based diet and which moment in your life has moved you to do so?
When I was 10 years old, I went to the “Human and Nature” museum in Munich for a children's birthday party and saw a film about factory farming as well as battle scenes of pigs. After the museum we went to eat pizza. Instead of the usual salami pizza, I took the Margharita pizza and never touched meat or sausage again afterwards. It wasn't until 16 years later, in January 2011, that I switched to a purely plant-based diet. Before that, my sister had obtained extensive information on vegan nutrition and then wanted to convince me of the vegan diet after her diet change. I resisted it for four months because I was convinced that I could never live without cheese. As it turned out, I was able to do this very well and I am grateful every day for taking this step.
4. Why is a plant-based diet so important?
We know that a predominantly or exclusively plant-based diet, provided it is well planned, has the potential to maintain health and prevent various diseases and in some cases even cure them. These diseases include in particular the so-called widespread diseases, i.e. cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and some cancers, which are increasing rapidly worldwide and not only cause a lot of individual suffering, but also drive up the costs of health systems. In addition, the industrial production of animal food is anything but sustainable, it destroys ecosystems and biodiversity and is responsible for a considerable part of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. It is thus significantly involved in climate change, which the WHO classifies as one of the 10 greatest health threats to humanity. And last but not least, a plant-based diet spares countless so-called farm animals, which are often bred and killed under cruel circumstances.
5. You created a "Super Sprouts" bundle for Health Bar, what was important to you in the creation process?
I created the recipes with a focus on families with children on a plant-based diet. A plant-based diet can be carried out at any age, but should be really well planned, especially during pregnancy, breastfeeding and childhood, in order to meet the increased nutritional requirements. I have therefore created dishes that are extremely nutrient-dense and contain as many of the nutrients as possible that are particularly important for growth, for example iron, calcium, zinc, provitamin-A, high-quality fats from nuts and seeds and protein. Iodine is also an important, often forgotten trace element, which is why I explicitly used iodized salt in the recipes. Vitamin B12 still has to be supplemented with a vegan diet. Certainly you can cook dishes such as lasagna or Bolognese with more oil or products such as vegan cheese or vegan cream, which can undoubtedly be very tasty. But I wanted to forego highly processed products with little nutritional value in my recipes and show how you can cook delicious dishes with wholesome foods.
6. What is your favorite recipe from the bundle and why?
Definitely the sprouted red lentil pancakes. I love this recipe because, in my opinion, it perfectly combines “healthy” with “delicious”. I can imagine that people who are not otherwise outspoken fans of pulses can also get excited about the pancakes. If they are prepared without salt, they can also be given as protein and iron-rich finger food to infants who have started with complementary foods. I myself love these pancakes as a light yet filling meal after a workout. Since I created this recipe, I have had red lentil pancakes at least once a week, and the filling can be varied endlessly with different vegetables, sauces and toppings.
7. How do children become aware of a healthy and vegan diet?
The basis is laid in the parental home. Children learn through observation and imitation. If the parents are aware of a healthy diet and eat themselves (predominantly) healthily, the child will sooner or later adopt these habits. It is also very helpful to involve children from an early age when shopping and preparing food. Even small children can take on some tasks in the kitchen, which is a lot of fun for most of them. Often children are more willing to try new dishes that they were involved in preparing. Eating is also a social matter and regular family meals are desirable for both the development of healthy eating habits and family life.
Incidentally, parents should not be discouraged if their child eats very selectively and one-sidedly at times. Such phases are normal in development and need not be a cause for concern as long as the child is healthy and developing normally.
8. What bad eating habits do you see most often in children and adolescents?
Most children and adolescents are well aware of what a healthy diet looks like and know that soft drinks, sweets and fast food should only be consumed rarely. Unfortunately, however, the availability of these products is very high, be it the fast food restaurant 50 meters in front of the school building or the sweets and drinks machines in the school. On the other hand, the range of healthy foods on offer is often pretty little in comparison and the menus in school canteens sometimes look very unpleasant. So it's not surprising that children don't eat the way we would like.
9. What would you like to advice to children for their future?
“Go your way and let the people talk.” (Dante Alighieri).
And: Stay friendly - to others and above all to yourself. Get involved in what is important to you, stay true to yourself and stand by values.
10. You especially like to cook with sprouted legumes and sprouted grains. Can you tell us the benefits of sprouted ingredients and why it's worth sprouting?
For me, sprouts and micro-greens are the real super foods. Hardly any other food can offer so much nutrient density for so little money.
If a seed is given optimal growth conditions (humidity, temperature, air), it will begin to sprout and grow into a seedling. For this growth process, it needs vitamins and minerals (such as iron, zinc and magnesium), which are stored in the seed and securely packaged in complexes bound with phytic acid. These chains are broken up by the germination process, since the seedling now needs these minerals for its growth and they are, so to speak, "freed" from these insoluble complexes. This gives a great advantage for us humans when we eat these germinated seeds: we can absorb the "free" minerals contained therein better than from non-germinated seeds, in which iron, zinc etc. are present in insoluble complexes. This is particularly interesting for people who follow a vegan diet and meet their iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, etc. requirements exclusively from plant sources. The problem that some nutrients from plant foods are more poorly absorbed than from animal foods can be avoided with germs. Soaking, cooking, and fermenting also help increase the bioavailability of nutrients. A combination of several methods (e.g. legumes that are first soaked, then sprouted and then cooked) is optimal. Sprouting not only makes minerals more available to the body, but also increases the content of various vitamins and secondary plant substances.
So-called oligosaccharides are also broken down during germination. These are carbohydrates that are mainly found in legumes, end up undigested in the large intestine and are fermented there by bacteria. This can cause uncomfortable gas. If you avoid legumes for fear of gas, I recommend trying a small amount of sprouted (and then cooked) lentils.
In addition, sprouts are a culinary enrichment and germination is just fun; you can, so to speak, watch your own food grow, something that children usually find very fascinating. And since, for example, sprouted legumes only need half the normal cooking time, you can also save energy and money by sprouting.
11. What are your three favorite super foods?
a) Broccoli sprouts
b) germinated flax seeds
c) sprouted legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas)
All 3 are real nutrient bombs, can be obtained regionally and are also super foods for the wallet.
12. Which book or documentation can you recommend?
I love Melanie Joy's book “Beyond Beliefs”. She is a psychologist and has written, among other things, the book "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Raise Cows". One focus of her work is improving communication between vegans and non-vegans.
13. When was the last time you noticed that your opinion on a topic had really changed?
For a long time I judged things according to whether they were “natural”(and thus, I thought at the time, “good”) or “unnatural” (and thus “bad”). That was also an important reason why I didn't go vegan earlier. For a long time I was convinced that a diet could never be healthy if you had to consume something “unnatural” like a vitamin B12 supplement. At some point I stumbled across the “appeal to nature logical fallacy” and realized that this construct “natural = good, unnatural = bad” is a logical mistake. An example: the deadly nightshade is something very natural. But it is anything but good for us. The bacteria that causes tetanus is also natural. But not good for us. Vaccinations and caesarean sections are unnatural but can save lives. We used to take in vitamin B12, among other things, through vitamin B12-producing microorganisms in water. Today our drinking water is hygienically treated. This protects us from diseases such as cholera, but we no longer get any vitamin B12 through the drinking water. Nevertheless, I don't want to go without clean water and I like to take a vitamin B12 supplement for it. When I became aware of these connections, my opinion on some topics changed.
14. What do you think is the key to a healthy life?
I think fulfilling social contacts and adequate sleep are is basis. In addition, the best possible reduction in "distress", i.e., stress that causes illness, and sufficiently healthy stress, i.e., "eustress", which occurs when you are challenged but not overwhelmed and do what gives you the feeling of meaningfulness, fulfillment and happiness. And last but not least, of course, a balanced, tasty diet and lots of exercise in the great outdoors.