Today we’re talking to Meg and all about what it’s like being a vegan parent raising her kids on a plant based diet.
1. When did you become plant based?
February will make two years.
2. Is your partner also plant based?
Yes. When we made the switch I went from vegetarian to vegan, he made the leap from full-on steak lover to adamant vegan, and our son was a mostly veg eating omni.
3. Did you face any challenges personally starting your plant based diet?
There was certainly a learning curve, and some reorganizing of the kitchen and menu repertoire, but it was so worth it. I was a vegetarian for twenty-five years so was more than ready to make the change. That readiness factor helped a lot. When there is a will… You know.
It was actually exciting finding new things to eat! Traveling and eating out became more of a treasure hunting adventure. Vegan restaurants are always in the coolest parts of towns and full of like minded new friends!
It is also an added bonus to have a kitchen that felt more like a place of nourishment than an e.coli haz mat zone.
4. What were your motivations for becoming a plant based eater?
I started learning more about factory farms and became aware of the catastrophic sickness, sadness and environmental impact in the meat and dairy industry. I am a big fan of being the change I want to see in the world and try to teach my son the same thing. I believe ethical veganism makes an incredible impact. The benefits are too overwhelming to ignore. Once I had the information, the change was no longer really a choice for me. It mattered too much.
My husband, having been married to a vegetarian (me) for a year was starting to see the astounding health benefits from eating less meat such as sustained energy levels, mental clarity and improved athletic performance and wanted to make the full leap. Since going plant based vegan, his cholesterol has lowered to better than healthy levels and he has thrown the acid reflux meds in the trash. He is in the process of completing Dr. Colin Campbell’s (author of The China Study) plant based nutrition course online through ECornell U. He uses his new education and experiences to speak to others about the joys of veganism.
5. Were you eating a plant based diet when your child (children) were born?
6. Were you (your partner/birth mother) plant based during the pregnancy of of your child (children)?
7. Have you raised your child on a plant based diet?
He has been vegan as long as we have. He made the switch at age five, nearly two years ago. He is a very happy and healthy seven year old vegan boy.
8. If not, how did you introduce your child to a vegan diet?
We watched some very sad animal rights videos like “Meet Your Meat”. I tried to package the switch like it was his choice by offering the information and asking him how he felt about it, etc.. never forcing, just discussing. It was surprisingly easy once he understood where the meat, eggs and cheese were coming from, the pain they were associated with. He said “Mom, we should do something about this.” It was the perfect opportunity to explain that it was exactly what we were doing by discontinuing our participation in the horrors of the industry. Those undercover videos may seem like they would scare children, but I personally believe that knowledge is key. Honestly, my son seemed relieved to go vegan and extremely proud of his choice
9. What have your doctors said in regards to your child’s plant based diet?
We have moved since making the switch and actually still haven’t found a new physician. We haven’t needed to. He has not had to see a doctor since becoming vegan. He has had no more than a couple of minor colds. He used to get fevers and ear infections regularly before. He is bright eyed and healthy. He just came in first in his class for the phys ed. fitness testing.
10. How have you taught your children about being vegan? What is their level of understanding regarding a plant based lifestyle?
Again, we did watch videos and read books early on, but now our lifestyle is an ongoing conversation. We discuss food choices any chance we get. Passing restaurants while driving, during tv commercials, when going to parties or out to dinner. We also discuss our food choices when we talk about how to be the best people we can be and how we can impact our community and planet with more love than harm.
Our son has a very high level of understanding. He is fully equipped to defend and promote his food choices, whenever he may be questioned. This understanding makes the lifestyle continue to be something he chooses with every meal, rather than something forced on him.
We also discuss how it can be challenging to be the only vegan at school or in other group situations, how we are pioneers, with a wonderful responsibility to represent a better way. He was really enthusiastic to become a vegan after learning the facts of the farms. People are usually surprised at his enthusiasm and commitment. When he is offered candy or sweets he says “No thank you, I am a vegan”, or he will ask “does it have eggs or dairy?” And if it does, he is genuinely fine not eating it. I believe that is because he understands why. He is not missing out on something ‘good’. He is saying no to something for a legitimate reason that he believes in.
I am always so impressed with the way he interacts with his friends and classmates. He is the only vegan in his school and he has come to be very confident about it. There was a transition period, but now I have had other parents tell me that their kids are coming home saying how cool it is that my son is a vegan and can they try it! Believe me, I thought this transition would be so much harder for him, but it is proof that when you make ethical choices, the universe rushes in to support your leap of faith.
11. What do your kids eat? And, what do they really enjoy eating?
He loves burritos, veggie pizza with no cheese, pesto pasta, gnocchi, veggie burgers with tomatoes and pickles, peanut butter sandwiches, Uncle Eddies vegan cookies, popcorn with sea salt and nutritional yeast, hummus, raw walnuts, dates, carrot and celery sticks, applesauce, coconut milk ice cream……
(it is also worth noting that we do eat organic/non GMO most of the time, for both ethical and nutritional reason.
12. A lot of parents tell me they could “never” get their kids to eat vegetables, do you have any tips for them?
Keep trying!! Explain to your kids that it is the life in the veggies that feed their life. Eating life = Life! Eating dead animals = yep, you guessed it, Death. EW! My son is very interested in being strong and fast so we talk about what strong herbivorous dinos, gorillas, gazelles eat. I also tell him that professional sports players eat lots of veggies. When he has any athletic achievement I tell him “thank goodness you are a vegan so you could run that fast” etc…
Also I think choices are important. Tell them they absolutely have to eat veggies to live and include them in the process of finding veggies that they do like, surely there is ONE vegetable prepared in a way that they will tolerate. Eventually they will expand their horizons. (veggies taste even better once you give up the meat and cheese)
Making veganism cool is key!
13. What obstacles have you faced? (things like handling school, parties, other parents)
I do have to pack his lunch every day, but that has become a pleasurable act of love. I would do it regardless considering the low quality choices at school.
I do meet with the teacher at the start of the year to ensure that she is aware, same goes for all summer camps and after school activities where snacks might be provided. People are really very understanding and will either accommodate or I just bring something for him. His current teacher keeps cookies for him in the event of a spontaneous party and she lets me know when his supply is low.
For school parties, I usually make plenty of cupcakes to share so the other kids have a chance to try a yummy vegan food. ( I make this easy on myself with a mix and egg replacer – you don’t have to be supermom to do this)
For birthday parties, I will talk to the host parent about what they are having and send an appropriate substitute. I used to worry he would feel “different” or “left out” eating his own thing, but that has yet to be a problem. I have been really surprised to find out that he actually feels a little superior and our conversation often has to be about how we can best be accepting of others who don’t eat like us!
14. How have you responded to criticism?
Honestly, I don’t really hear it. We are so comfortable in our reasons for choosing this lifestyle. We have had some extended family weirdness, but we just state our case the best we can, and after that, if they choose to continue being uncomfortable there is really not a lot we can do. They have just had to get used to it.
There is no denying that meat eaters can become very defensive of their bacon around vegans. We just ignore it and change the subject.
15. What would you tell a parent who would like to teach their children about becoming plant based vegans, or making the switch to a vegan lifestyle in their household?
Go for it! You will be surprised how much children feel for the plight of the animals once they understand there is one. There is no better gift you can give them, no better legacy to leave them. Think about the amazing influence your beautiful, radiant vegan children can have on world that desperately needs them. The time is now!
Thank you Meg! You’re the kind of vegan mom we all look up to!