It seems that daily I get an e-mail from someone who tells me that they could not become vegan and go plant based because of their children.
Traveling full time, we’ve lived in a few cities now, that vegan families seem to be the norm, rather than the exception, and every day I meet more and more vegan families, who have very healthy, happy vegan children.
I don’t have children, so I haven’t known how to respond to this line of reasoning for not being vegan, I mean, maybe kids really just won’t eat anything plant based? But, like adults, I think that a lot of people misunderstand the word ‘plant based or vegan’ to mean ‘salads’ and heck, I don’t even like salads, and I’m going more and more raw, and I still don’t eat salads!
I think that it takes a little creativity and learning, and I think that in the end it’s probably a lot easier than most think. And on the health side, with the sobering statistics of children with Type 2 diabetes, and other adult and preventable diseases, I think we can all agree – something needs to change, for the sake of our children.
So for the next several weeks I’ll be featuring some vegan parents, and their stories!
Today I’m interviewing Kate, she has 2 very happy and healthy boys who have been raised vegan.
1. When did you become vegan?
I went vegan in march of 2004, straight from carnivore.
2. Is your partner also vegan?
My husband went vegan about 2 weeks after i made the change.
3. Did you face any challenges personally in becoming vegan?
Being vegan is great except for the social ramifications of it. I am so sick of people asking me “what do you eat?” and telling me all about the reasons why they could never eat this way. Vegans are still a social oddity, and the level of scrutiny the diet gets can be annoying. This is especially true around the holidays with family. Although my family is accepting of me being vegan, the traditions still center around eating vast quantities of dead animals. Also, it is hard to go out to eat, which i used to really love – especially brunch
4. What were your motivations for becoming vegan?
I had very severe IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and no conventional treatments were working. I read the book “breaking the food seduction” which talked about the vegan diet to fix digestion issues, tried it and never looked back. I feel so much better being vegan – more energy, better mood, better skin, everything.
5. Were you vegan when your child (children) were born?
I was vegan before my children were born. My oldest son (william) was born on 3/4/06 and my second son (rory) was born on 12/15/07. They have been vegan since birth.
6. Were you (your partner/birth mother) vegan during the pregnancy of of your child (children)?
During pregnancy i developed an allergy to gluten (wheat). It caused serious and severe GI (gastrointestinal) issues. Almost all “fake meats” have gluten in them, so this limited the amount of readily available protein that i could eat. I ate a ton of beans, lentils and tofu, but the recommended protein consumption for a pregnant woman is 90 g, which is hard to do with these sources. In order to get enough protein for my developing babies, I ate fish about a dozen times in eat pregnancy.
7. Have you raised your child vegan?
Yes, both have been vegan since birth. Maybe once or twice a year they have a non-vegan thing (like a slice of conventional birthday cake at a friend’s house), but never had meat in any form.
9. What have your doctors said in regards to your child’s diet?
Before i chose a pediatrician, i discussed raising my children vegan with him. I knew i wanted my family to be vegan because i think it is the healthiest way to live. I needed a doctor that would be supportive of my decision. He has always been supportive of my decision to have vegan sons. He does routine iron screens, etc. To make sure their diet is balanced (and their levels are always normal).
Both boys are consistently in the 90th percentile for height and are always a healthy weight. As babies, both boys were in the 90th percentile for weight as well, just like their dad was when he was a kid. Our doctor can see the boys thriving and growing strong and healthy.
10. How have you taught your children about being vegan? What is their level of understanding regarding a vegan lifestyle?
My oldest son knows we are vegan, that we don’t eat animals. He asks whether certain foods “have cow in them” and recognizes that our choices for what we eat are different than other people’s. My youngest son is too little to understand. But i speak with both of them about the choices we make with food. I focus on not eating animals because the animals have to die for us to eat them. I don’t put down people that eat meat, but let them know it is a healthy choice that their dad and i make for our family
11. What do your kids eat? And, what do they really enjoy eating?
Veggie risotto is an absolute favorite in my house. But the kids also eat traditional kid food: homemade pigs in a blanket (soy hotdogs with vegan biscuit dough), tofutti cream cheese & jelly, pb&j, veggie pizza with no cheese, etc. They also like veggie polenta, roasted veggies, stir frys, and vegetarian Indian food
12. A lot of parents tell me they could “never” get their kids to eat vegetables, do you have any tips for them?
Put the veggies in something they like to eat: in soups, on pizza, in a pasta dish. Also, don’t give them an option of saying no. I offer dessert to my kids for eating everything on their plate – which includes veggies & often things that they haven’t tried before. If they don’t eat their dinner, no dessert. It can be a good motivator
13. What obstacles have you faced? (things like handling school, parties, other parents)
The boys are in daycare, and we have made arrangements with the school so that they feed the boys only vegan things. Usually the school provides snacks during the day, and they will only give our kids the snack if it is vegan. We provide alternate food from home for those days that snack is something they can’t eat. At parties, we usually provide something that is vegan, and make enough of it to share with everyone. Other parents have been fine, i think those that think it is a strange way to raise kids mostly keep their opinions to themselves. Our boys are clearly healthy, vibrant, happy, and a great size for their age
14. How have you responded to criticism?
I try to focus on the benefits of our diet, that i feel it is healthier, and just point to the fact that i have two smart, happy and healthy kids to show for it. They speak for themselves
15. What would you tell a parent who would like to teach their children about becoming vegan, or making the switch to a vegan lifestyle in their household?
I would stress to the parents to do the vegan diet right for growing children. Infants and young kids need a lot of fat in their diets to thrive, so they need to make sure the babies get it. We love avocado and use healthy fats in cooking, like olive oil, etc. I adjust baking recipes to make them a little more fat heavy so that the boys get their required nutrients.
For older children (probably 5+), this is much less of a concern, and then the goal of eating should just be to get enough balance in the diet. Make sure that you can get proteins in your kids – whether it is through beans, lentils, tofu, fake meat, or grains like quinoa. Also make sure you cook with lots of veggies. They might not eat the side of steamed broccoli every time, but if you put carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers, etc. In your pasta sauce, they are getting the benefits of the veggies without the fight.
Kids really are empathetic towards animals. I think most kids understand and are naturally drawn towards vegetarianism. If you explain the diet in terms of a healthy choice (which is also true), i think it is a less compelling argument for children. However, i personally stress both aspects. I would expect older kids to put up a fight, but you can get their buy-in by involving them more in food for the family. Give them options for what they can eat, and let them help cook if interested. Make vegan versions of their favorite foods, and be firm with your decision to change.
Thank you so much Kate! If you have questions for Kate or want to leave some comment love – please do so!