How to Raise Vegan Kids?

How to Raise Vegan Kids?


Switching from an omnivorous diet to veganism is difficult for some.

There is a lot of peer pressure to just stick to tradition.

And if you were raised with ingrained food traditions surrounding family or culture, letting go of those customs can leave one feeling lonely.

Being vegan in our world is really is a story of motivation, dedication, education and resistance.

But what about when you have kids?

Should you be in control of what they eat, or should they be given the opportunity to decide for themselves?

This is quite a big discussion among both vegan and non-vegan (as well as vegetarian). Some of you may have seen the movie “About a Boy."

Marcus' mother, Fiona, is a vegetarian who does not eat processed foods and does not allow her son to eat them either.

She doesn’t allow Marcus to go to McDonald's. Marcus gets very upset, and understands that he is different.

If you are trying to raise vegan children, you might be dreading the day that they rebel against the values you are instilling in them.

This is especially bound to happen when children start to get older and develop their own opinions about the vegan diet.

Luckily for you, we've got some ideas to help you navigate these tricky waters with your own offspring.


PEOPLE ASK QUESTIONS

When you choose to rear your children in an atypical way, people naturally ask questions.

You will encounter some criticism and misunderstanding, but most people are just curious.

Inquiries may come from your pediatrician, your kid’s teachers, and your own family members if they are not vegan, and especially if they do not agree with your lifestyle choices.

Your kids will get questions from their friends and classmates.

The media will run with shocking anomalies and make the vegan diet sound dangerous.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of resources becoming available to vegan families today including books, podcasts, and online communities with thousands of other supportive parents who made the same decision.

Be conscientious, but rest assured that it is absolutely possible to bring up kids on a vegan diet in a healthy and safe way.

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WHY RAISE VEGAN CHILDREN

Sometimes, when you know you're going to face opposition, it's helpful to arm yourself with talking points before you even face your detractors.

So, why should you try raising vegan kids?

  1. Teaching children about the needs of animals from an early age and explaining why you have chosen not to eat other living creatures, will make your kids more compassionate towards animals in the long run. It will also help them understand the animal life cycle from an early age.
  2. Going vegan can reduce a person's carbon footprint significantly, research shows. By raising a vegan kid from the beginning, you're reducing his or her environmental impact right from the start.
  3. Multiple studies have demonstrated the efficacy of a whole-food plant based diet in overall health. Give your child the tools for a healthy vegan life from the beginning and teach an appreciation of good, nutrient-dense food that will serve him or her for a lifetime.

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WORDS OF WISDOM

If you need more convincing, here are the words of some prominent registered dietitians in support of raising vegan kids:

Like any mom, I strive to ensure my 2-year-old daughter is meeting all her nutrition needs all the while balancing her sometimes finicky preferences. I make sure my daughter is offered some type of bean (lentils are her favorite) and a nut or seed (aka "sprinkles" as she calls them!), as well as a fortified plant-milk for calcium and B12 and a variety of whole grains, fruits and a veggie each day. Quinoa is also a good plant-based source of iron and choline and can be eaten by itself or added to homemade veggie burgers!” --Jessica Spiro, RD of Jessica Spiro Nutrition

We have found that raising a vegan family is so much more than just swapping out animal-derived products for plant foods. It's about teaching our kids the true meaning of compassion, environmental stewardship, feminism, and equality, while setting them up for optimal long-term health and showing them a unique way to positively impact the world around them.--Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, Plant-Based Lifestyle Strategist and Founder of Chronic Planet (www.chronicplanet.net)

"Raising our now 3-year-old daughter plant-based was not even a question. Through our research and experience in our own lives and working with patients, plant-based diets are a safe and effective way to reduce incidence of the most prevalent chronic diseases, including: diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. Consuming whole plant foods also reduces carbon footprint, environmental toxins, and undue suffering. According to a 2017 study, "Cohort studies strongly support the role of plant-based diets, and food and nutrient components of plant-based diets, in reducing the risk of type 2 Diabetes"(2). To ensure she is including all the nutrients needed to continue healthy growth, we offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, gluten free whole grains due to her sensitivity to gluten, and dairy-free fortified plant milks. We make sure not to waste space in her small stomach on refined foods and sugar. If a plant-based lifestyle is planned and executed in a healthy manner risk of nutrient deficiency and disease incidence drop drastically. We have seen this firsthand with our healthy girl. She has always had steady, healthy growth, following her curve and normal levels of iron at checks. Raising a healthy child in an unhealthy society has been no easy feat, but something that has been so rewarding, eye-opening, and assuring to others that it is possible!"

-- Dahlia and James Marin, Holistic Dietitian Nutritionists and owners of Married to Health.

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WHEN THEY ARE BABIES

Healthy vegan diets may contribute to lower rates of high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, type two diabetes and certain types of cancer.

A move to a vegan diet doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

You can always start with a plant-based diet and then add steps towards your ultimate goal of vegan if that feels good to you.

Making sure children get enough energy is key to meeting needs for growth. Regularly monitor your child’s growth. When feeding your vegan baby and toddler, here are some tips from Healthy Families to keep in mind:

  • Before 6 months, your baby only needs breast milk and a 400 IU vitamin D supplement every day. If you cannot give breastmilk to your baby, feed your baby store-bought soy-based infant formula. Continue this until your baby is at least 2 years of age. When you are pregnant, you should take a vitamin B12 supplement to get this vital nutrient to your developing child. Likewise, nursing mothers should keep up on their vitamin B12 supplementation for the same reason.
  • By about 6 months of age, your baby needs more nutrients, especially iron, and is ready to start solid foods. Make sure your baby’s first foods are iron-rich. Breastfeed on demand and include foods like ground nuts/seeds or nut/seed butter, avocado, whole grains, beans, peas, legumes, tofu, sweet potatoes, and healthy fats and oils with meals and snacks.
  • By 1 year of age, work towards feeding your child three meals and two to three snacks each day. Before 2 years of age, plant-based, milk-type beverages such as soy beverage are not recommended. They do not have enough nutrition to meet the needs of your growing baby. Soy beverages are not the same as soy-based infant formula.
  • For toddlers, include at least three foods out of the four food groups at a meal and two or three food groups in each snack.

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AN INSPIRATION TO OTHERS

It's likely that your original goal of raising a vegan family was probably centered on helping animals, saving the planet, or setting your kids up for optimal long-term health.

But your choices will actually reverberate much further.

Whether you’re made aware of it or not, people around you will begin to reflect on their own lifestyle choices, many of whom will decide to make changes in a similar direction.

Take every opportunity to help others who may ask for your guidance.

You will become a font of information about everything from what plant foods provide iron, to how to make an awesome birthday cake without eggs, milk, or butter (and people won't even realize it's vegan!).

Your children will be able to explain to their peers why they don’t wear leather or eat the mini pizzas from the school cafeteria.

Most importantly, knowledge is power.

Doing research on the best way to bring up healthy kids on a vegan diet and understanding your number one priority, will give you confidence in your choices.

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KID-FRIENDLY VEGAN RECIPES

There are a lot of vegan recipes that appeal to kids - not-chicken nuggets, crispy tofu morsels served with carrot sticks and cucumber spears, macaroni and "cheese," cheese-less pizza, or pizza made with vegan cheese, the list goes on.

But one recipe you must have in your arsenal is this recipe for the ultimately kid-friendly food, made vegan: pancakes.

Not only that, but these pancakes are chocolate!

So without further ado, here is one no-fail kid-friendly pancake recipe, perfect for a plant-based diet.

This recipe is adapted from Holy Cow Vegan:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 3/4 cups plant milk (I like soy or almond)
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (distilled will do in a pinch)
  • 2 tbsp flaxmeal
  • 6 tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (please don't use artificial!)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce

For chocolate sauce

  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips, such as Enjoy Life brand.
  • 1 cup plant milk
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Mix the flax meal and warm water together, and set aside to gel. This will be your flax egg. Set aside while you make the chocolate sauce
  • For the chocolate sauce:
  • Heat the milk until it is scalding hot but not boiling.
  • Place the chocolate chips and vanilla in a bowl. Pour the milk on top and stir until chocolate chips are melted.
  • Let the chocolate sauce stand while you make the pancakes.
  • For the pancakes:
  • Whisk the dry ingredients together in one bowl.
  • In another bowl, mix the plant milk with the apple cider vinegar and let stand a couple of minutes. Add the flax eggs, vanilla extract and applesauce, and whisk until incorporated.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until incorporated. Don't over-mix or the pancakes will become tough.
  • Heat a frying pan and add some plant butter or oil (or fry the pancakes dry if you have a good nonstick skillet). Cook 1/3 cup of batter at a time. Flip with a spatula and cook the other side.
  • Plate the pancakes and top with chocolate sauce. Serve to your kids and enjoy! These are also great with peanut butter on top.

We hope this guide has given you good information on why to bring up your kids on a plant-based diet, why vegan diets are good for kids, and how to make some incredible treats suitable for the vegan diet to treat your kids.

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Sara Phillipps
A vegan freelance web designer and blog writer based out of Austin, Texas USA.


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