Raising a Vegan Child
Really, having a vegan child shouldn’t be a major talking point in my life, but it definitely is. The shock of “Oh, she is vegan too?”, “Did you make her vegan?”, “What does she eat?”, “Does she really stick to it?”. I hear these questions frequently. Yes, No, Lots, Yes.
If I had just listened to my daughter I would have been vegan around 6 months before I made the switch. One day, while waiting for my husband to get out of work, my daughter said mum, I don’t want to eat animals anymore. This was a familiar comment, I had made the same myself, although granted I was a few years older than her young 7 years. I felt excited, and worried at the thought. Having been a vegetarian myself in my younger years, this almost reopened that closed off bit of my mind. “Well, we can definitely cut out processed meat and red meat, but we can still eat chicken to begin with, and fish, and you can have cheese, that will keep you healthy”. I don’t mean to sound over dramatic, but thinking back to my reaction makes me feel a little sick. Here my daughter was, coming the conclusion that eating, and using animals was wrong, my reaction? Well some animal use is okay, and you know, we need animal products to be healthy! *SLAP* Please don’t blame me, I was still ignorant, I’m glad I can see and admit that now.
We cut out all red and processed meat, for a while anyway, until I was in a rush one night and gave her sausages. It’s funny how the thought of eating something like cheap pork sausages now is horrifying on so many fronts, for both of us. It was a failure, but that little comment, and that opening of my mind, even just a little chink, probably helped, so that by the time I saw 101 Reasons to go Vegan, I was ready to make the switch, mid-day, and to not even consider going back.
One of the first things I did when I went vegan was educate myself on the health aspects. I’m very overweight, but even with that I worry about my health, and making it worse than it already is. I think the process of my parents dying also directed me more towards caring, when you see death so close up, your own mortality becomes a more solid thought in your mind. I was surprised to find out, rather than the unhealthy image I had of a vegan in my mind, veganism was actually an incredibly healthy diet, not just healthy, it could in fact be the healthiest diet there was when the right foods were eaten! I was shocked! Again, this solidified my commitment to veganism, ethics, they started the ball rolling, but health is a fairly close second.
I kept my new found veganism quiet for a few days, the first person I told was my daughter. She took it in her stride, asking about the things I couldn’t eat, when I said I couldn’t eat cheese (her favourite meal ever being macaroni cheese) she looked shocked. I didn’t ask her if she wanted to join in, I wanted it to be her choice. I became vegan on the 4th November, and her meat intake drastically tailed off from then right up to Christmas. Right after Christmas she said she was ready, she wanted to go vegan. “What about the macaroni cheese?” I asked, “It always made me feel sick anyway” she said, and thinking about it, it did. I assumed it was because she ate too much, but she more than likely had a lactose intolerance, my son also does so it would make sense.
My son wasn’t quite ready to make the switch, but he eats mostly (90%) vegetarian, and I hope eventually he will go the full way. He is a teenager and I’m proud of the changes he has made, and will continue to support him to go fully vegan.
Our family were doubtful, first of all that she would be able to do it, and secondly that it was healthy. I’m glad to say that on both fronts they underestimated my strong little girl. She has never wavered, not once. She got healthier, she lost a little chub, her hair and skin are glowing, she really is an awesome example of a vegan. She is a little activist too, as far as she knows she is the only vegan child in the school, she says sometimes conversations come up where she points out people are eating dead animals, they don’t really like that but she said she just can’t help it. She also wants to come along to the Earthlings Experience.
So, what steps do I take to ensure she is healthy? Well, first of all I know that she is eating a significantly healthier diet that she was previously, macaroni cheese, sausages, barely a vegetable in sight did not a healthy diet make. Her vegetable and fruit intake has at least tripled. She loves fruit and veg, she says she wants to be a fruitarian when she grows up. She also takes a vegan multivitamin daily, that has B12, D, Omega 3, many others. We also use fortified foods, rice milk, cereal, and she eats dark vegetables a lot. I’m currently trying to get her into tofu, it’s such a great source of nutrients.
I try not to worry too much, I know she is eating a lot healthier than many children, her plate is full of vegetables at night most of the time, she snacks freely on carrots, cucumber, apples, plums, bananas, anything fresh. Sometimes I even make her vegan macaroni cheese.
If you are thinking about raising your own vegan child, don’t be scared. There are many stories about there scaremongering veganism as an option, but groups like the NHS and the British Dietetic Association all agree veganism is healthy for all stages of life. You need to consider what your child eats, but to the same level everyone should be. B12, Calcium, Vitamin D, Iron and Omega 3, these seem to be the vitamins that I see most discussion about online. These are the only vitamins I think about when considering her diet. The rest are covered. So far my daughter is the picture of health, she rarely gets ill even when it seems the whole school is falling around her. She is full of energy, more so that she used to be. Veganism is an option for children, and don’t let the scaremongers convince you otherwise!
My daughters favourite convenience vegan foods (not including fruit, vegetables and homemade!):
- Fry’s Nuggets
- Asda’s Curry Noodles
- Tesco tomato and Onion pasta
- Fry’s Chicken Style Burgers
- Dairy Free Ice cream
- Sweet Cinnamon Porridge made with Rice Milk
- Asda’s own brand cheap garlic bread
- Quorn’s newish vegan nuggets
- Tesco’s bacon rasher crisps
That is just some of the unhealthy stuff to show that it still exists even in the vegan world. She mostly eats a homemade meal every night, that I make and photograph on Instagram, but when she does eat the above foods we try to have a large portion of the plate filled with vegetables.