Over the years I have gone from being an omni to vegetarian and back again many times. I then made the decision to go vegan just over 3 years ago. I watched a documentary called Earthlings and had a complete paradigm shift. My husband is vegetarian, as are our children, and my youngest child ate a plant-based diet for around the first 18 months of her life.
More and more people are choosing to go vegan or introduce more plant-based foods into their diets and I am often asked for tips or advice. One thing I have learnt over the years is that it’s not as complicated as it might seem at first! Here are my five top tips to make raising a vegan family a little easier.
- Start from babyhood. If you start with vegan food when you begin weaning, then children won’t know any difference, just like children raised on an omni diet from the start.
- Be prepared to be scrutinised. While veganism is on the rise, it can seem rather radical to a lot of people, especially when children are concerned. But actually, the British Dietetic Association state that “a balanced vegan diet can be enjoyed by children and adults, including during pregnancy and breastfeeding” and I find that is a good quote to remember just in case someone expresses concern.
- Know where you get your protein! Much like the first point, there are some questions you’ll hear over and over. People will wonder how you get your protein or whether you can get enough calcium on as a vegan. It’s hard to imagine that spinach is protein-packed or that brocolli is a good source of calcium, when we grow up seeing meat and dairy on the food pyramid! So it’s worth having a couple of reassuring facts or well-prepared answers ready.
- Always pack plenty of snacks. Most parents pack emergency snacks in their bag at all times, but when going on a playdate or day out, it’s worth taking a few extra things to eat. Just to make sure you have enough options for your family to choose from.
- Keep explanations gentle and age-appropriate. My children are certainly not old enough to watch Earthlings or to see how animals are treated. But kids instinctively don’t want to harm others so I don’t need to show them. When it comes to answering questions about why I don’t eat eggs or milk, for example, I say something like “well, cow’s make milk for their babies, am I a baby cow?” and they’ll laugh and say “nooooo mummy!”
Are your children vegan or vegetarian? What other tips can you offer for raising children on a plant-based diet?