The Concept of Veganism
The vegan society has been established for about 70 years. There are records of veganism existing way before this time, however it’s generally a fairly new concept. With the launch of Veganuary in 2014, veganism has gained in popularity ten fold, whether you’re in it for the environment, your health or the animals, once you make that connection it’s an incredible ‘light bulb’ moment.
Juggling Family Life
So you’re all inspired and ready to pretty much change your life for the good, but what do you do if, like me, you have kids and a very meat-loving husband? I suppose this was the reason it took me so long to take the leap, it all seemed too much like hard work. I was already struggling to keep all the balls in the air as it was and well…one day it just happened!
In the beginning I was content to cook two meals, one with meat or fish and a vegan one for myself. Sometimes I would make something vegan that the kids and hubby would eat, which was awesome – cooking two different meals kind of kills you at the end of a hard day at work.
Path of Enlightenment
Three years on and the hubby decided to join me on the ‘path of enlightenment’. By this time, I’m struggling to cook meat or fish in the house; funny, it just happened without me even realizing. My motivation for becoming vegan was more centered on environmental issues, then one day I walked into a supermarket, walked past the butchers and I had this overwhelming feeling that we are all cannibals. All those body parts just made me want to throw up – how could we do this to a sentient creature?
So without the munchkins even realizing, the household became vegan. That is, apart from eggs given to us by a vegan friend, who loves her chickens and gives us the eggs that they leave. Consequently, for the kids I don’t have a problem with that.
Educating Your Kids: Cow With a Side of Pig
These days we have so much information at our fingertips, we KNOW our kids can thrive on a vegan diet. However, doing it overnight can be pretty devastating to a child who has already developed their taste buds. It’s wonderful if you’re doing this from birth (they don’t know any different), but in my case it happened later – my daughter was 5 and my son 2.
I started to show them videos appropriate for their age on climate change, such as how plastic was devastating our environment, explanations of how we can all do our bit to combat that and reminders of how much we love our animals – just touches here and there and they eventually put the pieces together themselves. I began to call meat by its animal name; ‘bacon’ was a pig and so forth. My kids are huge animal lovers, so this was a bit of a shock for them.
Vegan Lifestyle: Nobody’s Perfect
Please don’t beat yourself up over it if your kids are not ‘perfect vegans’ overnight, every bit helps and one day it will happen naturally. As they get older you can make them more aware of the atrocities involved in the farming industries, the raping of our seas and the needless torture of animals for beauty or sport. Take your time, you will know when they are ready for more information.
Sometimes you can be overcome with a sense of guilt – I often questioned myself, ‘Am I putting my kids health at risk?’, ‘Should I be inflicting my beliefs on my children?’. Well, I don’t even go there on this one now, time is running out as far as our planet is concerned, we have no choice! If we want a sustainable planet for our kids then serious lifestyle changes have to be made. The more vegans there are, the less impact we will have, thus a sustainable future, fact!
Balanced Diet: Staying Informed
A lot of mothers ask me with concerned faces ‘But how can your child get all their nutrients on a vegan diet?’. PLEASE! It’s often the mothers of kids who survive on a diet of chicken nuggets, pizza and chips, ‘Yeah but they eat fruit!’ *eyeroll*. The majority of vegan parents are far more informed than most parents. Yeah you need to do a bit of research, but it’s all out there, just look up The Vegan Society webpage, they give you a step-by-step as to what your kids should be eating at a certain age, easy!
Tastebuds and Freedom of Choice
As your child develops, their tastes will too; a few years ago I would never have gotten a vegan chili or chocolate-covered figs down my two, now they ask me for these things. Take it slowly and introduce foods bit by bit, incorporating and mixing them with flavors that they are already familiar with. For example, when I was trying to wean them off cow’s milk I mixed a small amount of plant-based into normal cow’s milk and upped the ratio daily. After two weeks they were having entirely plant-based without them even knowing it! There’s lots of fake meats out there, find the ones they like and have them in the freezer so you can always throw a quick meal together. In the beginning, I had to drown vegan sausages in ketchup to get them to eat them, but now I don’t need to.
In school my kids eat what they want, this includes meat and fish. It’s not an option for me to bring them home for lunch and in Spain packed lunches are unheard of, so I let them choose what they want. I’m noticing now that they are refusing the meat and fish options and that’s without me asking them to do this. I’ve tried not to make it a huge issue, just keeping them informed and constantly giving them yummy plant-based choices.
Boosting Nutrient Intake
I put sneaky veg/pulses into everything; smoothies are great for this, I often put a piece of nori, dried apricots or silken tofu in there. Avocados work great in their chocolate mousse and I chop spinach so tiny they don’t even know it exists and then put it in loads of things. Lots of wholemeal pasta, bread and rice. They need a good varied diet. Furthermore, my kids take half a tablet each daily of the VEG 1 supplement from the Vegan Society and this also contains iodine and selenium.
A Better World
I’m happy with the way I have encouraged my family to become vegan. I haven’t pushed them, just gently ‘nudged’ as I like to think of it. It can be daunting at first, but given time it becomes second nature. You and your family will have an abundance of energy and a clear conscience knowing that you’re doing your bit to make this a better world for your kids and their kids.