The further into my pregnancy I get, the more I find myself answering the question of ‘will you raise your baby on a vegan diet?’. The question is often followed by another question before I can even answer the first and that question is normally, ‘or will you let your child choose to eat meat?’
I don’t mind people asking, but it always seems like a strange question.
Does any parent truly let their child choose what they eat?
That’s perhaps the response that I should be giving. My go to response instead is, ‘well I’m vegan and my partner is vegan so why would we cook meat for our child?’
On this note, I wanted to give you five reasons why you should raise your child on a purely plant-based vegan diet.
1) Educational value
A vegan diet goes hand in hand with a vegan lifestyle. For some people, this is the act of avoiding leather, but for others, it is the use of organic, natural cosmetics or buying plastic-free fruit and veg.
Children are undeniably curious and they ask questions all the time, especially if they see that you are doing something different from other people. Your child will naturally learn a great deal from you through their thirst for information within their daily routine.
Things that are a chore to some people are an educational experience for your child. Attending pick-your-own farms, starting a compost, or making your own natural cleaning products can be a great way for you and your child to have quality time together, whilst helping them to engage in sensory play.
Of course, not everybody who identifies as vegan indulges in these luxuries, but a vegan diet will certainly prompt many questions from your little one, especially as they meet other children who have a more traditional diet, which puts a bigger emphasis on meat and dairy.
If you ever witness a child hit their sibling in the presence of their parent, you’ll notice that the parent is quick to intervene and scold the hitting child.
Children who are interested in frogs or even those who like cats are always deterred from hurting them in anyway, whether this was done intentionally or through a lack of understanding of how other animals feel pain.
Aligning your child’s diet to the values you teach them on a daily basis will help them to understand compassion so they can be compassionate in their everyday lives.
3) Saving money
There is a misconception that veganism is an expensive diet and lifestyle to follow and I will admit that it can be, if you buy into the expensive cakes in the free-from aisle or the fake meat merchandised in the meat section.
However, veganism can be done on a budget. If you directly swap your meat for beans and lentils, you will see a clear reduction in the cost of your shopping. Beans and lentils, like many other vegan staples, can be kept in the cupboard for long periods of time. Even the small bags you can buy in regular supermarkets often contain 6 portions, meaning they can be used throughout the week in different meals.
Imitations of classics can be done on a budget too, for example BBQ pulled mushrooms instead of pork and jackfruit in curries for a meaty texture. You will notice a difference in taste and texture, but you will also notice a big difference in price.
When I first went vegan, I bought lots of vegan magazines containing recipes and adverts for the latest releases from the up-and-coming vegan food industry. Of course, this isn’t an option for everybody, as vegan magazines are an expense in themselves, but there is plenty information available online.
4) Health benefits
In the UK alone, the last published data I can access suggests that 22.6% of children aged 4-5 and 34.3% of children aged 10-11 were considered to be overweight.
We know that eating more fruit and veg lowers the risk of obesity and cancer. Going vegan is a guarantee for eating more fruit and veg, which is probably why even Cancer Research UK have gotten on board with their ‘Veg Pledge’ challenge.
I have always thought, and I’m sure for a long time I will continue to think, how much children’s menus suck in popular restaurant chains. The dessert options rarely contain fruit and vegetables are served on the side of the main meals, as some sort of boring, unseasoned shadow of a food.
It’s no wonder children are reluctant to eat their veg, would you want to eat yours if this is how it was served?
Vegans often cook by incorporating a variety of different fruits and vegetables to create colourful dishes, which are flavoursome and healthy. This method of cooking makes it easy to get at least five portions of fruit and veg down your child throughout the day.
Furthermore, families who opt for a vegan diet are less likely to eat out at fast food restaurants because the options simply aren’t there. Sure, McDonalds recently launched their McPlant burger, but it still isn’t available across all of their restaurants.
Vegan families will generally dine elsewhere, in restaurants that have more than one choice, meaning that eating out is healthier as a vegan.
5) Becoming a better person
Throughout my pregnancy, I have considered the kind of person that my daughter will be.
I have imagined her to be kind and caring, amongst so many things.
Knowing that I’m going to be raising a tiny human has really made me reflect on the sort of person I am and the sort of person I was as a child. I want my daughter to be better than me.
Raising her on a vegan diet is just one way that I feel I can be a better person and do my best for her.
Being pregnant really is a journey – a physical, emotional and mental journey – one that is helping me to be a better person and I’m sure this is the same for most pregnant women.
For those of you who aren’t vegan or aren’t sure whether to raise your child on a vegan diet, I would say let veganism be part of your pregnancy journey. In making the change, you will be doing what is best for your child, yourself, countless animals and the planet.
If you’re feeling inspired, check out our 4-week vegan transition calendar and see how easy veganism really is!