Obviously, I am sharing my views and I am relying on the information I have gathered and read, I’m not a medical professional or a dietitian but hopefully, this article helps you to explore and make your own mind up!
We became vegan once our children were past baby stage, our youngest was 8 years and our eldest was 24 years. Of those who still live at home two are vegetarian and one still eats meat when he is away from us. The others eat vegan or vegetarian when they visit.
So can I raise my children as vegans? Absolutely yes you can. It will take planning and attention to detail but you can definitely raise a vegan family.
If I was starting a family now I would definitely raise them vegan without hesitation. I breastfed some of my children for nearly a year and some got less than a week! Obviously, if you are able/willing to breastfeed then your baby is getting 100% of its dietary needs until you begin weaning. If you are using formula there are formulas out there which we used for two of ours who couldn’t tolerate dairy for the first year or so however these aren’t vegan the added calcium is from sheep’s wool. The formulas are fortified and therefore provide the needs of your baby just like dairy formula. It seems hard to actually find a vegan baby formula so it’s possible you will need to compromise unless you can breastfeed I imagine new formulas will hit the market soon as veganism grows in popularity.
Children over the age of 12 months can drink fortified plant-based milk but children under the age of 5 years shouldn’t be given rice milk as its possible it contains too much arsenic!
So for weaning and older children…
Where will they get their calcium?
- Pulses… beans, lentils, chickpeas.
- Almond Butter
- Calcium-set Tofu
- Dried fig
- Green leafy vegetables.
- Beans, lentils, chickpeas, hummus
- Soya, soya mince,
- seeds and nuts
Obviously how you serve these foods and what you serve will depend on the age of your child and their allergies/restrictions. Using nut and seed butter will help reduce the risk of choking.
Bring on the fats!
Vegan food tends to be naturally low fat but children need healthy fats and calories to grow! So be sure to include healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and those all-important omega 3’s from flax, or flaxseed oil, walnuts, and ground chia.
This is one of the hardest vits for vegans to get BUT loads of cereals, yeast extract, vegan yogurts and milks are fortified with it and you can use supplements which include it.
Iodine is found in fish and dairy products but vegans can get it from cereals and grain, or a supplement. You can also find it in seaweed and kelp but for children, they may contain too much so are best avoided.
Children need lots of calories to grow well so its important to make sure their foods are calorie dense. Lots of fruit and vegetables are also very fibrous and can have your youngster feeling full quickly but they don’t contain many calories so its important to make sure they are getting in enough calories!
As a society, we are starting to realise that a plant-based diet is not only possible but likely to be healthier in the long run. I have a friend who has raised her children as vegan and she hates cooking so they have a simple diet… no ‘fancy’ stuff! One of her children is in a wheelchair and with advice from professionals, she has managed to raise happy, healthy children! There is no need to be afraid to seek out advice from dieticians and medical professionals, veganism can be a very healthy way to eat and is becoming more and more acceptable. If your provider won’t entertain the vegan diet look for one who will!
It is important to research and be vigilant to ensure your family is getting everything they need. Vegan supplements are a great way to make up any potential deficits but should be used alongside a varied diet.
A vegan lifestyle is a great way to bring up children, not just from a dietary point of view but also to teach them about environmental issues and animal cruelty… but, in my opinion, we shouldn’t force our children or anyone to follow our ideals, we should teach them and foster in them kindness and an appreciation for all life and our environment.
Expect them to rebel at least a little and maybe they will choose to ‘try’ meat and other animal-derived foods, it’s easy when they are small but sooner or later they might decide to go against you!
What should you do? My thoughts with my children is always to retain the relationship, so if my children choose outside of my home to eat animal products and buy/use animal by-products then that is their choice and I would hope that eventually, they will return to veganism and in my home, they will respect my veganism but I wouldn’t let that come between us!
Hopefully, we would continue to have open and frank discussions whereas I feel that if I impose my views my children might feel they can’t go back on what they have said as if they will lose an argument.
Do your research and enjoy feeding and showing your family a vegan lifestyle it’s amazing how interested other families become just by seeing you living your life this way and it definitely spreads the vegan message!