It’s very common to hear people say that they have become vegetarian or vegan but that they won’t inflict their views on their children, forgetting perhaps that they already have, and that to do so is entirely normal! Children eat what they are brought up to eat, and so most vegans were brought up eating meat as that is what our parents gave us. And most of us, like this little girl, would rather have known the truth.
When we change our own diets, it is normal to think very closely about nutrition in a way that perhaps we didn’t beforehand. When we junked out on burgers we didn’t think about where our vitamins came from but when we become vegan, we analyse everything, which is no bad thing. And it is normal to be even more critical of the food we give to our children.
But there is nothing wrong with bringing up children as vegans. In fact, a well-planned vegan diet is great for kids. There are of course bad vegan diets for children, in the same way that there are bad meat-inclusive diets for children, and so it is important to get the nutrients right but not to get too bogged down in the products. Marketing for too long has led us to believe that calcium is milk and iron is meat, but there are plenty of plant-based foods that give us these nutrients, too.
The British Dietetic Association says that vegan diets can be suitable for people of any age. And vegan people of all ages are much less likely to suffer from campylobacter, salmonella, listeria and e.coli that infect so many animal products, and which can be fatal to people. Thanks in large part to animal agriculture, antibiotic resistance to campylobacter and other diseases is growing. If we don’t want our children to live in a world where even minor infections cannot be treated, we need to end our reliance on meat and milk. And if we want them to have an inhabitable planet at all, then we must tackle climate change and the biggest human-generated contributor to that is … yes you guessed it, animal farming.
Every family is different of course, and not everyone will be willing or feel able to encourage their children to eat vegan foods all the time. But why not try Veganuary as a family unit and see how you get on? Together you will discover lots of delicious non-animal foods, learn lots about animal farming and how food choices impact on the planet, and other people, too. When the month is over, your children may surprise you and decide to eat animal-free more of the time, or all the time. That will be a choice you can make together.
A great place to start is with Veganuary’s Family Friendly Meal Plan, full of tried-and-tested delicious recipes for families.