Going vegan is an adjustment for anyone, but the benefits of the diet are many and far-reaching. However, implementing the lifestyle into your child’s routine requires a bit of preparation—but it’s nothing you can’t handle!
We are going to go over a few tips and tricks that ought to make that transition smooth. Of course, we can give you tips, but in no way is this information meant to replace a pediatrician’s advice. Nutrition is vitally important, especially for children, and we highly recommend that you work on transitioning your child to a vegan diet under the guidance of a physician.
Whether you are planning ahead or making a change, here’s what you need to know about raising your kids vegan.
Getting Your Child Started
Every kid is different. If you are a parent, you know this better than anyone. Your child has their own preferences, tastes, and health needs. When deciding to implement a vegan diet for our little ones, it’s important that you take these things into account.
Obviously, depending on when you begin implementing this new routine, your child themselves might not be able to articulate much beyond “goo” and “gaa.” In that case, a pediatrician is a good alternative. They also probably know a lot more about what your child’s health needs than your child does.
The first step in the journey should always be evaluating your child's individual needs. That means figuring out how to balance their diet, so they still get all the vitamins and nutrients that a growing child needs. Fortified B12 soymilk is an excellent example of one way your child can get the vitamins that they need without having to consume traditional dairy products, and there are tons of other vegan options.
Is Veganism Safe for Your Child?
Every diet will have strengths and weaknesses, and veganism is no exception. However, if your concern is whether the diet might be more harmful to your child’s health than the alternatives, the answer is no. It may take a little more planning, but the benefits are worth the extra time you put in.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has released studies showing that a properly implemented vegan diet is not only nutritionally feasible but can also provide a number of health benefits, even helping to prevent certain diseases. That sounds pretty darn good to us!
What Should I Feed My Vegan Child?
We are so glad you asked, because you have options!
Once again, this will depend on the age and preferences of your child. For infants, doctors recommend extending breastfeeding a few months longer and then gradually weaning the child onto formula and soymilk products. These should be rich in vitamins D and B12 for maximum nutrition. Your child should not drink any other milk, plant-based or otherwise, for at least the first 12 months.
If your child is a bit older, maybe in the “time to go make sure they aren't trying to ride the dog like a horse again” phase, there are plenty of meals and snacks that you can serve them for those brief moments you can actually get them to sit down.
- Hummus makes an excellent protein. Put it in a whole wheat wrap and throw in some cucumbers or tomatoes to give your kid a nutritious energy boost. You could even enlist their help in putting together the wrap if your little one loves to help out in the kitchen.
- Beans are a primary source of protein in a vegan diet. Lucky for you, there’s no shortage of legumes of all shapes and sizes to choose from. Make lentil soup or vegan chili, or even a chickpea salad tossed with greens and olive oil and vinegar dressing. If your child wants something a little more traditional, try black bean burgers on whole wheat buns.
- Peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers or toast is also a great breakfast option or after-school snack. You can also smear peanut or almond butter on sliced apples or bananas for a sweet, fruity snack.
But What About Every Child’s Favorite Course?
At last, we have arrived at the all-important topic: dessert. It’s probably your favorite moment of the day, so just imagine how important it is to your child. To them, dessert might be the finish line in the race that is dinner. And you know what? That’s okay. A little incentive goes a long way.
The important thing is that you can provide your child with delicious sweets without throwing your vegan diet to the wind. Find something with no added sugar and maximum taste—something like MiiRO.
There are unending pages of vegan recipes online—just take a look at the MiiRO magazine or MiiRO TV. Learn how to make vegan desserts like vegan oatmeal cookies or vegan peanut chocolate truffles to thrill your kids (and any little friends they might bring over).
The Proper Mindset
Wouldn’t you know it? It turns out raising kids can actually be pretty difficult sometimes. Getting them to eat can be a battle. Getting them to eat something they actively don’t want to… Well, that can be a whole war.
It’s important, therefore, that you remember when to hold your ground, and it’s equally important that you know when to make a strategic retreat.
Picking Your Battles
What is your role in your children’s diet? Obviously, they depend on you to do what is best for them, particularly in the early stages of life. You are the adult, so it’s up to you to protect and nurture your child to the best of your ability.
But there may come a time when they wonder why everyone else gets to eat different cookies than they do. Maybe they want some birthday cake at their friend’s party or get Mcdonald’s with everyone else on the school field trip.
“McDonald’s?!” You scream internally as your heart leaps from your chest. It’s the worst-case scenario! A code red!
Okay, hopefully, that’s not how you would respond. Your child is a social creature, susceptible to feeling isolated or being labeled as different. It’s important to take this into account as they grow older.
A time will come when your child may want to have meat or a cheese stick from time to time. Unfortunately, you can't just lock them in their room and slip tofu under the door until they turn 18 (though it would make things far simpler).
If dietary conflict begins to arise, sit your child down and have an honest conversation with them. Explain to them your thoughts and position on the matter and form some sort of compromise. Respect their preferences (within reason) and allow them to have some autonomy.
Your child’s health is your top priority, and it’s possible to be healthy on a non-vegan diet. They want red meat? See if you can compromise on a lower fat solution like turkey bacon. Better yet, pull out your arsenal of vegan recipes and show them that vegan food can hold its own when put to the test (seriously, carrot bacon is a thing, and it’s delish).
Should Your Kids Be Vegan?
Ultimately, no one can say what is right for your kids other than you and potentially a trusted medical professional. When it comes to saying definitively whether or not your kids should be vegan, it would be rather presumptuous to tell you to go one way or the other.
That being said, there are numerous benefits to veganism. It’s healthy for your child and has a very positive impact on the ecosystem. If a diet can keep your child healthy while also helping to sustain the planet they live on? Sounds like a win/win situation to us.
Talk to your pediatrician and your child about switching to a vegan diet. Use the various resources at your disposal to learn, prepare, and implement healthier, more sustainable dietary options in your household. Little changes can go a long way.