I’ve been thinking a lot about being a mom lately. Partly because our eldest is turning eleven this week, and I cannot believe she is growing so quickly (don’t all moms say that? It’s true). And, partly because this Pregnant Chicken piece brought me back to those ‘new mom’ emotions and experiences – again timely with our daughter’s birthday approaching.
And then today this Should Kids Go Vegan? article is circulating. There is a quote in the article, which brings back that tired assumption about vegan diets:
“The main problem I have with this book is that children are impressionable, and this is too sensitive of a topic to have a child read this book,” Nicole German, a registered dietitian in Atlanta, writes on her blog. “It could easily scare a young child into eating vegan, and, without proper guidance, that child could become malnourished.”
Yes, I suppose without proper guidance a child eating vegan could become malnourished. But so could a child on a meat and dairy-centric diet. Or, that “well-rounded” SAD approach to eating. How much fibre are they getting on that diet? How much vitamin C? What about phytonutrients? And antioxidants?
Let’s flip that and talk about what most kids ARE getting a lot of on the standard diet. Cholesterol. Saturated animal fats. Refined sugars. Refined flours. Empty calories. Probably trans fats and artificial colors and flavorings. Wait, you say that they can also get the sugars, white foods, and artificial junk on a vegan diet. True. Except…
Most people eating vegan embody a certain consciousness about their food. They typically become attentive to the nutritional value of eating vegan. And even if they don’t personally, that typically changes when they have a child. Because when you have a child, everything changes. It’s not just about you anymore. All of a sudden, there is a small, innocent, vulnerable baby looking up at you. That baby is completely dependent on YOU for their survival and growth… to make choices in their best interest, for their health and well-being. It is an awesome responsibility, one that I did not take lightly.
And, to move away from that one quote in the aforementioned article. I’ve often read, and heard people say: “Aren’t you imposing your beliefs on your children as a vegan?”
Yes. I am. Aren’t you imposing your beliefs as a meat-eater? Don’t we impose all our beliefs on our children, particularly in early, highly developmental years? From how much tv they watch, which songs they listen to, what school they attend, which activities they are in, what manners they display around the home and in social situations, whether they go to McD’s or some other nutrient-empty fast food joint. Don’t we all impose our beliefs as parents? At least in early years we do, until they gain more independence to make some of their own judgements and decisions. The only difference is which beliefs and values we are instilling, or imposing.
So, YES, I want to impose my beliefs in eating a whole-foods vegan diet on my children. After all, I chose it for myself out of health, why wouldn’t I want my children to similarly benefit? Of course I researched the suitability of a vegan diet for children once I became pregnant, and was prudent in making healthy food choices for them. And I continue to do so.
And you know what? Our three girls value real food. They love our meals, and have often thanked me at mealtimes saying “I am thankful mommy decided to eat vegan and feed us this healthy, yummy food”. I am not kidding. And my kids are not angels. (I’ll save that for another post.)
But I am telling you, as a kid that grew up eating junk it took years to retrain my palate. Food habits – and preferences – start early. I started with whole-foods plant-powered diet, and am optimistic that our girls will continue on this health- and compassion-promoting diet. So teach ‘em wisely, teach ‘em early, I say.
What about you – are you a parent raising vegan children? Or, were you raised eating vegan or vegetarian foods? What is your take on this article and the notion of “imposing your vegan beliefs”?