While I don’t have any children of my own, many of my fellow vegans happen to be exceptional parents. I’ve always been inspired by this, and recently I had the chance to speak with several of them about how they work their vegan lifestyle into their home life. I’ve also got to speak with them about whether or not their children share their diet.
Plant-based eating has a lot of notable health benefits, and has revolutionized my own health and quality of living. But is it right for kids?
Below, I’ll do my best to tackle this difficult question and explain how you can implement vegan values into your home life, even if your kids don’t decide to join you on your diet.
If you were to ask most kids what their favorite foods were, there probably wouldn’t be a lot of plant-based options on the list. I recently asked my 7-year-old nephew what his favorite foods were, and he mentioned chicken nuggets, Cheetos, and Fruit Loops, among a long list of other non-vegan foods.
However, plant-based foods are, without a doubt, a very important part of any diet (even if you’re not a full-on vegan). Plant-based foods are loaded with natural fiber, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and protein. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the use of artificial growth hormones in plant-based foods, like you would with certain meat and dairy products.
In fact, a recent study showed that the average American gets between 60% and 80% of their total oestrogen hormones from dairy. That’s a stark contrast, compared to cultures that don’t consume dairy as often.
So, is a plant-based diet right for kids?
Personally, I think that a vegan, plant-based diet can be very healthy for children. I think the main thing to focus on is a balanced diet. An unbalanced vegan diet (just like an unbalanced non-vegan diet) can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Here’s the caloric breakdown of macronutrients that healthy children should consume:
|Macronutrient||Percentage of Daily Caloric Intake|
|Protein||10% to 30%|
|Fat||25% to 35%|
|Carbohydrates||45% to 65%|
As long as you, the parent, are providing healthy, nutrient-dense foods for your children, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to join you on your vegan diet.
At the end of the day, though, keep in mind that it’s still their choice. A diet or lifestyle should never be forced onto your children. While you can certainly encourage them to eat plant-based, you should also have consideration for their own wants and needs.
If your child is interested in eating a plant-based diet, I recommend consulting a nutritionist to make sure that they’re getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals they need. In some cases, it may be necessary for them to consume a daily vitamin or mineral supplement to ensure a smooth transition.
Show your kids that vegan eating doesn’t have to be all salad and beans! There are lots of great-tasting vegan-friendly foods out there that your kids may enjoy, including:
- Vegan cereal
- Plant-based chocolate milk
- Vegan nuggets
You also can’t go wrong with a classic PB&J sandwich!
Whether or not your child joins you on your vegan diet is up to them. Regardless of dietary choice, though, you can always do your best to implement vegan values into your everyday home life.
Whenever possible, teach your children to be considerate of animals when they’re outdoors. Encourage kindness towards all animals. One of the best ways to get your kids accustomed to caring for animals is to adopt a family pet and teach them to care for it.
Try to limit the amount of junk food you have in your house, even if it is vegan-friendly. Explain to your children that natural, whole foods will give them more energy, fewer stomach aches, and will help them grow big and strong. Children often imitate the dietary habits of their parents, so lead by example.
The vegan lifestyle isn’t just about eating plant-based foods. It also involves being environmentally responsible and participating in sustainable habits. Some great ways to teach your kids these values include:
- Using a recycling bin at home
- Limiting the use of single-use plastics in your home
- Participating in a beach clean-up or nature trash pick-up event
Ultimately, the vegan lifestyle is very family-friendly. Children should, of course, be given a choice in regards to their diet. If they do choose to follow your lifestyle, make sure that they have access to all of the healthy foods they need and encourage a balanced diet.
Dietary choice aside, you can still implement vegan values into your everyday home life, such as sustainability, kindness towards animals, and eating whole foods.
This is a guest post written by contributor, Emma Wilson – Founder of Vegan Calm