Raising a Vegan Family / Tips. Supporting your child's choices / Lunch Ideas

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This is one of my most requested posts. For a reason.... let's be brutally honest - it's hard. There, I've said it raising a vegan family can be hard at the beginning!  This isn't a anti vegan post - quite the opposite. But I wont ever talk shit ...well not about the serious stuff!!

Thankfully the hard moments become less and less the longer you are vegan, and I have never once doubted that I'm making the right decision for me or my family.


Let's start with the positives.

It's healthy as feck to eat a balanced wholefood vegan diet! You can help eliminate eczema, reduce asthma symptoms, and improve energy levels to name a few we can personally vouch for. Not to mention amazing for the planet and environment.

It makes sense to a child to not eat animals. Most children love animals. It feels wrong to eat them, once you have even a basic knowledge of how the product gets to you. I explained to all my children why mummy was going vegan. I told them that animals aren't treated nicely. For example -  the dairy industry doesn't support females. That the thought of not being able to feed my newborn distressed me. So why would I support an industry that raped an animal and stole their newborns (in age relavent ways!)??? I explained that we don't need animal products to thrive in the society we now live, and lots of common illness and diseases can be reduced living a vegan lifestyle. 

My children are now 5, 10, 12 , and 13. Some things were more suitable than others to share obviously.

 Art by the amazing Alba Paris Art - click image for her website

Art by the amazing Alba Paris Art - click image for her website

Try to focus on the positives of being vegan, and why we love and respect animals. How we can be healthy and eat delicious food- without hurt. How it helps the environment. Show them the vegan calculator to see how much water, farm land etc.. you have all saved !

 

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It can be difficult at first depending on your current food choices to switch over. We have found a vegan cheese they love (took some taste testing!), so they can have their favourite pizzas. I found it important for them to still have some treat foods. Lots of products are accidentally vegan, so get label reading. We have found biscuits , sweets, crisps, burgers etc.... Obviously this isn't everyday food, but nice to have occasionally. Teach them what's vegan when they are out and about. If they're out with friends or relatives this is really useful. Worst case there is always the basics like fruit / veggies / jacket potatoes.


Vegan baking is a lot easier than I thought it would be, my children regularly bake vegan cakes and brownies. We take vegan cakes and treats to school and have had lots of positive feedback. Encouraging your children to cook food with you is such an important thing. A lot of food they eat now is because I made them prepare it first - they are much more likely to try something they have made. Try my easy chocolate cake recipe.


The next thing is really important - SUPPORT!!!

It can be hard to go vegan for a child, kids can be little turds, who love nothing more than to give grief. So please support your child, and their school - so they can support your child too. Offer advice if they need it, some people have no idea what veganism means, that's fine - help them understand. I take in soy milk for my little girls forest school so she doesn't miss out. I also recommend cheap brands of biscuits that are accidentally vegan that the whole class can enjoy. Be aware some people will not like you being vegan or raising your child vegan. Prepare yourself and child with what to say in this instance. "I don't like hurting animals, and thrive without animal products".

 

We quite commonly say we have a milk allergy as people take this a little more seriously. As we have been vegan over a year, we do get upset stomachs if we consume dairy (worth noting).

Kids are a great way of gently encouraging people to think about veganism / reducing their animal consumption.

Remember that children have a choice. I found it a little hard when I went vegan and the rest of my family wasn't. But providing they are gently educated, old enough to speak and choose, I let my kids do just that.

My children all went vegetarian then vegan. My eldest is no longer vegan, and I support HIS choice. At the end of the day he is still a child. Being vegan in a society that on the whole isn't vegan, can be really tough (we live in cow country - Herefordshire). Quite frankly being a teenager can be hard enough!  I only have vegan foods in my house, and serve vegan food, when my son is out and about he can choose what he likes. This is our personal middle ground, which works for us.


If your child gets invited to a party this can potentially be awkward. Tell the host before hand your dietary needs. Offer to bring your own food, or maybe suggest easy ways you can adapt what's being offered. We haven't yet faced difficulty with this.

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Be prepared when you go out. Take snacks / luncnboxes. Ring ahead at restaurants to check options. 

 Cake made by the lush  Vic's Vegan Bakes

Cake made by the lush Vic's Vegan Bakes

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We found an amazing vegan baker so we don't miss out for our birthday celebrations.


Understand that your child may accidentally eat non-vegan foods. I was at a summer party and before I had chance Tilly was eating cheesey pizza. I explained that after that slice we had some other foods for her, and that it wasn't vegan, importantly not to worry (her or the hosts). She was absolutely fine and making a fuss would not of helped anything. Keep associations positive.


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MY CHILD WILL ONLY EAT JUNK FOOD......

Well this can be a common reason why people don't, or wont switch their children's diets to veganism. To be honest this is commonly a bigger issue. I personally don't except these excuses and think that letting children eat shit 24/7 is child abuse. Sounds harsh? Maybe...

My kids haven't always eaten vegetables or drank snot coloured smoothies. Hard work got us to this point. For a good 6 months my one son would only eat bread, chips or weetabix. Now this is fine.. because I didn't just say "he only eats these foods", "I give up". I pushed everyday to try a little of something new. Just a nibble. Kept the affirmations positive. Slowly bite by bite we progressed. He now eats anything and everything. I had many a wobble or gin infused evening to get me there! Please contact me for any tips on helping with fussy eaters. 


If you are changing your child's diet to veganism + they are fussy, here's some ways to help-

  • Take dietary changes slowly - chances are any habits they have didn't just appear overnight, so you can't expect them to suddenly eat the rainbow overnight either!
  • Take them food shopping and encourage them to pick new foods. 
  • Don't loose your shit when they take one mouthful and then start retching!! 
  • Praise every small step in the right direction.
  • Get them in the kitchen with you - hands on learning.
  • Explain why we eat different foods..... carrots are great for seeing in the dark, broccoli keeps our lungs strong etc.....
  • Make eating fun, picnic on the floor or in the garden.
  • Don't get disheartened, you will get there.
  • I found that if I made a "super hero" strength smoothie (you get the idea) that they would try it.
  • Focus on what they like - sweet or savoury and try to build on that. 
  • Smoothies .... sings* "last night a smoothie saved my life"... seriously such a good way of sneaking goodies into kids. I'd be lost without mine, worth getting a decent one that will make a smooth "no bits" smoothie.
  • If you feel like you're loosing it, relax, give it a few days and try again.

My kids don't love every single thing I make ..... SHOCKER! 


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VITAMINS

We supplement our diets, this is our personal choice. Some agree - some don't. Do your research and choose what works for you. We don't take vitamins daily. I supplement if they have a certain aliment or are under the weather. We DO take B12 ... this is important as it can be hard to get this in a vegan diet. Cereals are generally supplemented as are milks. Marmite contains B12, as does nooch (nutritional yeast).

I have written lists for protein rich + calcium rich foods. These are useful.


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LUNCHBOXES

A great way of ensuring your child is meeting its dietary needs. We don't do anything particularly crazy to be honest. Here's some stuff we put in ours-

  • Marmite sandwich
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Jam sandwich (try and select high fruit options)
  • Cheese slice sandwich (we use violife slices)... sometimes with cucumber or marmite
  • Pasta pots- either a pesto or tomato pasta
  • Handful of nuts or mixed seeds (check your school policies on nuts)
  • Raisens
  • 2 portions of fruit 
  • Seaweed crisps (I'm totally addicted to these)
  • Fruit leathers (store made or home made - they're seriously easy to make)
  • Flapjacks
  • Homemade cakes (again if your school permits)
  • Energy balls
  • Granola bars
  • Rice cakes
  • Sliced veggies 
  • Hummus 
  • Bread sticks 
  • Tofu pieces (we prefer smoked)
  • Miso cooked rice (just add some miso paste to the cooking rice- it’s that simple)
  • Cooked "meats" nuggets / burgers / sausages
  • Milk portions
  • Dairy free yogurts
  • Popcorn portion

FILMS THAT QUESTION HOW WE TREAT ANIMALS OR SUGGEST VEGANISM

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  • Babe  (google for proper descriptions)
  • Charlottes Web 
  • Tarzan
  • Chicken Run
  • Cinderella (the new version 2015)
  • Dumbo (anti-circus)
  • Bambi (anti-hunting)
  • 101 Dalmations (anti-fur)
  • The Book of Life

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Hang out with other vegans. Go to vegan markets and pop ups. Buy vegan magazines. Join vegan support groups.

Explain that not everyone is vegan, but that we love them no more or less because of it. Show them that we encourage others to adapt their diets with positivity and kindness. 

Be prepared that some days your child may get discouraged about veganism. It's can be hard to be different, especially when you're a child. Some thrive and will love to tell people about their lifestyle choice.... some won't!

Have lots of cuddles and explain the many reasons why you are vegan together. Usually this is enough of a reminder. Always keep it positive. Watch some documentaries about the planet, and explain how we help the planet by being vegan. 

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