In an effort to build a community of environmentally conscious citizens we’ve created Community Leeks as a platform for people to share thoughts, stories, recipes and resources.
Today’s Community Leeks entry Raising Vegan Kids touches on a topic that is close to our hearts, raising plant-based children, and family. Written by our friend Sara Howick of plantsformypeople.com we hope you find this entry as inspirational, thoughtful and educational as we have.
Whether you’re new to plant-based nutrition and are slowly integrating some of the principles into your daily life, or already 100% vegan, we trust that some of Sara’s invaluable insights, tips, and experience will help enrich your knowledge base and foster a greater confidence in your choices, as it has ours.
I am so thankful that Chantal asked me to share my family’s vegan story on VeganLeeks. I love to talk about our vegan kids and family life! I hope to inspire others!
Our story started 3 years ago. My daughter was 2 years old at the time, and suffering terribly from constipation. It was distressing and painful, and made me feel so helpless. Nothing helped; not adding fibre-rich foods, not prune juice, not cutting out bananas, nothing. In my desperate searches online trying to figure out how to help her, I eventually came across a lot of information about how harsh dairy is on children’s digestive systems, and how eliminating it can cure childhood constipation. I asked her paediatrician about it, who agreed we should give it a try. Two days later, she was cured.
We never looked back. A few months after that, our whole family went completely vegan; convinced of the health benefits, the lighter footprint we could have on Mother Earth, and of course for the thousands upon thousands of animals we would save in our lifetime.
Our son was just 6 months old at the time, and has been vegan since weaning. (I was not vegan while breastfeeding). Our daughter has been vegan since she was 2 years old. I wish we had done it sooner, but I know we have given them a great head-start! They are physically and mentally thriving, hitting all their milestones, and rarely ever have a cold or even a sniffle.
Raising vegan kids has certainly presented a few challenges. I doubted my ability to nourish them properly in those early months on a vegan diet, so I spent a summer doing a certificate in plant-based nutrition. I highly recommend The T. Colin Campbell Centre for Nutrition Studies at eCornell. It gave me the confidence I needed when I doubted myself early on.
Perhaps because they began so early, our kids have been very receptive to eating a lot of really healthy foods. We make beans, lentils, tofu, whole grains, greens, veggies of all kinds, lots of fruit, and healthier treats regular and expected menu items at home. A sprinkling of commercial vegan cheese here and there on not-favourite foods always helps them accept things.
Socially, I think the challenges have been much greater. Eating out at restaurants is not always simple with vegan kids. When we have to be out at a restaurant or family event, I make sure they are well-fed beforehand. I will also bring easy food for them if I know the restaurant or home we are going to will not be vegan-friendly (things like nut-butter sandwiches, raw fruits and veggies, and a vegan dessert).
Birthday parties were the hardest in the beginning. There was one party where I assumed the host would have some vegan cupcakes for us, and I was wrong. My daughter cried because she didn’t want the dairy-and-egg cake, and she felt left out. I never made that mistake again, and now I always take some vegan pizza slices and cupcakes to birthdays. It’s a little more effort on my part, but worth it, because my kids are happy and we don’t have to deviate from our healthy lifestyle.
We do not participate in the preschool lunch program; this has been fine, and not isolating for our kids. There are kosher kids, and kids with allergies, and so our children are not the only ones with a lunchbox. I realize this may be more challenging for them as they grow older, and that they will field all kinds of questions and potential teasing from their peers, but I hope that they will be proud of their vegan lifestyle and able to defend and explain their choices. They might even positively influence some of their friends! Our daughter is hyper-aware and sensitive to the plight of factory-farmed animals, and is definitely the most ethical vegan in our house at just 5 years old.
Going vegan has been the best decision our family has made by far. We have healed health issues, lost weight, regained fitness, attained the energy levels required to train for Ironman triathlon (my husband!), and connected with wonderful like-minded people who share our values and lifestyle. I want to inspire people, and recently started a food blog where I share our family’s favourite recipes (plantsformypeople.com)
I wish for all families to have the courage to switch to a whole-food plant-based lifestyle. It may seem daunting at first, but with time truly becomes second nature. I think it is such a gift to instill in our children healthy eating habits, so that they might avoid difficult food addictions in the future. We know that as a family we are doing our part to reverse the damage on our fragile planet. Most of all, we feel at peace knowing we have no part in the suffering of our fellow Earthlings.
About the author:
Sara Howick is a Montreal-based mum of two, wife of a triathlete, provider of vegan fuel, and certified in PLANT BASED NUTRITION (Cornell). Visit her blog plantsformypeople.com for some of her family’s favourite plant-based recipes.