“Well-planned vegan diets can support healthy lifestyles at every age, from babies and children through to teenagers, adults and on into later years”.
When Beau and Skye decided to ditch the meat and dairy and go vegan like me I was over the moon! I had hoped they would make the decision at some point and the time came a lot earlier than I had expected. I half wondered if it would be a fleeting decision, one that would be conveniently forgotten at the first friends birthday party they went to with a non-vegan cake on offer.
I was wrong……almost two years later and they are steadfast, completely unwavering, we couldn’t be prouder. I think most people would expect raising vegan children to be really difficult, facing situations where the children miss out or feel left out often but this really hasn’t been the case at all, we have all gained so much, our lives are richer for it.
I wanted to write an article to offer a balanced account of how both me and Matt as parents and Beau and Skye as children have found it, warts and all! Obviously it hasn’t all been plain sailing, it has been a learning curve, there have been challenges and I am under no illusion that we will face new ones over the years but the benefits far outweigh any of the challenges.
First of all I want to discuss the benefits in a general sense, health benefits are really well documented and I will offer some empirical research for your perusal but for us the benefits run deeper than just our health. Yes I want to provide the healthiest possible diet for my children whilst still offering them delicious treats that every child would enjoy but I also want to raise them to be kind, thoughtful little humans who care about others feelings regardless of species and to be able to appreciate the link between what we consume and the effect that has on the environment. For Beau and Skye they decided if they wouldn’t eat a dog, why would they eat a pig or a cow, fish or sheep etc? There is no difference. Makes total sense right?
The children became more empathetic – now I am not saying they didn’t care before, nor am I saying non-vegan kids don’t care about animals or the environment or other people. Of course they do and of course my children did before turning vegan but there is a definite difference. This difference is really hard to put into words, those that are vegan will totally understand what I am getting at here and the best way I can describe it is that your level of care becomes heightened from what it was before. You see things differently, you view the world in a way you never did before and you feel at peace, peace that you are not contributing to others suffering anymore, as far as practical and possible and the kids love the feeling that they are doing ‘their bit’.
It has positively effected their school work – an example of this comes from Beau being selected as Head Boy for this academic year. Yes, this could have happened regardless of him becoming vegan but his application letter for the role was very much focused on issues related to veganism in terms of the schools environmental impact, his passion for the topic shines through. Beau and Skye have both become Eco Warriors for their junior school too, they are part of a group of children who look to implement a variety of initiatives to help lower the schools environmental impact.
The variety of fruit and vegetables they will eat has increased massively – lets face it kids are fussy and my guys still have their fussy habits but overall the variety on their plates is so much better than it used to be. They seem to be more accepting of trying new things and trying things they claim not to like more than once, just to make double sure. We still have a way to go……Beau still claims I am trying to poison him if I dare put broccoli anywhere near him but we have gone from him refusing most green things to now eating spinach, lettuce, cabbage and peas (peas must be smothered in gravy……but still, baby steps) and Skye will give pretty much anything a go, she loves sitting eating her way through a bag of sugar snap peas or chomping on a big chunk of cucumber.
As promised…….here are some links containing information about the wealth of health benefits that come as a very welcome side effect to eating a plant based diet.
The China Study – “nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell and his team at Cornell, in partnership with teams in China and England, embarked upon the China Study, the most comprehensive study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease. What they found when combined with findings in Colin’s laboratory, opened their eyes to the dangers of a diet high in animal protein and the unparalleled health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet. You can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes just by changing your diet“.
Then of course there are the environmental implications, a study published in the journal ‘Science‘ found “ a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. (Poore 2018)
No big lifestyle change ever comes without a few bumps in the road or a period of adjustment and settling in. I really hope I felt this rather than the children…….I went to quite a lot of effort to make sure they didn’t feel like it was a difficult transition or that they were suddenly ‘different’ to their peers. They will tell you in their own words later in the article how they feel about it all but I am sure if they didn’t enjoy becoming vegan then they would have told me and asked to revert back to their old ways.
I think it went well for us because I planned things pretty carefully in the beginning. I looked at how we live our lives, where the children go to socialise, the hobbies they participate in, the friends they have and I made sure that for every occasion where the children would usually eat something containing meat or dairy they had an alternative.
For example my other half Matt and Beau are HUGE Stockport County Football Club Fans, they go every Saturday and Beau used to get a burger. For the first twelve months I sent a packed lunch with them instead but always tried to make it more appealing than what he would have been having, including treats for Beau and his friends like Oreo brownies and flapjacks. I say for the first twelve months because something pretty significant happened around the kids one year vegan anniversary……..the birth of the Gregg’s vegan sausage roll. It has lead to a new weekend ritual for the boys, a pre match sausage roll and Belgian Bun (yep they are vegan too) and now the most delicious vegan steak bake. The change we have noticed in just two short years is massive! Anything we fancy we can get or make really easily. The effect businesses like Gregg’s have had is huge, even their CEO has turned to a plant based diet and new products are set to launch soon. I have my fingers crossed for a vegan cheese and onion pasty next.
We are lucky to live in Glossop which is only a small town but a powerhouse of vegan activity. We support local whenever we can and are very lucky to have a wonderful wholefoods shop, multiple veggie and vegan independent cafes, dessert parlours and bakeries and plenty of options for places to eat out in the evening from Sri Lankan curries to Italian food. Wherever in the world you live you won’t be too far from a vegan business or businesses offering vegan options, the Happy Cow app is a wonderful tool that will help you locate these places wherever you may be.
Children’s parties are common when you have a ten and eight year old and with these parties come cake, party food and party bags. I always offer to provide alternatives for Beau and Skye and I always make sure I order a stockpile of Asda’s own vegan chocolate cupcakes to have in the cupboard for parties in case I don’t have time to bake, which seems to be all of the time at the moment. Parents have been so kind though, offering lovely vegan options and when you think about it so much party food is accidentally vegan anyway. Fruit, veggie sticks, jam sandwiches, crisps, lots of biscuits……..and for party bags, again its never normally an issue, lots of sweets are vegan so I either take some to drop in for my two but most often I don’t need to as parents have either chosen accidentally vegan sweets anyway or have got some in especially for Beau and Skye which is always massively appreciated. People are so kind! When I first started my blog, I wrote an article about the top ten tips for helping children switch to being vegan, it goes into more detail about the different tips and tricks I used in the early days Click here to have a read.
I filmed a video asking the children a few questions about their experience as vegans, what they feel about being vegan, what they find tricky and why they want to continue being vegan. Here is what they said……..no prompting, no rehearsing, no bribery from me, I promise!
Thank you so much for reading!
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Love from Em x