If you're raising vegan children you probably have a lot of question. You know you are making the best choice on behalf of your child but maybe you are not so sure about the best way to go about it. It's not like you have a degree in child nutrition and you don't want to scare your child but you feel it's important to educate them on the ethical stuff. And then there's that nosey neighbour or that meat eating friend of yours who is ever so concerned about your child's diet. How do you deal with all of this drama?
Firstly, let me assure you that you're making the best ethical and nutritional decision a loving parent can. Children are naturally opposed to violence and cruelty towards others so you will be doing them a favour by not feeding it to them.
Nutrition wise, kids raised on plants (nuts, beans, whole grains, legumes seeds and fruits) grow up to be slimmer, healthier and even out live their meat eating peers. Besides, plants provide all the fibre, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, you know-the essential nutrients- growing kids need. All meat provides is saturated fats, bad cholesterol and acidic protein that everyone should avoid. So rest assured, you're doing a great job!!!
Now let's talk some more about proper nutrition for kids.
As you know, kids are really busy people, they just always seem to have something to do. So it's important that they get all the energy they need from the foods you give them. The complex carbohydrates found in plants does just that, provide energy. On top of that, carbs are the body builders that gives your child strong lean muscles early on in life.
P.S. you should keep your child away from sweets, sugary drinks, highly processed baked
products, and overly sweet cereals in order to prevent them from developing weight complications.
Some great sources of carbs are brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas, rolled oats,
and corn, as well as the less common grains barley, quinoa, millet. Get your kids accustomed to the taste of these healthy choices and I promise that they will quickly turn down those yucky processed versions (white rice/flour, processed sugar etc.) When they are older.
Everyone needs protein but don't let those folks who tell you that vegans don't get enough scare you off. In this article I explain why protein is the most accessible nutrient of all and why it's impossible not to get protein. Proteins are essential for growth, hormone balance, cellular health enzyme activity and basically everything else. But I assure you that finding great sources of protein won't be a problem when raising vegan children. My best advice to you is to seek out your protein from a wide variety of plants to ensure your child gets all the essential amino acids they need. Variety!!!
Beans- peanuts, soy beans, soy milk, tofu and other beans such lentils, kidney beans(red peas), broad beans,pinto beans and black beans are all great sources of protein. Avoid that peanut butter junk though, it has just too much fat and salt-that ain't good.
Seeds and nuts- Cashew, almond, walnut and pecan nuts all have a high protein content as does sunflower, pumpkin,flax and hemp seeds. All hemp products are filled with protein, plus hemp has unique medicinal properties that will truly enhance your whole well-being.
Whole grains- whole wheat and wheat bran, oats and oat bran, barley and brown rice.
Vegetables- broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and avocado, are such good sources of protein?
Your kid probably needs a bit more fat in their diets that you do, but don't take it too far cause that could spell disaster later on in life.
Some of the best sources of fat for vegans include soy bean products, avocados, cashew nuts, hazel nuts, peanuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, tofu, tempeh, Brazil nuts and walnuts.
Parents will need to include lots of fruits and veggies in their kids diet to ensure that they get all the vitamins they need. B-12 is a special case though because it's not found in plants in such large quantities as other more commonly know vitamins. But that's okay because they don't need so much. You can find B-12 in many commercial cereals, fortified soy and rice milks, and nutritional yeast. You can also opt for B-12 supplementation if you feel it is really necessary.
Ensure your kids play out in the sun for a little while each day so that their cells can make all the vitamin D they'll ever need, fortified non-dairy milks will come in handy here as well.
We all know we need calcium for strong bones and teeth but we certainly don't need cow's milk. The best sources of calcium are dark leafy green plants (broccoli, collard, kale, calloloo, mustard greens etc.), beans and sweet potatoes. You should also try soy milk, rice milk , and foods with fortified calcium.
Eating lots of fruits and veggies will also help your kid's body to retain it's calcium provided that they don't eat any acidic animal proteins which leach calcium from bones (and iron from the blood) . In addition to calcium, leafy greens as well as beans, are great sources of iron. Eating lots of vitamin C rich fruits will help your child to absorb iron better.
When it comes onto babies, raising vegan children gets a hole lot easier. All of your little toddler's nutritional needs can be supplied by breast milk (nature rocks). If breast feeding isn't possible then commercial formulas will provide adequate nutrition. Breast milk or soy formulas will be enough for your child's first 6 months after which you can add in a few solid foods. If possible, breast feeding is recommended for a minimum of one year. Please remember though, to give your kids about two hours of sunlight weekly so that they can get their vitamin D as well.
For some more nutritional info on raising vegan children such as: recommended servings of foods and more nutritional tips please visit this article.
If your child wasn't raised vegan from birth converting them to a vegan life style maybe a challenge but if your kid had been grown in this lifestyle from birth explaining veg-ethics to them will be a breeze. But no matter what the case may be, they are sure to have lot's of questions. Remember you are probably one of the few persons in town who's raising vegan children so it's possible that a lot of non-vegan influences will be around.
However, regardless of the situation, your kids love and respect you and the deserve to know the truth. Regardless of age, kids will be able to understand why animals should be played with and loved, not eaten. Here's how you go about it:
First you'll want them to know and understand what is a vegan. From there you can explain to them why you chose to raise vegan children and why other parents choose not to. I mean explain about the suffering of animals, benefits of vegan nutrition and how we all can live without exploiting others. You will be surprised at how well understand.
Most importantly you have to be armed with knowledge to shoot down certain myths that society will try to impose on them. It my take some time but it's will always be worth it. And trust me they will feel loved, and will be less likely to yield to peer pressure. Take pride in that, your kid will be more consciously aware than most kids their age.
Remember you're likely to not find many other parents around raising vegan children. And they'll have question plus silly remarks. Be prepared to explain how your child gets enough protein and calcium. See there questions as a chance to educate them, do this and you won't feel so disheartened. Say for instance your co-worker makes a joke about your child not getting enough calcium because they don't drink cow's milk. This would be a good time to explain how leafy greens are a good source of calcium and that cow's milk is really not good for you. Right there you get to educate your co-worker and spread the vegan message at the same time.
Remember not to let their silly comments get to you, it's only funny if you take offence.
P.s. Check out vegan momma for even more great info on raising vegan children. A healthy child is a happy child.