Natalie is a mum of one, bringing him up vegan and without society's gender boundaries. She's been vegan herself for many years.
5 Reasons Why I'm Bringing My Child Up Vegan
I’m a vegan, I have been for several years. I love it, and will never return to consuming animal products. Growing up, though, I was a full-on meat-eater. I’m not annoyed about that, nor am I ashamed of my past eating habits. For me, veganism isn’t about judging ourselves or other people. I truly believe we will all be vegan eventually, and everyone needs to go on their own journey to get there. Veganism is the future—for the animals but also for wider environmental reasons.
I do wish that I found my way to veganism sooner. I feel so much healthier—even though I definitely still eat cake (regularly) and the odd dirty burger. I didn’t become vegan because I hated the taste of animal bits. I still love a ‘bacon’ sandwich or a roast ‘chicken.’ I just know that I don’t love it enough to eat the real deal anymore. Stopping eating dairy also meant that I lost my tolerance to it, so eating it now would genuinely make me sick.
1. I Want Him to Think About What He's Eating
What if he wants to eat meat?
When I became pregnant, we decided to bring our child up as a vegan. As with anything else to do with my son, when he’s old enough and informed enough to ask, I won’t mind if he wants to start eating meat or other animal products. I won’t cook it for him, but if he chooses to eat it when he’s older, then that’s his choice. Similarly, if he is offered non-vegan cake at a birthday party, I will just explain that it might hurt his tummy but he’s welcome to try it. I don’t think that ‘forbidding’ something is very healthy—it would probably only make him want it more, and then feel bad if he does eat it. I don’t ever want him to feel bad for doing something that is completely normal for much of society.
What I will do is be clear with him about how we get those products and what happens to the animals. He’s nearly 3 and for now, I simply tell him that we don’t eat those things in our house, but other people do, and that’s fine.
He spotted eggs in a supermarket recently, and simply said, "We don’t need eggs Mummy? We don’t eat them." He doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of why, but I will tell him when he’s older.
2. I Want His Diet to Still Feel 'Normal'
I’m really glad that so many large companies are bringing out vegan food now. I feel like it normalises veganism, and although we don’t serve a lot of junk food, it’s a nice occasional treat and I love that he can have the ‘same’ food as his mates. Vegan Maccies Happy Meal? No problem. Vegan sausage roll from Greggs? Fine. Even ice cream—every ice cream van I’ve seen has a couple of vegan options, and it just means he’s never left out.
Restaurants too are getting better. We live in a small city in the UK and no matter where we choose to eat, I know there will be something nice for him. He loves eating out, it’s such a normal thing to do. When we eat out with non-vegans, he sometimes will point out things on their plates. I always tell him he can try them, but when I say that it’s an egg or a fish, he doesn’t want it.
3. I Want Him to Be Healthy
I think most children would probably be vegan or vegetarian given the choice—I’ve heard many horror stories about children realising what’s on their plates and being upset. I have also seen parents deliberately mislead their children into thinking that the chicken they are eating is different from the animal, and that is wrong. I know those parents are just trying to do their best, but if vegan food keeps getting better and more available, they will know that they have an alternative they can offer.
My Toddler Eats Better Than I Do
I cook most meals from scratch at home, and he definitely eats better than I did at his age (no offence, Mum). Being vegan means that I sometimes get inventive with different food groups and there are loads of things he eats regularly, that I didn’t even know existed until my 20s. His nursery is also brilliant at catering to him—last week he had a Moroccan tagine for lunch. I’m pretty sure my nursery in the late 80s subsisted on sausages and potato smiles.
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4. I Want Him to Be Kind
The most important thing I can do for my child is to teach him to be kind. And while I focus on teaching him tolerance and acceptance of other humans, that kindness extends to other animals, too.
Most children have an innate love of animals. I'm trying to capitalise on that with my son and show him that if we really love and respect animals, then we don't need to eat them or their byproducts.
He loves animals. He loves spiders, lions, and everything in between. When he sees an animal, he gets so excited. I always give him the opportunity to ask questions, too—he's very inquisitive, and I always make sure I give him an answer.
5. I Want Him to Look After the Environment
More and more of us now understand our obligation to look after our planet as well as we can. Veganism is just one thing we can do—there are plenty more.
We try to be as plastic-free as possible in our home—when we do use plastic, we re-use or recycle. My son loves helping to sort our waste, especially when we take him to the big recycling centre!
We grow our own fruit and vegetables. In January, I took him seed shopping, and he chose all the vegetables that he wants to grow this year. Last year we stuck to the basics, but we're getting adventurous! Nothing tastes better than something grown in your own garden, and I love seeing how careful he is with the plants.
Eating a plant-based diet itself has a big impact on our environment. Dairy farming produces harmful emissions and takes up more land for less produce. (For information on the environmental impact of dairy farming, see Veganuary's summary.)
Maintaining Proper Nutrition as a Vegan
I always make sure he has fortified foods where possible (the milk he drinks has more added vitamins and minerals than cow's milk) and takes a daily vitamin. As far as I'm aware, all children should take a vitamin. I think because he is vegan, I just take more care over making sure he actually takes it than I would otherwise.
What Foods to Feed Your Vegan Child
Please do your own thorough research when deciding which foods to feed your children.
- An excellent source of information for anyone considering a vegan diet for themselves or their children is The Vegan Society, especially the health summary.
- You can also see some great nutrition tips over at Veganuary.
All We Can Do Is Our Best
As parents, we are all just trying to do our best. And there are so many ways in which we feel like we fail, and end up beating ourselves up. For me, bringing my son up as a vegan is a quick win. I know he’s eating from a wider range of food groups and getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs. It’s a no-brainer and one less thing for me to worry about.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Natalie Parker-Jones