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Vegan Lifestyle | Raising Vegan Kids: Part I

by Kenna Smoot on November 15, 2013

Vegan-Kids Time and time again I get asked, “You’re not raising your kid vegan are you?” Like it’s some sort of child abuse I’m inflicting on my kids. I’m happy to respond proudly with, “Yes I absolutely am.” I’m a firm believer in teaching your child HOW to think and not WHAT to think. I want to help guide them into finding their own truths. But what do you do when your child is too young to make informed decisions?

As a parent, we all want what is best for our kids. We have to make decisions for them until they’re old enough to decide for themselves and for me, I choose veganism. Now, that’s not to say at a birthday party they can’t eat cake or if we are at an event and they want to try some non-vegan food that I will forbid it. At birthday parties the food has already been purchased, so if they want to try it, they’re welcome to try it. However, in my home they eat vegan.

My reasoning for this decision is:

1. Vegan Diets Promote Healthier Eating Habits

New research is proving that how we eat as a child can effect whether or not we get diseases as an adult. High blood pressure, obesity and cholesterol levels are thought to be dictated by diet and exercise habits from childhood. Vegans don’t intake any extra cholesterol, our diets are lower in saturated fats, fat and calories which are the leading cause of obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol issues in adults. A vegan diet can also lead to more intake or fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Establishing early healthy eating habits is the key to being a healthy adult. (source)

2. Vegan Kids Tend to be Healthier

“A study of 4,746 Minnesota adolescents published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that vegetarian kids were more likely than nonvegetarians to meet government standards for several of the most important dietary recommendations.” (source)

“Dr. Charles Attwood, author of Dr. Attwood’s Low-Fat Prescription for Kids: One Diet for the Whole Family, writes that vegetarian children often grow taller than their meat-eating friends, noting, “Children on low-fat diets of mostly vegetables, fruits, grain, and legumes, when consuming adequate calories, not only grow normally, but have actually been shown to attain greater height than meat-eating children.” (source)

3. Animal Products Are Linked to Higher Cancer Rates

The FDA recently admitted that chicken sold in the US contains arsenic, a cancer-causing chemical that is added to the chicken feed. (source)

“Regularly eating red meat increases significantly risk of death from heart disease and cancer, according to a study of more than 120,000 people carried out over 28 years. The findings show that each extra daily serving of processed red meat – equivalent to one hot dog or two rashers of bacon – raised mortality rate by a fifth. Conversely, replacing red meat with fish, poultry, or plant-based protein foods contributed to a longer life. Nuts were said to reduce mortality rate by 20%”, (making a case for swapping roast beef for nut roast. Data from 121,342 men and women taking part in two large US health and lifestyle investigations were analyzed to produce the findings, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. (source)

“People who eat a lot of processed meat such as ham, bacon, sausages and burgers run a greater risk of premature death and developing conditions such as cancer and heart disease, research shows. The study, which included data from 448,568 people in 10 European countries, including the UK, found that the biggest consumers of processed meat were 44% more likely to die prematurely from any cause than those who ate little of it. High levels of consumption increased the risk of death from heart disease by 72% and cancer by 11%.” (source)

“A study finds that 84% of the world’s fish tested was not safe to eat more than once per month because of mercury poisoning. And 13% of the fish isn’t safe to eat, period.” Though honestly, I’m not sure how happy I am eating something that’s so poisonous you can only eat one serving per month. (source)

“Pregnant women and children have been warned against eating game such as pheasant, deer and grouse killed with lead shot because it could pose a serious risk to their health. In an official statement released on Monday, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that everyone who ate lead-shot game regularly should cut down on it because it was potentially toxic. Dr Alison Gleadle, the agency’s director of food safety, said that advice was ‘especially important’ for pregnant women, toddlers, children and women trying for a baby as exposure ‘can harm the developing brain and nervous system’.” (source)

4. It’s Better For the Environment

Veganism is better for the environment by reducing our carbon footprint. Factory farming uses up 70% of all fresh water drawn from waterways, lakes and aquifers, according to the U.N. It takes 2,500 gallons to produce ONE pound of beef and only 25 gallons to produce a serving of rice or a grain. By going meat free for even once a week, you can save over 84,000 gallons of water per year! More than 1/3 of all fossil fuels are used to make meat, either in transporting it, refrigerating it and in use petrochemical fertilizers for feedstock crops. (source) ” Factory animal farms produce more greenhouse gas than the entire transportation system of the country.” (source)

Since the question of “where we get our protein” is usually the next thing asked, in my next article, I will explain in depth how much protein a child needs and how to meet those needs with a vegan diet!

About Kenna Smoot

Meat Meets Vegan Blogger, Model, Mom & Startup Wife Kenna is a 10 year vegan veteran, mother to little vegan gentlemen, and wife of a successful startup entrepreneur. When she was 9 her grandfather moved into her family's home with stage 4 cancer and 6 months to live. After starting an organic diet he added 2 extra years to his life. Still, the pain from watching him suffer caused her to vow to do her part to protect her family from cancer. In her late teens she began researching nutrition and on her quest she found the benefits of a vegan diet; and has never looked back. She now has her own blog where she turns Pinterest's top recipes into vegan delights with instructions showing you how to do it. Check it out at www.meatmeetsvegan.com She is also a model in Los Angeles under the alias "Kenna Cade". Her modeling has landed her in Axe body spray commercials, featured in Mademoiselle magazine, the face of a Swedish beauty company, spokesmodel for countless skin care companies, luxury events and is now the image used for the heroine in a new comic book series coming out next year.

  • { 9 comments… read them below or add one }

    Kristen @ The Vegan Weirdos Next Door November 15, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Great information and insights! The only small part that I disagree with and do not do with/for my daughter is allowing her to partake in non vegan food at parties, etc. where it has already been purchased by someone else. I do agree that it is important for them to be able to make their own choices, but in the end we do know what is best for them- it would be the equivalent of a non veg parent allowing their child to choose their own dinner every day and that dinner being McDonalds (eew). That’s the comparison I always make when people criticize us for raising our daughter vegan and supposedly not allowing her to choose what she does and does not eat. Not only is it ridiculous to infer that parents should allow their children to choose what they will and will not eat because they just don’t understand what is properly nutritious and what is garbage (see McDonald’s reference above), but as vegan kids, we both know that our kids have plenty of healthy choices that they make every day. My daughter has a say in what she eats for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, as well as some input on dinner. We just don’t add animal products to those choices because they are not healthy. Just as non veg parents probably (hopefully) don’t add sugary snacks or fried foods to the list of choices for their kids.

    I know one non vegan food item is not going to kill my daughter, but it does go against our beliefs about not harming other animals, as well as our beliefs about being kind to the earth, plus, as you mentioned above – cancer (and all of the other health risks of eating animal products). I know that because the pressures that the “outside world” puts on us as vegan moms to just “let them enjoy” and “it won’t kill them” (and let’s face it, moms do that to each other vegan or not) sometimes it can be really hard to tell your kid that they can’t have cake at a friend’s birthday party. But in the end, we know that the cake that is being served has things inside of it that can harm our children and whether that mom thinks I’m a bitch for having my daughter refrain from cake or not, I simply don’t care. I never have to politely say no thank you for my daughter because she is happy to do it on her own, but in the event I was asked, I’d be happy to politely decline for her and explain if asked. It stinks that we have to go out into a world where we have to worry about pressures put on our children to eat non vegan foods on top of all the other pressures kids and teenagers face, but if we raise them with the understanding of why we do what we do, as you mentioned above, then it is easier for them to make those same choices when we aren’t there to speak for them or tell them what to do.

    Reply

    Kortney Campbell November 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Hey Kristen! I definitely see where you’re coming from. I don’t allow my son to have non-vegan food outside of our home either. However, at the same time, it’s super important to me that (when he’s old enough to do so), he makes the decision to remain vegan on his own. I will do my best to educate him on why I believe it is best for him (and our home will remain 100% vegan regardless of his choices), but even if it breaks my heart, if he made the decision to stop being vegan, it would be his choice to make. I hope it never comes to that though & truly don’t believe it will since he’ll be armed with the facts! haha :)

    PS: I really appreciate how respectful and non-argumentative your comment was. It’s so nice to see actual civil discussions!!

    Reply

    Kenna Smoot November 17, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Hi Kristen! First off, I must say I really enjoy your blog name and will check it out when I’m do d commenting. It sounds really fun!

    I totally understand your perspective and I do agree with it. I think I am always waivering –do I let them eat it knowing it is bad for them or do I ignore it this one time? At parties I really find myself unsure. With my oldest son, when he was 4 we went to a party. In the past, I had said no to him having cake of pizza. When we left that party he cried in the car, I asked him what was wrong and he had explained he felt left out not eating cake. I guess a kid had called him a weirdo and he was getting a complex about eating vegan. For the next week, he kept telling me why it’s dumb that he can’t eat non-vegan things and he hates being vegan and as an adult he will never eat vegan. Yes, all coming from a 4 year old. That night, I kept thinking about it and thought, “Do I want to raise a child that hates being vegan because I forbid non-vegan food? Or should he decide what he wants to eat at a party?” The next party, he wanted to try non-vegan cake and he had 2 bites and hated it. Then came to me and said, “You’re right mom, non-vegan food isn’t very good”. Since that day I’ve never had him ask to try anything non-vegan and he trusts my judgment. So I guess that’s why I allowed it. For my other 2, they are too busy playing at a birthday party to notice people are eating cake so I’ve dodged that bullet. I guess what you choose will be dictated by your child and what you think is best for the end result we both want–for them ultimately to be vegan by choice. My other 2 kids are a lot easier and don’t challenge me on every little thing…or at least not yet (they’re 3 and 1) but I think I’ll try your approach for those 2 and see how it goes. Thank you for sharing your point of view, it is a very valid point.

    Reply

    Court @ Kind Mom November 26, 2013 at 12:15 am

    So far I’ve been able to be prepared for events that served non-vegan food with my own vegan yummies (enough to share) but I know that day will come when my son, who’s now 3, grabs a dairy cake. Im not going to faint or get his stomach pumped but I will be sad and anxious in a mama bear protecting her cub kind of way. I do hope to raise him with the knowledge and a sense of independence that will encourage him to continue a kind lifestyle.
    Also, choosing whether to raise your child a vegetarian, vegan, or carnivore should be a big decision for every parent. While I find the question “you’re not going to raise your child vegan, are you?” rude, I usually respond by asking them about their choice to raise their child a carnivore and make it a more open minded conversation instead of a interrogation. Most people I’ve talk to are just curious.

    Reply

    Angie December 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

    This is a great post with such a wealth of information and research. Thank-you.

    Reply

    Natalie January 15, 2014 at 3:12 am

    I have a few questions for the blogger. I have 4 kids and 1 is a breast fed baby (shes almost 3 months old on the 28th of this month) my two older daughters where formula fed and my oldest is 9. She tried to do the peta vegan pledge for a month. I tried explaining to her what Veganism is. From how to eat to clothing, makeup, cleaning supplies, hair care products, body care products. the whole shabang. she understood at times and others she would be pissed she couldnt eat pizza or alfredo pasta. I would tell her thats not vegan and she would get mad. I think all 3 of my kids just dont care and are too old to change. My 3rd child is a boy and whatever daddy eats he wants to eat like nasty ass hot dogs, meat, cheese (not even the good stuff) frozen pizza, frozen french fries etc etc. My husband doesnt like veganism, thinks its dumb, says we are taking food from animals. im the only vegan in the house of 5 other people and its too hard and too expensive.

    Reply

    Kortney Campbell January 15, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Natalie, I am so sorry you’re having a hard time! When I first met my husband, he wasn’t vegan. After dating for a while, I put him to a 1 month challenge. I told him “try it for a month, if you don’t feel better, I’ll never ask you to try it again.” He ended up loving it and is still vegan to this day!

    Do you do the shopping and cooking? If so, you could either put your whole family to the challenge OR just have a “our house will be vegan if I’m going to be the one cooking” rule. Also, while I don’t eat mock meats very often, I definitely think they can ease the transition from a typical American diet! I veganized a lot of my husband’s favorite meals to make it easier on him, because I knew that was the only way it would stick. And no one wants to give up their favorite foods.

    Let us know if there is any way we can help! :)

    Reply

    Kenna January 15, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Hi Natalie,
    I definitely agree with Kortney, making their comfort foods vegan will help tremendously. There are many sites (including this one) with great vegan recipes for any type of foods. I also love http://www.vegweb.com users can upload recipes with photos and people get to rate them so you know if they’re good or not ahead of time. I also have my own blog where I take popular recipes on Pinterest then make them vegan and show how to substitute non-vegan ingredients for vegan ones. (www.meatmeetsvegan.com)

    I think at the end of the day, if you’re the one cooking, they need to just be happy with what you make. From a young age I hated meat, yet every night my mom cooked it. I was told that I could make a sandwich if I didn’t like it. So I ate peanut butter sandwiches more times than I would like to recall and I still hate them to this day. My husband isng vegan either, but he eats a 90% plant based diet because we don’t have meat or cheese or eggs in the home. I do the grocery shopping and if he doesn’t like it, he can go himself. But after I showed my husband research, documentaries, etc he was convinced vegan is best. I’d suggest sitting down with your family and watching Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives. I bet it’ll change their perspective.

    Katie and Kortney also have tons of information and this website has great posts, so you’re in the right place!! I hope you’re able to ease your frustrations and get your family on board.

    Reply

    Sarah March 28, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I also wanted to respond to Natalie. I have 4 kids as well (6,4,2,7mos) and I’m the only one interested in being 100% vegan. Hubby is a row crop and hog farmer…so we always have a freezer full of pork! He is on board with me making family-friendly vegan meals for dinner (we just had this conversation last night so I’m going to implement changes immediately). My hubby also loves to eat the things you described….and the kids do as well. I say if you are in charge of shopping/cooking..then slowly make changes. The first week do a meatless meal…the 2nd make two..etc. It also helps that I’m losing the baby weight and toning up nicely eating a plant based vegan diet so that is motivating to him since he needs to lose weight. He agrees with me that he eats too much meat/dairy and it would be a good way to lose weight. I would also approach it by now saying the “vegan” word around him. Say for supper you made a yummy vegan meal but don’t call it that. I can’t see my kids ever being totally vegan, I give them a serving of cheese with their lunch, and certainly not hubby, but I’m trying to lead by example. I have my kids drink green smoothies for breakfast each morning (along with their regular breakfast). I make it delicious for them so they enjoy it. We use ice cube and muffin trays for lunches to make them fun and try to make a “rainbow” with colors of fruit/vegs/grains/beans/nuts,etc. My 3rd child is also a boy and wants to do everything like Daddy. :) Good luck! Feel free to contact me!

    Reply

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