“I want to eat meat,” and other things our kids might say to us one day

It probably happens about once a month. That question that we get asked as vegan parents raising vegan children and the question that crops up in one way or another yet is so rarely asked in reverse of omnivorous parents raising meat-eating kids.

“What will you do if Jasmine (and Summer) turn around when they’re older and say they want to eat meat?”

“Will you give them a choice?”

“Do you think they’ll want to try meat one day?”

“Do you think they’ll always be vegan?”

Honestly, my first response…sigh. You see, I know that this question is asked with genuine intrigue and interest but to be on the receiving end of it, and frequently, implies that there is still a level of uncertainty and perhaps sub-conscious judgment from the questioner and therefore reflects their own stance about eating, or not eating meat. In other words, it could sound more like this:

“The way you’re raising your children to be vegan is restrictive/unfair/forced/weird/not normal/dangerous/makes me uncomfortable/not what I would choose and I think they will rebel against it one day because of this.”

Perhaps that’s a little unfair but this type of question, along with, “how does your child get enough protein?” is asked 100 times more often than, “I’d love to make more vegan food for my child. Could you share any recipes?” The difference is stark and one subtly requires us to defend our choice to raise vegan kids whilst the other would indicate understanding and respect.

Veganism as a way of life and a belief system is based upon the following facts:

  • Breeding and killing animals for food is unnecessary* in a world where we have access to plant-based foods that offer every nutrient necessary for a healthy and balanced diet
  • Animals killed for food suffer in life and death
  • Animal agriculture & fishing industries are the leading causes of climate change
  • A vegan diet is not restrictive or limited
  • If you can live a life that causes as little harm as possible to other creatures**, why wouldn’t you?
*for those of us with the privilege of choice
**in this case, I am referring to non-human creatures although veganism in itself benefits the human population but is not a perfect system in protecting humans from harm

It is because of these facts that I don’t actually worry about this question being asked by either of the girls. That’s not to say it won’t happen and in fact, they are both likely to have numerous questions about veganism which we will encourage, but I’m certainly not worried about it. We are raising the girls to choose (and enjoy) foods that align with our core belief system that we believe most other children have too…that causing unnecessary harm to animals and damaging the planet is not cool!

Our girls are thriving on their vegan diets and both have a very healthy relationship to food for which I’m very grateful. They eat a huge variety of fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu and grains (the list goes on) but they also enjoy crisps, ice cream, biscuits, cakes, pizza, chips and any other special treat going. A vegan diet is not in the least bit restrictive and therefore it doesn’t make children feel “forced into something,” but rather that their pure and genuine desire to foster positive relationships with animals is being respected. It’s therefore more unlikely that at age 16 they may turn around in a fit of anger and wish they’d never been raised vegan. It just makes sense. Kids love animals and don’t want to eat them.

 

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Jasmine with her vegan “chicken” nuggets, eating what all kids eat, but without the dead animals

 

We are equipping our children with the ability to live in alignment with their beliefs, challenge societal norms, contribute to the well-being of the planet and to enjoy the huge range of delicious and healthy plant-based foods on offer to them. 

My biggest worry is not whether they’ll turn around and ask to eat meat (of course by the way, this will be a choice they can make). No, my bigger worry is how they will cope as vegan kids living in a non-vegan world. How they will cope with difficult questions at school, how they will cope with being different, how they will cope with being misunderstood and ultimately how they will cope when they finally learn the truth too.

So if you’ve also wondered whether vegan children will grow up to get a choice or if whether raising vegan kids is fair, I kindly ask you to consider the following:

Which child is more likely to grow up and turn their back on the way they have been raised to eat? The child who loves animals and doesn’t eat them or the child who loves animals but eats them too?

 


How going vegan has transformed my health

I was about 14 years old when I first went to the doctors complaining about being chronically bloated. I sat with my GP and explained how my stomach would balloon after each meal, how I looked like I was 6 months pregnant (having now had 2 children, I can confirm that is not an exaggeration!) and often felt horribly uncomfortable. Sadly, my GP at the time dismissed my “teenage concerns” and suggested I spend less time comparing myself to pictures of celebrities in magazines. Whilst I think she was trying to be kind and express concern that perhaps I just had low self-esteem, dismissing my symptoms in this way really angered me. I clearly remember feeling both angry and helpless at not having been listened to and to be so profoundly misunderstood.

Fast forward a few years, more doctors appointments and zero improvement in my symptoms, I now had a diagnosis of IBS, or “Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” just the sort of label every teenage girl wants to have and a diagnosis that is given to thousands of people each year who seem to have unexplained, but very real, difficulties with their digestion. I was given a prescription for tablets that promised to ease my digestive cramps and that was about it. It seemed as if this was an all too common complaint with no real treatment, that stress played a big factor and that handing over a prescription would at the very least put a plaster on the problem for now.

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Vegan, plant-based food has transformed my health

But the problem hadn’t even remotely been solved, nor would it be for many more years to come. Several years later, again fuelled by a desire to really get to the root of the problem, I went back to my GP and pushed for a referral to Gastroenterology. Now in my early 20s I underwent a whole host of less than pleasant tests in hospital to try and establish why I looked and felt so chronologically bloated, why I suffered from painful and frequent stomach acid flare-ups (I would be doubled over in pain for hours and was now taking more medication) and what was causing me to, um, let’s say, always have to know where the nearest toilet was!

As I looked at the long list of tests and procedures I was about to go through, I was so hopeful for answers that would finally change my life. Surely there must be an answer! I longed for the day that I no longer had to wear baggy clothes to hide my massively bloated tummy, take anti-acid medication each morning and never be able to make it through a trip anywhere without dashing off to the loo. TMI, I know, but I also know that this is a far more common problem than people often discuss! I was fed up of coming home early from nights out because the pain in my stomach from acid reflux was so severe and the only thing I could do to help was to lie down and go to sleep. Ironically the advice I was given by my doctors for this was to drink glasses of milk before meals. Cow’s milk, of course.

Sadly, the results of the tests were all fairly inconclusive and as is the case when expectations are high, my disappointment at not having the doctors declare that they’d solved the issue, was palpable. Following the specialists’ advice and willing to try anything, I started on a low FODMAP diet under the guidance of a Dietician. I cut out wheat, lactose (not dairy), onions, garlic, broccoli and all sorts of other things. To say I felt restricted was an understatement. I kept a food diary and slowly re-introduced foods that are considered to be “triggers.” It was then decided that due to some family history of coeliac disease, that it was most likely to be gluten causing my issues (something I’d been told countless times before) and that I should consider going gluten-free. So I did! For years I ate a gluten-free diet, assuming that I had a fairly severe intolerance when all other avenues had been explored. It wasn’t much fun!

 

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I’ve never felt better, eating vegan food

Then one day, I guess temptation and curiosity got the better of me and I ate some gluten, probably in the form of a decent piece of toast or a crumpet. Surprise surprise, nothing drastic happened (as it would do for people with Coeliac disease) and my symptoms were unchanged. By this point, I just felt a little bit done with it all. Nothing was working, I felt like I couldn’t go back to the GP again and I had run out of steam.

In 2015, unrelated to these health issues, or so I thought anyway, I stopped eating meat and fish having become more and more aware of the ethical and environmental impacts of eating animal products. In 2016 I ditched eggs and dairy and adopted a fully vegan lifestyle and I’ve never looked back! In the early days of being vegan, I was also a sleep-deprived first-time mum caught up in that transformation more than any other. I certainly wasn’t bursting with energy all day long as many new vegans claim to be but a year or so into being vegan, I realised one day that I hadn’t experienced my “IBS” symptoms for months. I hadn’t had a single flare-up of stomach acid (and haven’t once to this day), I hadn’t taken any IBS related medication for as long as I could remember and the concerns I now had about the appearance of my tummy were down to very weak muscles and a lot more stretch marks, more so than anything else.

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Feeling very vegan picking my own spinach

I feel very fortunate that adopting a vegan diet has had these dramatic effects on my health and in many ways I really do feel better than ever, although I’m still a sleep deprived Mum, that’s for sure! I never really considered myself “unhealthy” as a meat eater and being “vegan for health” was last on my list of reasons for going vegan. But over the years, I’ve furthered my learning and research and I’m now sure that cutting animal products from my diet has had profound effects on both my physical and mental health. As the slightly sarcastic but also very true saying goes, “you’re not lactose intolerant, you’re just not a baby cow!”

There are still days when I look and feel very bloated and days where my digestion feels “off” but now I can rule out what I’m eating as being a cause and think more about how I’m eating. Off days are usually a sign that I’ve eaten too quickly, I’ve eaten too much or too little or that other things such as lack of sleep, stress or hormones are the bigger factors at play. In these moments I’m reminded of the importance of slowing down, making time to eat meals without rushing and fuelling my body with all the good (vegan) stuff.

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Vegan for health!

 

 

 


Vegan Mum guilt

I know you’ve all heard of and experienced the usual Mum guilt that comes with the territory of Motherhood and the desire to do right by our kids while maintaining our sanity at the same time. I don’t think there’s a single Mum friend of mine who doesn’t experience this feeling of guilt at some point every single day. Read More