So you want to be a vegan? Whether you are seriously considering it, kicking the can around, or have a friend or loved one who is considering it I decided to write an article to tell you everything you need to know. I am providing tips from my own experiences to keep you from failing.
When I made my decision to be vegetarian and eventually vegan I didn’t take it lightly. It was a time of my life when I was still cooking in restaurants and I was heavy and wanted to lose weight. Cows and pigs were in my mind the most fatty things I was eating except for deserts so that is what I decided to cut out of my diet at first. I did a lot of research on nutrition, and this was in the early to mid 90s when the internet wasn’t around, I didn’t have a computer or anything, so a lot of it was going to the library, and subscribing to newsletters and magazines. As well as my culinary knowledge. Over the next two years I slowly cut out other animals out of my diet as I learned more about how the animals were treated and at the same time I was finding out more about myself and rejecting things that were taught to me in my childhood like religion, while finding my own beliefs.
I was in my early 20s during this time. Also at this time there wasn’t very many meat substitutes. I was eating a lot of beans, rice, tofu, and lightlife or boca burgers. To be honest with you and myself the thing that was finally holding me back from being fully vegan was ice cream. I love it, and I could sit down and eat a half gallon at a time. One day I was in the supermarket and saw Rice Dream’s Cocoa Marble Fudge and decided to pick it up and give it a try. Well that put me over the edge. I really loved it and that is when I decided I could do it. What I am trying to articulate is for me it wasn’t overnight. It wasn’t easy, especially as a cook having to be around meat all the time. Things like a burger and a steak, still looked and smelled good at the time.
Getting proper nutrition no matter what age you are is probably the most important thing to your success. Now with the internet things are really easy and there is almost no excuse not to succeed for yourself or your children. One of the best resources is VRG.org. Not only does it explain in detail what to eat, but it also compares meat based food vs vegan food, and shows you in a lot of cases things like iron and protein can be found in plants and in a lot of cases are more dense than their bloody counterparts. Going there is a must for anyone considering it. They do a lot better job in explaining diet than I ever could, and they even give you example meal plans as well. This will be good training for you to figure out what to eat and what combinations of food you should eat to get that nutrition. Anytime someone asks me about protein, iron, calcium, etc I point them to VRG.org.
When it comes to parents and children it seems like when children are raised in a vegan home and are malnourished it always creates headlines when if you think about it there is more malnutrition amongst omnivores, but since it isn’t caused by someone with an “alternative” diet, it isn’t newsworthy. Those cases generally comes from either poverty or education, or both. Most of the cases I have seen that made the headlines seemed to be a lack of education and research from the parents of vegetarian and vegan children. I have good friends who are successfully raising children vegan. One that has a child that is a picky eater as well. It can be done. Since I am not a vegan parent I am not experienced in raising a child. I asked her a few questions about raising a vegan child:
How long have you been vegan?
About 20 years
Did you do any research for yourself when you became vegan and what research did you do?
Yes, I was first exposed to veganism from a spiritual perspective, and the focus was on diet. I later did personal research and gained a more thorough picture of how animals are used to for testing products and I learned more about processes of acquiring leather, wool, honey, etc.
Did you do any research when you found out you were going to have a baby?
Having been a long-time vegan, I already knew that my diet would be sufficient for my pregnancy. However, I did research a lot of books and websites regarding having a healthy pregnancy.
If so, what kind of research did you do?
I researched books and websites regarding healthy pregnancies, and I had regular pre-natal visits and classes at the birth center.
How difficult do you find it being a vegan parent?
I think it is easier for me being a vegan parent because I’ve been a vegan for so long. My child has been raised as a vegan since birth, so we are rooted in our veganism. I think it would be more difficult if it were new to us. My child had also had at least one vegan friend throughout her life, so she doesn’t feel as alone.
Do you find that there is any extra work you have or had to do to make sure your child is and was getting proper nutrition?
I had to make sure I was eating well. I breastfed my daughter for three years, so in the latter part of those years, my milk was more of a supplement. I believe it greatly benefitted her. She has been pretty healthy. If you already eating healthful foods, you share them with your child.
How difficult do you find it for your child?
I always try to make sure my child has what she needs. I make sure she has breakfast, lunch, and snacks for school, so she is fine regarding food. I think the challenge is that her classmates may not understand her veganism and sometimes tease her. However, she feels strongly about being a vegan, so it (teasing) doesn’t change the way she feels.
Does your child have any special dietary needs or is a picky eater? How difficult do you find it as a vegan parent to accommodate?
Yes! She is VERY picky. All of the things you see in recipe books that talk about what kids “love” are useless to me! My daughter doesn’t like nuts, nut butters, most fruit, chocolate, granola, and a lot of other things. I often worry about her getting enough variety, but her doctor says that she seems to be getting what she needs despite her pickiness. It’s very difficult to find things she wants to eat because she may like something for a while then change her mind about it. However, I can usually find something she likes. I think she is pickier than most children I know.
We are currently working to create her lunches together, and she is learning to prepare meals for herself. She also knows how to grab something to eat out the refrigerator that she likes.
Is there anything you do to make your child not feel left out in social situations?
I try to make sure she has a vegan version of what other children are having
How do they feel about it?
She is happy to not feel left out.
Does your pediatrician ever say anything to you about veganism?
No, she knows how we eat and our lifestyle, and she knows my daughter is healthy
How often do you do blood work for you or your child for nutrient and macro nutrient levels?
Once a year
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We don’t see veganism as deprivation. My daughter isn’t longing for what other children are eating. She gets everything she wants and needs eating a vegan diet. Children can thrive on a vegan diet.
My child also knows how using animal products affect the animals and the environment. She actually wanted to watch Earthlings. I had already read books to her when she was younger (she’s eight now) about the impact animal agriculture has on the animals, so she was already aware of what she would see when she watched the movie. I think it is important for my child to know why we’re vegans, and I have answered all of her questions honestly.
There is an ever growing community of vegans out there in the world, many websites and forums and communities in social media go get help and questions answered. There are many reasons why people become vegan, everyone has their own story and journey. There are a few unhelpful, mean, trollish, and/or militant vegans out there however. Don’t get discouraged by these people, ignore them and move on. Don’t let their unhappiness and personal issues discourage you from your own personal journey and decision. I personally had to unfriend such a person a year or so ago. She got to the point that anyone who wasn’t actively out there saving and taking care of animals that were destined for meat was not a real vegan, and referred to people like me as “cupcake vegans”. This is ignoring the fact that I have been vegan since I was ~22 and just by this act I have been already saving animals. I don’t have the time or resources to actually go out to factory farms or steal or beg for animals to take care of. I personally think she was way over her head and was angry that no one was helping her take care of more animals that she was able to. I had a lot of respect and love for her and what she was doing for the animals, but she had no right to dismiss others for not doing what she was doing. I was really sad to lose her as a friend, but her negativity was getting to be too much for me to handle. The lesson for you is that you don’t have to do it all, you don’t have to rescue animals, if you want to do that, I send you all my love and respect, but don’t disrespect others who don’t. If you want to actively protest, great. I do my part by being vegan and this webpage to educate people how to cook. If I can help current vegans be better vegans, or help someone on the fence by them trying a recipe and get ideas that shows them that being vegan is possible for them, then I have succeeded. This is my form of activism, which again is not necessary.
If you have any questions for me, feel free to ask below. I will be more than happy to answer any questions you have.
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