Hi, my name is Elham, and I’m here to share my experience about raising the next Vegan Generation.
It is hard raising kids. Add raising them Vegan, and it becomes even harder.
I became a Vegan before my kids were born.
In fact, I have been wary of eating meat since I was a child myself. I could not ignore that meat was a dead animal, and I had no desire to eat dead animals.
At age 13, I told my mom that I did not want to eat meat again.
Unfortunately, my mom was a single parent working long hours, and I had no idea how to eat properly as a vegetarian.
I remember eating corn nuts and ice cream for lunch. No fresh vegetables. No fruit. Eventually, I became weak and unhealthy.
After 2 years, I reverted back to eating meat, but only turkey deli slices and white meat chicken breast – meat that did not look like meat – no bones, no veins, no blood, the absent referent.
In 2009, I started to learn about factory farming.
I learned about high-speed slaughter-speeds, gestation crates, battery cages, veal crates, where dairy comes from, and chick culling.
Everything started to change for me.
It was no longer this vague feeling that it was weird or gross to eat dead animals, but an awakening to the horrific conditions and abuse these animals suffer by the billions each year.
I became a passionate animal advocate.
1. Raising Kids Vegan in a Non-Vegan World
And then, I became a parent – in a world that pushes people to eat meat, drink dairy, and consume animal products.
I felt overwhelmed as a new parent. What if my children do not grow properly? What if they fail to thrive?
What if they suffer from vitamin deficiencies?
So, my husband and I took the middle ground initially.
We raised them vegetarian, with a limited amount of eggs and dairy (as a safety net).
Over time, however, we saw our kids were growing incredibly well. They were well above normal on all the growth charts. Any blood work we did, looked normal.
My husband questioned why we were feeding our children any eggs and dairy when we were not eating them.
We entirely removed eggs and dairy from our home, and happily, my children have continued to grow and thrive.
2. Finding a Middle Ground
I do give my children the ability to eat foods with dairy and eggs if we are traveling, attending a family gathering, a birthday party, or other events.
I do not want our plant-based lifestyle to feel like deprivation to them.
If they want to eat birthday cake, they can eat birthday cake.
But, as they get older, I am able to explain to them more why we do not eat dairy and eggs.
They are now starting to ask me if something has cow’s milk before deciding whether to eat it.
My kids are also now educating their friends.
My 5-year-old daughter was explaining to her classmates that pepperoni comes from a pig.
They did not believe her.
She came home upset and said, “my friends do not believe me that pepperoni is a dead pig.
They think they are eating vegetarian, but they are not. They don’t even know.”
3. Set your Vegan Children Up for Success
Foremost, talk to your kids about what they eat; do they know what meat is?
If your child does not want to eat meat, support them.
And don’t fear that your child needs to eat meat to be healthy.
My three children have never eaten meat, and I have not eaten meat in 11 years. The key is a well-balanced diet.
How to get your kids to eat a well-balanced diet? Have your kids help prepare their meals.
They can wash and chop and stir. If possible, have them help grow vegetables and fruit in a garden.
I have found that my kids are much more excited to eat a meal they helped prepare.
Also, make a fruit and veggie platter in the morning and leave out for the kids to graze on throughout the day.
Do they want a snack? Point them to the fruit and veggie platter.
It is also important to be patient and take baby steps.
I did not become plant-based overnight, and neither did my children.
It is about effort and progress, not perfection.
Slowly introduce plant-based meals, and introduce the same food multiple times.
I have found that over time, my children will actually eat and enjoy foods they rejected in the past.
Lastly, there are so many great plant-based alternatives now available.
Eating plant-based is not about deprivation. If your kids love burgers, try a Beyond Burger.
Do they love grilled cheese? Try using Miyoko’s cheese.
And remind them the best part of egg-free baking is that they can lick the bowl!
They will never want to bake with eggs again!
How to Connect With Me
My mom and I started the blog “Plant-Based Persian”, to help bring a plant-based lifestyle to our Persian culture.
If you are interested in plant-based Persian recipes or other plant-based reviews or reflections, follow us on Instagram @plant_basedpersian or subscribe to our blog – www.plantbasedpersian.com.