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Transitioning children to veganism/vegetarianism

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi there. I think this may be my first post on here. Sorry for bypassing the intro forum. I'm Christina :)

 

So here's the story. My husband and I recently adopted a no-meat lifestyle. I'm an on-again, off-again vegetarian and although we've eaten meat regularly in the past, I've always incorporated vegetables, beans, and tofu into the regular line up of meals. My two boys, who are 4 and 8, have no problem eating the vegan meals we cook. They love the green smoothies, the brocolli, the stir-fries. But, at the same time, I know the both of them are accustomed to a more traditional diet. My husband's family is puerto rican & insist that the kids need meat. At school, my older son is being taught that we need cow's milk to build healthy bones and teeth.

 

I felt like it would be too much to expect them to give up all meat and dairy cold turkey, so we've explained to them that even though we won't cook it or bring it in the house, they are allowed to have it outside if they choose to. It's still been a tough change, especially for my 8 yr old. He's resistant to the idea of labeling ourselves as vegans or vegetarians. Since I stopped buying meat, whenever we're at the grocery store, he emphasizes how much he loves hamburgers and chicken and cant live without them. I've tried to explain to him the reasons we're doing this (for the animals, for the environment, etc) with little success. Although he seems to understand why factory farming is bad, the whole empathy thing is beyond him at this point.

 

My issue is this: I just don't want them to feel like we're forcing our ideals on them. Looking back, we didn't really include the kids in our decision to stop eating meat. It just sort of happened. While I definitely don't want to start all over from square one, I also want my children to feel like they have a say in what they put in their bodies.

 

Also: I feel a little guilty about taking away their happy meals and hamburgers, especially when their friends are allowed to eat those things. I always say "everything in moderation" and I don't think that having those things once in a while will hurt them. I'm more concerned about creating a deep-seated longing for the things they cannot have that might result in unhealthy habits later in life. And that's the LAST thing I want to do.

 

Sigh. I'm a mess over this. Any advice?

post #2 of 11

Hi Eyestothesky.  I was in the exact same situation with my 5 yr old DD a year ago, when I decided I wanted to throw out all animal products.  Unfortunately, my DH was not in the same frame of mind so animal products continued to be available. (Just recently he's indicated he is open to giving up animal products at home on a trial basis, but DD continues to get the normal menu at DC)

After a year of cooking vegan recipes, I can feed my kids a vegan meal without them even noticing it's vegan.  I don't talk about being "vegetarian" or "vegan" because I am still learning so much and still have areas in my life where I haven't managed to get rid of all the animal products. I do not like to use that label for myself or my family, that's just me.  If DD asks for meat or animal products, I make a judgment call based on that particular situation.  If a vegan option is available at that moment in time, I'll give her that.  (Kids are easily distractible and will move on easily to a new topic--they are probably not really that interested in their food once they're no longer hungry.)  If we're out, everyone is having ice cream, and there is no vegan ice cream I will buy her an ice cream anyway.  And trust her to make her own decision as she gets older and connects that ice cream is not vegan and whether she wants to have it or do without.  I don't focus too much on what's vegan and what's not while we're out--at home when we do baking I explain to her that the brownies did not hurt any animals etc etc.  I am going to let it build from there.  I would rather foster a pride in the times when we are having a vegan meal than focus on the restrictions of the diet.   It is really hard to eat as an adult in a meat-eaters world let alone to be a kid.  I also think that if DD grows up "thinking" that she is eating vegan--even if that actually included a birthday cake here and there where we didn't ask what the ingredients were--she will keep the philosophy near to her. 

I am thinking to see how it goes with DH's transition, and possibly to ask for DD to get vegetarian option at DC from next fall if all is going well at home.  If she is unhappy with the vegetarian option I will let her go back to the normal meals but continue to include her in discussions at home, in an informative way rather than preaching.  If i were you, I would move your kids to a veg diet gradually.  Maybe letting them pick 1 meal a week with meat in it, or allowing them to order meat dishes when you're out.  Before you know it they will be choosing veg dishes as favourites--or if they're not, you'll know when it's time to withdraw that privelege (when the transition is old news to them) and move on to another topic. 

post #3 of 11

I would talk to the school.  Most schools nowaday are very familiar with food allergies and sensitivities that just weren't issues for kids 20 years ago and most have pretty strict policies on what can and cannot be brought into the building.  While in your case it's not necessarily an allergy but it doesn't make it any less important for your lifestyle.  It's pretty sad that in this day and age they are still teaching kids that dairy is a necesssity of life.  My DD is 15mo and currently can't have dairy.  There's hope she'll outgrow it but I'm in no rush as it was also a healthy change that I really needed to make myself but never had the motivation in the past.  I'd be pretty upset if when she's in school they made a big deal about 'needing' dairy and she can't have it.  It shouldn't be about a one size fits all, this is what food everyone needs - they really should break it down by saying you need calcium for strong bones, here are all the foods that will provide calcium, or you need protein to build muscle and here are all the ways you can get protein.  For me, it's more important that the meat we do eat is not factory farmed and chemically altered.  I opt for grass fed, free range and/or organic as much as possible.  And I'm getting to a point where if we can't afford the better quality meat, I skip meat for the meal.  Now DH is not on board with me and insists he needs meat all the time and could care less about the source - he's also got major glute/wheat issues that he chooses to ignore :-P  Luckily I only work part time and I do most of the cooking/grocery shopping so I can control what comes into the house.  If he buys something factory farmed, I'll pass on it and I won't feed it to DD bc it's important to me that she start off healthy and not get bogged down with toxins at a young age. 

post #4 of 11

Hello! 

 

The way me and my husband adopted a vegetarian diet is to be as informed as possible on what is going on in the world. I have been vegetarian for years and my husband recently made the switch a few months ago and he hasn't looked back. I became a vegetarian because of the ethical issues and because I don't think it right to eat animals. My husband felt the same way but he said "It was how he grew up" so he didn't want to make the change and I didn't push him. 

 

Together we watched a few documentaries that really changed his perception and kinda gave him the kick in the butt he was waiting for. 

 

I would recommend watching a few well informed documentaries. I think it's one of the best ways to leanr new info in a short amount of time, plus it usually have images which helps the point across. A few I would definitely suggest are... 

 

Earthings. - Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix 

 

Forks Over Knives

 

Food Matters

 

They show now only the animals behind the meal but also the health and environmental benefits. 

 

For your kids there are so many books and other resources out there to get the info to them easily. I have the book "Why We Don't Eat Animals". It has illustrations that aren't too hardcore but it just shows like sad chickens in battery cages and describes the living conditions in an easy to understand way. 

 

AND if he thinks vegetarian and Vegans are manly enough he should do some research! There are tons of athletes and celebrities that are and are still very macho. 

 

Like...

 

Woody Harrleson

*Russell Brand*

Mike Tyson

Tobey Maguire

Kevin Eubanks

Alec Baldwin

Anthony Kiedis -Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Paul McCartney

Brad Pitt

Bruce Springsteen

Thom Yorke -Radio Head

Andre 3000 - Outkast

Mac Danzig - UFC Fighter

Jake Shields - UFC Fighter

 

Peace.gif

post #5 of 11

It wasn't really a big deal when we transitioned into veganism from vegetarianism for the kids. My kids are older, however, and get the ethical ideal behind it. At ages 9 and 11 they have a understanding of what it all means. It is an ethical decision for us so we don't mourn happy meals or other things. Socially, it can be difficult, but certainly not undoable. Good luck!

post #6 of 11
I agree that "Why We Don't Eat Animals" is a great book. I have her other book as well, "Vegan is Love" but it doesn't speak to food choices as much as her other one. I also like "Raising Vegetarian Children" by Joanne Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina - it has a bit about transitioning to a veg diet but a lot about family dynamics, eating in other situations, speaking with our children about vegetarianism etc.

Maybe visit a farm or animal sanctuary if you have access to one so your boys have a chance to see the animals that they are no longer eating. I'm so looking forward to taking my family to a nearby pig sanctuary when everyone's a bit older.
post #7 of 11

OMG. I came here to write a post about the v. same issue. It is sooo confusing what to feed and what not to especially since the empathy side of their brain doesn't seem to have developed yet... Dh and I just had another fight over it bfor school today. Subbing.

post #8 of 11
Maybe I'm too controlling/authoritarian.. but I feel like it's my responsibility to make the best decisions for my kids (currently only 1 DS) until they are mature enough to weigh the options and decide for themselves. Even more so when it's my money that would be buying them what I deemed unhealthy. I couldn't in good conscience buy them fast and junk food when I know how terrible it is for them, no matter how much they begged or liked them. Take every opportunity to cook healthy food they love and avoid things they've expressed distaste for after trying, but I would stand firm on not being the means by which they get unhealthy things to eat, all the while teaching them why. You can't control what they decide to eat as adults, but you can while they're under your supervision.
post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantora87 View Post

Maybe I'm too controlling/authoritarian.. but I feel like it's my responsibility to make the best decisions for my kids (currently only 1 DS) until they are mature enough to weigh the options and decide for themselves. Even more so when it's my money that would be buying them what I deemed unhealthy. I couldn't in good conscience buy them fast and junk food when I know how terrible it is for them, no matter how much they begged or liked them. Take every opportunity to cook healthy food they love and avoid things they've expressed distaste for after trying, but I would stand firm on not being the means by which they get unhealthy things to eat, all the while teaching them why. You can't control what they decide to eat as adults, but you can while they're under your supervision.

We did only healthy and no junk food until she started school. It was a huge battle once she saw what other kids were permitted to eat, not to mention the school's lunch. She would go to bday parties and be the only child really interested in the food. Other kids seemed disinterested in the pizzas, cookies, cakes but dd, even now, waits for all the so called 'goodies.' In order to not make her look greedy I do buy her some food I would never ever have put in her mouth before.

post #10 of 11

It's been a slower process here.

I was proud that last month we ended up buying only 2 pounds of turkey bacon and 2 pounds of turkey for sandwiches. That was enough meat for the 7 of us.

We ate as vegetarian, (and when possible - vegan) as we could the rest of the time. I indulged them with what they would like for dinner because I don't want to make food an issue in the house. I knew that if it was right to adopt this lifestyle, we'd all come to it together.

 

I kept some really awesome choices as options the rest of the time, and yes due to budget issues the last few months ramen has made an appearance in our house a few times. It hasn't been completely perfect.

 

We don't watch much tv, but three days ago we watched this documentary called "Vegucated" - just a random documentary I'd had in my netflix. Due to some of the animal footage (a small part of the documentary) my 8, 7, and 6 year old all decided they were going vegetarian after this. Not vegan (which is what the movie is about more) but vegetarian.

 

Yesterday when we did grocery shopping, they poopahed any of the meat choices I tested with them. I was really surprised at their resolve. Daddy ended up caving and getting some (kosher) hot dogs because he had a craving BUT - for our family it looks like the Hebrew hot dogs are the only meat for us this month.  That's a good feeling.

 

Tonight for dinner we had lima beans in broth, with carrots, spinach, onion and red potato chunks. It was delicious and every one was happy...Then they asked for some home made fried mozzerella sticks and I obliged them. For breakfast I had made pancakes with syrup and farro with blueberries. Lunch was fruit and veggies. Every thing was vegan until the cheese sticks tonight. I think that's pretty good. We will probably have a PB&J sandwich for snack before bed and we're good to go.

 

I think what the vegan ladies said in Vegucated really resonated with me. Paraphrasing she said that veganism isn't a religion, you don't have to do full bore or nothing. I think that is where we are at right now. You can take that as your advice as well. You're pregnant, and my advice is to eat what you crave (for the most part). Try and make sound ethical and nutritious choices when you can, but don't beat yourself up if you aren't perfect. No one is perfect.

You got a lot of great  advice on this thread. I hope it all has helped you some how!

post #11 of 11

I'd like to add a couple more movies. Food Inc., Fast Food Nation and Vegucated. But if you are getting ur kids to watch these then check their ratings.

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