Parents want whats best for their children, and a vegan or vegetarian diet they choose to be best for themselves for many parents is ideal. There are adolescents who complain of the diets their parents choose for them. Here we’ll explore the effects and ethics of imposed vegetarianism and veganism.
In this article, this vegan mother is defending herself against the notion that she is imposing veganism on her kids:
Essentially, my parents made me eat and wear dead animals. I grew up respecting dogs and cats, but not other animals. Animals existed for my entertainment in zoos, water parks and at circuses…They were simply raising us as best they could within the mainstream culture. One could also say, however, that they were imposing their beliefs on us. They were forcing us to be consumers of animal exploitation industries.
An article in the NY Times Blog presents the parent’s concern that temptations from non-vegetarian food can present to their children:
“What sort of chance does marinated tofu and mango-flecked quinoa stand against deep-fried chicken fingers?”
Another challenge they find is lack of support from other adults or family:
I spend my days fielding e-mails from my father containing links to articles entitled, “Iron Deficiency Anemia.”
And also demonstrated by a post in Circle of Moms.com in which a mother to be comments:
They say that they respect that I want to raise my son vegetarian, however they constantly seem to be making remarks on how they are going to feed him other things.
It’s important to watch for the child’s nutrients. Also important to know that everyone’s body is different. There have been rumors about children growing up with severe nutritional deficiencies because their parents have them on a vegan diet that does not appropriately nourish them.
An article which presents the story of 3 vegan mothers, 2 of which have very happy child, a recent vegan converted, and one whose child is suffering from failure to thrive condition; which can be difficult to treat on a vegan diet.
On the concern if they get enough nutrients, this article comments:
I suppose without proper guidance a child eating vegan could become malnourished. But so could a child on a meat and dairy-centric diet.
Many people are vegetarian due to their religion. Some religions which promote vegetarianism are Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism and 7th Day Adventists. This essay explains more about the religions across the world which practice vegetarianism.
On the other side, when we raise children as omnivores we are also imposing the belief, religious in origin, that animals were created for our consumption.
Raised Vegetarian Experiences
An article in the LA Times:
As they get older, children tend to try whatever they’re told not to do, just to see how their parents will react…Resentment can build up if foods are forbidden completely…”There is a lot of stress in the unknown about how other kids are going to react,”…”Food is a huge area where peers fit in together and bond.”
-Meredith Renda, pediatrician
In this reddit thread, we have the anecdote of someone who was raised a vegan and the good and bad practices his parents did to ensure it was a positive experience:
You need to raise them thinking that they are normal people who just care a lot about the world around them…
Situation: little Michael Omnivore brings in fruit snacks for the class, or something else that is not easily recognized as not being vegan.
“How was school today, miniVegan?” “it was good, omni brought in fruit snacks and they didn’t have dairy or meat in them so I tried some”
Bad response: “HOW COULD YOU THAT’S NOT VEGAN, LETS GO LOOK AT SOME PICTURES OF HOW THEY MAKE GELATIN.” …
Good response: “Actually, gelatin isn’t vegan because they use cow bones to make it. It’s pretty gross, but fruit snacks sure are good, huh? Wanna see if we can make a healthier vegan version for dessert tonight? We can even make some for your class if you would like!”
–savannahisabeast user on Reddit
This post in Vegan Health.org interviews children who are raised vegan:
Having been raised vegan since birth, I admit, was not easy…Whenever a kid in my class had a birthday, my mom would provide the teacher with a goodie bag just for me so I could enjoy a healthy lollipop or a homemade vegan brownie while the other students noshed on their chocolate chip cupcakes…School pizza parties were another hassle, but mom would patiently call the teacher and ask, “Will the pizza be cut into squares or triangles?” and she would cut mine the same way…At 24, Sasha wrote that she had gone through a brief period of eating dairy while in college…I just want to let readers know: it’s okay! No one is perfect. The Vegan Gods will not strike you down with lightning if you intentionally eat something that contains eggs or dairy. What counts is awareness. As long as we can be educated and aware of what we’re putting in our mouths, then it’s up to us to make a choice.”
Being a vegetarian, poses much little restrainsts on children. Eating cheese and milk and egg allows them to eat almost anything. As a firsthand vegetarian and in a very food intensive culture, I can vouch that it would have been very difficult to be vegetarian as a child. It still sort of is something that isolates me when I hang out with my friends. But if I was over at a friend’s house and couldn’t eat what they had when I was younger it would have been even more difficult. However, I was also a very picky eater, like a lot of children, and some parents accommodate for the picky eating friends just fine.
The American dietetic Association states in this publication:
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.
It’s very possible to raise a healthy child on a vegan diet, and also to do it in such a way that they’ll want to remain one when they get older. However, strategies for nutrition and psychology are important; and most of all a respect for their choices. The health and happiness of the child, in my opinion, should be even more of a priority than beliefs you may have about food consumption. I’m not sure if I would have liked to be a vegetarian since I was younger, maybe I’d even be curious as to what meat tastes like and be an avid hunter or something. The fact that it was a choice I made for myself made it more rewarding, and the support I get from my parents and openness to try my recipes certainly makes it better.