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When you have children this sometimes adds extra issues to the vegan lifestyle (though also many joys!) - almost invariably caused by other peoples' ignorance. Relatives/teachers/neighbours can sometimes believe you are depriving your children of essential nutrients by excluding animal products from your diet or just being plain eccentric. Other parents have their own issues and sometimes view you as incorrect in your choice of diet to uphold their own choices (this applies to every area of childrearing!!). Some vegans have criticism from the medical profession. We haven't had this experience personally as our children are very healthy. On the whole, our experience of explaining the children's diet and lifestyle to other people has been positive - but of course no matter what you do in life someone, somewhere will disapprove!! Be strong in yourself, well-informed, healthy and happy and your truth will shine out.
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Here is our basic advice for dealing with common vegan parenting situations:
Learn all you can about vegan nutrition. Dr. Michael Klaper's 'Pregnancy, Children and the vegan diet' is a good book to show anyone who queries the wisdom of bringing your children up as vegans. Dr. Benjamin Spock also advocates veganism for children in the last edition of 'Baby and Child Care'. Another good book with lots of nutritional information is 'Becoming Vegan' by registered dieticians, Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. 'Feeding your vegan Infant with Confidence' is another great title from the vegan society. See these and many others on ourvegan parenting book selection
Also don't miss our favourites kids books, including a vegetarian themed section here
Explain and discuss your reasons for being vegan to your children clearly. This obviously depends on the age of the child as to how detailed you are.
Carry a good selection of vegan snacks and fruit with you when you go out. This protects against hungry whining children in the back of the car! It also stops your kids feeling left out or hard done by if other children are chomping sweets and crisps etc.
Remember when going out and about that nearly every hotel or restaurant can find chips (french fries in the States) and salad (specifying no mayo/egg/dairy) for you. Sometimes they come up with great stuff when you say you're vegan - if not, you can eat chips! This is obviously not the most balanced of meals but you can make up for it later. The practice of frying chips in animal fat has almost been eradicated with the popularity of a vegetarian diet but you can ask if not sure. We have recently heard (thank you Lesley!) that some 'traditional' chip shops, such as Harry Ramsden's, still use animal fat to fry their chips - so be wary of them.
Explain to school or daycare teachers about veganism and offer to provide vegan alternatives for any foody activities or snacks. It is a good idea to provide some biscuits and sweets in case unexpected sweets etc. turn up, as sometimes happens.
A pet peeve of many vegan parents - children's parties. We contact the host beforehand to find out what the food will be and then prepare vegan alternatives.
Remember that in this complicated, non-vegan world there are many situations that do not have a clear cut, perfect vegan solution to them - do what you feel to be right and best and don't worry about what other people think.
Listed below are sites useful to vegan parents - for sites that are great for children and teens to visit go through to our Kids Links
PETA - vegan kids - P.E.T.A. (people for the ethical treatment of animals) on vegan diets for kids
Vegan Society Babies and Children- information on raising vegan kids from the UK Vegan Society - lots of related subjects on the sidebar of the page.
VRG - vegan kids - the Vegetarian Resource group - 'Feeding vegan kids'
VRG - vegan pregnancy and breast-feeding - as above but vegan diet during pregnancy and lactation
pcrm.org - vege kids - the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine on the advantages of vegetarian and vegan diets for children
Vegan Lunch Box blog - amazing blog of a child's vegan packed lunches - quite mouth-watering and full of good ideas with a daily lunch box photo!
La leche league - the main site of La Leche League, a group that provides support and information on breast-feeding.
A title from our kid books recommendations:
'That's Why We Don't Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things' by Ruby Roth. A stunningly illustrated book for children which compares the way animals live in the wild to the way their factory farmed counterparts exist. You can see both the book and the author on a video at amazon.com