Kids & Plant-Based Eating: Overcoming Your Worries
You may worry about feeding your children plant-based foods for a multitude of reasons!
You may have concerns that you won’t be able to get all their necessary nutrients into their daily diet. You may be anxious that eating a plant-based diet will lead to your kids being bullied by their peers. You may simply be stressed about how you will make this work in social situations so as to not bring unwanted attention on your children.
Below I have discussed all these concerns and illustrated how each concern or worry is actually a misconception. These so-called ‘worries’ are in fact a wonderful chance to educate, strengthen and influence your children in so many important ways.
From my experience, educating your children as to where their food comes from (at a level they can cope with), teaching them to love all living creatures and value equality for all, showing them how to eat well and foster a love of many different and diverse foods, and to emphasise how grateful they should be for life on this planet, as well as to give them an understanding of how their choices have an impact on the environment, are some of the most important things we as parents should be imparting on our offspring.
Health: Your Children Deserve The Healthiest Start In Life They Can Get
There is a gamut of research available to support the correlation of a plant-based diet with optimal health. Reputable, peer-reviewed research reveals the wide-ranging health benefits of a plant-based diet. Everything from small health gains, through to massive life-altering benefits.
Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer mortality, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, the list goes on and on – the prevalence of each reduced by simply eating a plant-based diet.
You might worry that kids cannot thrive and grow on a plant-based diet but you are wrong. Appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthy and nutritionally adequate. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle.1
Those following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet can meet nutrient requirements as long as energy needs are met and an appropriate variety of plant foods are eaten throughout the day. Those following a vegan diet should choose foods to ensure adequate intake of iron and zinc and to optimise the absorption and bioavailability of iron, zinc and calcium.2 Supplementation of vitamin B12 may be required for people with strict vegan dietary patterns.3
Feeding your kids a varied and nutritious plant-based diet will give your kids the best chance at a long and healthy existence. Isn’t that what all of us parents want for our kids?
Embracing Being Different: A Great Way To Build Resilience And Confidence
Resilience and confidence are such powerful qualities we’d all like our children to possess in spades. Having these qualities will put our kids in good stead for all that life will throw at them. It is so very important, especially as our children progress through the teen years and adolescence, that they possess a positive inner belief in themselves and their own decisions and convictions.
Resilience will give them the ability to work through their struggles and meet challenges headfirst. Confidence will allow them to feel assured that they are valued and have a place in the world.
With high resilience levels children are more able to embrace their differences, be it their personality, their interests, their appearance, or indeed their food choices, in a positive and confident way.
If your kids are eating a plant-based diet they will encounter many questions from kids and adults alike. It is important they are educated so they have good responses (you will be amazed how many adults will feel the need to quiz your child on how they are getting their protein/calcium/iron – ridiculous really when meat-eating kids are never asked such questions).
By educating your children on the benefits of a plant-based diet on their health, the environment and the lives of animals, they will build confidence and conviction about their decision to eat a plant-based diet. They will be more able to rebuke negative comments and bullying and will be less affected by any negative feedback from peers. This will help resilience prosper.
My vegan daughter loves that she is different. She has always been proud of her food choices and fully committed to her decision. She is educated about how and where meat and animal by-products are derived, so as she loves all living creatures her decision to be vegan was a no-brainer. She is just amazed more of the kids around her cannot make the connection.
Empower your children with a plant-based diet. They will be at the forefront of a movement that is the way of the future.
Social Situations: Your Children Will Fit In
If you children are committed to their decision to eat plant-based then they should not feel excluded in social situations. Sure, you may have to do some checking before birthday parties, visits to friend’s homes, and school functions, to ensure there are some food options for your kids, but apart from that, it shouldn’t be an issue. You just need to be prepared.
Luckily, most places nowadays have plant-based options available – you just need to ask. Also, pretty much every food an omnivore enjoys can be replicated as a plant-based recipe.
Children will surprise you – they have an uncanny ability to fit in – so perhaps your ‘worry’ is just that – YOUR worry!
Living A Peaceful Life: Peace Starts On Your Plate!
Peaceful actions at the smallest level are significant. Living a peaceful existence will foster more peaceful vibes in the world. When a decision is made to stop exploiting the weakest and most vulnerable creatures on our planet, when we decide to stop enslaving animals, then we are shifting our mindset to more peaceful thoughts and actions.
Leonardo Da Vinci stated,
“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.”
Demonstrating to your children via your actions at mealtime, to live peacefully without harming other living creatures, is very powerful.
Loving The Planet: Eat More Sustainably
The United Nations released the Livestock’s Long Shadow report stating that meat consumption is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”. Animal agriculture is extremely destructive to the planet. Meat consumption is responsible for 40% more greenhouse emissions than the worldwide use of cars, trucks, ships, and planes combined – that fact alone is staggering! Choosing a meat-free diet will reduce your environmental footprint on this beautiful planet.
Consider the water issues associated with meat production, factory farming polluting ground and groundwater, oceans being fished to extinction, deforestation, species extinction, feeding the poor, and many other environmental issues which would all be less of a dire problem if the world took to a plant-based diet.
Feeding your children plant-based meals could help remedy some of the environmental crises of our time, and ensure they have a planet to live out their lives, and the lives of their offspring.
- American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc 2009;109:1266-82.
- Marsh K, Zeuschner C, Saunders A, Reid M. Meeting nutritional needs on a vegetarian diet. Aust Fam Physician 2009;38(8):600–2.
- National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, New Zealand Ministry of Health. Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand including recommended dietary intakes. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2006.
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