As parents, we all make choices every day that affect our children’s growth and well-being. One of the main decisions we make is how we choose to feed our kids. Omnivorous parents — those who eat a varied diet of meats and dairy, vegetables, fruits, and grains — almost always raise their own kids to be omnivorous as well. After all, just like an omni diet isn’t for us, a vegan diet isn’t for everyone. So why is it so surprising then that vegan and vegetarian parents should want to do the same with their offspring?
Vegan and vegetarian — henceforth referred to as "veg*n," a term that encompasses both vegan and vegetarian diets — parents face additional hurdles once they become parents. While many around them may have grown comfortable with their dietary and lifestyle choices, it seems once they have kids, everyone’s got a million opinions regarding how they’ll be raising their children. And not only that, but it seems like all of a sudden folks will, once again, begin to question their own reasons why they are veg*n, as though getting pregnant or having kids somehow changes everything. I recall having many people act overly concerned about my diet when I was pregnant and vegetarian, and it seemed so bizarre (not to mention intrusive). Truth is, veg*n moms are pretty sick and tired of hearing the same old questions, criticisms, and “jokes.” If you run into one of us in the near future, here’s a brief list of what NOT to say:
"So...Are You Still Veg*n?"
I don’t know. Are you still eating food with a face? I’ve never understood the fascination with wanting to know how a person eats every day (unless it’s to get awesome recipes). If I’ve already told you I’m veg, you don’t need to ask every time you see me.
"Did You Eat Or Crave Meat While You Were Pregnant?"
Another intrusive question. Truthfully, I don’t often crave meat because it’s been so long since I had it. Sure, sometimes a burger smells yummy, but then I remember that I’d probably feel sick biting into it, and there goes that. It's not, like, a constant, tormented battle to not eat certain foods. Seriously, we're generally not sweating it that hard, guys.
"Is Breastfeeding Vegan?"
This is (hopefully) a joke some people might ask, but it’s not funny. Also, not every parent breastfeeds and it’s totally fine to raise a baby on soy formula so don’t knock it. We'll figure it out.
"If You Breastfeed, What Do You Use For Chapped Nipples Beside Lanolin?"
There are plenty of vegan alternatives to lanolin or beeswax-based nipple creams. So we’d use any of those. Now why are you talking to me about my nipples?
"Are You Raising Your Kid Veg*n?"
Does it matter whether I am or not? Will you be cooking our meals every day? The worst is when you maybe aren’t raising your kids veg*n and then people try to smugly act like they’ve got something over you. Like, "Ohhhh, you're not raising your kids to eat like you, so I'm going to take that as an admission that how you eat is unhealthy or ridiculous. Win for meat-eaters!" Just don’t. Don't be that person. There's no need to turn dietary choices into competing teams, and if you insist on doing so, don't dare act like how I choose to feed my kids could ever result in them "being on your team."
"What If Your Kids Are Pressured To Eat Meat/Dairy/Eggs?"
Kids are going to face a ton of different types of pressure in their lives: pressure to cut class, pressure to cheat on a test, pressure to steal, pressure to have sex, pressure to drink, etc. The point is to raise children who can stand up to pressure when they don’t feel like doing something, and who are forgiving of themselves if they do want to try something new (so long as it’s safe). Plus, they might end up being the ones pressuring their friends to try vegan brownies (totally the best way to hook 'em into the lifestyle).
"Is Being Veg*n Safe For Your Health? For Your Kids?"
People can be healthy or unhealthy on a veg*n diet, healthy or unhealthy on an omni diet. Plain and simple.
"Are You Going To Let Your Kids Know That Plants Are Alive, Too?"
Umm, yes. But that won’t be a reason for me to stop being veg*n or for them to stop if they don’t want to.
"Will You Be Buying Your Kids Only Non-Leather Shoes?"
Hrm...probably? But again, unless you’re buying my kid’s shoes, why does it matter?
"Are Vaccines Vegan?"
No. They are not. But many vegans still vaccinate their children for the same reasons non-vegans do. Choosing to be veg*n doesn't mean we instantly melt into an anguished puddle if we're forced to deal with animal products. We try not to, but we can't control everything, and most of us are reasonable human beings who get that, and just roll with what needs rolling with. We might not love it, but like most parts of parenting, you weigh the pros and cons, and make the best choice of the available options. Do we generally feel like vaccinating our kids is more important than flawlessly adhering to our vegan preferences? Um, yes. For sure.
"What If Your Kid Needs A Medical Procedure That Was Once Tested On Animals? Would You Refuse To Let Them Do It?"
Errr….seriously? I know I saw an episode of Grey’s Anatomy once where a girl didn't want to have a pig heart valve implanted for religious reasons, but even her parents were like, "Yo, will you please be reasonable and choose to do what you need to do to live?" Basically, most parents would do whatever it takes to save their kids, so there you have it.
"I Tried To Be Vegan But I Just Couldn’t"
Cool story, bro. Y’all really don’t need to let us know that. I mean, we appreciate it, but it’s not a big deal to us what you eat. Just what we do.
"Are Your Kids Only Going To Use Vegan Products (Shampoo, Soap, Toothpaste, etc.)?"
They’ll use whatever I buy them, so yeah, probably a lot of vegan stuff mainly.
"Will You Ever Take Your Kids To McDonalds?"
Every parent is different. If you’re raising your kids vegan and you’re vegan, you probably won’t have much reason to go there. If you’re vegan/vegetarian but your kid is omni, you might (or might not). Point is, why is it important for you to know?
"What DO You Eat At Restaurants?"
Food. Lots of yummy, delicious, life-giving food.
Yeah, sure, we have teeth that allow us to be omnivores, but regardless of the paleo diet fad, most of our ancestors were vegan (with the occasional hunt thrown in). More importantly though, if we have the ability to be more compassionate human beings and not contribute more toward the suffering of other animals, why not?
"How Can You Live Without Bacon?"
How can you live with bacon? Gross. This is seriously not the way to entice a veg*n into going back to meat, honestly. Oh, you disagree? You think bacon is delicious? I guess we just are different people who like different things. Weird how that works. I guess maybe we should just, like, not question each other too hard about what we're each eating. Seems like the way to go.
"What If Your Kids Never Want To Be Veg*n?"
They’re free to make their choices. Unlike many omnivores, we won’t be making them feel lousy about the choices they make or pressuring them constantly to change. That gets old fast.
"What If Your Kids Resent You For Being Veg*n/Raising Them Veg*n?"
Kids, and especially teenagers, will always find reasons to rebel, to be angry or annoyed with their parents. It’s part of the job. Point is we do the best we can for them while we can. If they don't hate me for how I feed them, they'll hate me for something else. Shrug. Not losing sleep over it.
"Won’t Your Kids Get Sick More?"
Not if we feed them right. And not any more than a kid whose main diet consists of potato chips and cheeseburgers.
"Aren’t You Afraid Your Kids Will Feel Left Out?"
When raising a veg*n child, you might end up having to mention their diet to other parents when they go over to a friends house or a party. You might have to make special arrangements so that they’re fed. But then again, maybe they’ll meet other veg*n families or be just as included by others. Why would we want them hanging out in places and around folks who would exclude them anyway?
"What Do You Plan To Tell Your Kids When They Ask Where Meat/Eggs/Dairy Come From?"
The truth. And if they’re not veg*n yet and want to be after that, I’ll totally help them. And if they say they’re fine with it and want to eat meat, that’s OK, too.
"Are You Getting Enough Protein? Is Your Kid Getting Enough Protein?"
YES. Now please stop asking this. PLEASE.