Upon hearing that we are raising our two-year-old
as a vegan, an acquaintance remarked boldly with pessimism,
"Why bother? I don't mean to be rude, but you know as
soon as she's old enough to eat outside the house, she'll
go to McDonald's." Of course we have considered this
eventuality and harbor no illusions about the fragile
bubble we have created around our daughter concerning
her food intake. Nor do we doubt the possibility that
she will not want to be a vegan once she's old enough
to make that decision for herself. Until then we will
do our best to impart our very strong values about the
importance of diet. It never occurred to us that perhaps
we shouldn't raise Kalli vegan. Sure, we heard
the arguments: it's not fair to "force" veganism on
our children (as if she would somehow be horribly deprived),
it's not nutritionally safe, and it's too difficult.
None of the arguments convinced us then, and we stand
strong in our convictions today.
How fair is it to send children out into the world
without first preparing them, arming them with the truth
as you know it? With all the evidence available to us,
how could we ignore the information and not raise our
child vegan? That, in my mind, would be truly unfair.
It's not just a matter of preference when it comes to
choosing what we will eat and what we will not. I know
without a doubt that a vegan diet is the healthiest
and most ethical diet for my family. To refrain from
sharing those ideals with my child because it might
make her different? Well, that argument just doesn't
hold water. Don't we share other important values and
spiritual beliefs with our children? Of course! If we
don't do it, someone else will fill the void. Frankly,
I'd rather not leave it up to the world at large to
educate my child about what's healthy and right to eat.
Even if my antagonists agree with me on that point,
there is still the issue of nutrition. Many people simply
do not believe that children can grow and thrive on
a vegan diet--"restricted" they call it--but the evidence
is on our side. The American Dietetic Association has
stated in their position paper on vegetarianism that
a vegan diet can be healthful for people in all stages
of life, including pregnant women and children. Practically
every day we read new reports of the healing power of
fruits and vegetables and the preventative role they
play in warding off disease. We hear admonitions to
lower our intake of animal products: meat, eggs and
dairy. And yet somehow people still translate this information
to mean that they should simply try to make moderate
changes in their diets. Many more ignore it altogether.
I know how hard it can be to let go of familiar comfort
foods. It took me over ten years of waffling before
I finally accepted the facts and "went vegan." I don't
want my daughter to have to face that same struggle,
so I'm giving her a head start.
I'll admit it. Becoming a vegan was difficult for me.
I made the switch to both vegetarianism and veganism
gradually, over a year's time. During those months,
I witnessed a transformation in my thought processes
about food and eating. I have no desire to go back now.
Once I opened myself up to the possibilities, I realized
that I could still eat many of my favorite foods, just
cooked in healthier ways. Now the substitutions for
meat, eggs, and dairy are no longer substitutions; they
are simply foods that I enjoy eating. My kitchen shelves
are full of foods that two years ago would have seemed
strange, hard to find, prepare, and get used to eating.
So I understand where the argument that "it's too difficult"
finds its origins. But my daughter, who has never had
animal foods, doesn't know the difference. While her
counterparts were eating chicken baby food in a jar
and drinking cow's milk, she was happily eating tofu
cubes and drinking soymilk. And as for a love of animals--it
has not been difficult to instill. That comes naturally
I'm not sure how I'll react when she comes home from
school and announces that she had a hamburger for lunch.
In fact, I still don't know exactly when we'll start
to let her make those decisions for herself. I don't
know many mothers (who take nutrition seriously) who
would let a young child have complete control
over what goes into her lunchbox every day, so I'm hoping
we have a few years before we face this issue head on.
However, I am also aware that each time my child eats
outside our home without me she will face choices and
decisions. And I know that she will not always do what
I would like for her to do. This doesn't mean that I
should give up the challenge now and not make a sincere
effort to pass on the values that I hold dear and the
information that I believe will give her a solid base,
the groundwork for future healthy eating choices. As
a parent I don't shy away from the difficulties of childrearing
simply because they are unpleasant.
I know there are no guarantees that the future I envision
for my daughter will even closely resemble the future
she actually discovers for herself someday, but I can
be happy knowing that I gave her the best start to life
that I knew how. For a few years at least, I will know
that she was nourished with purity and respect for life.
- t a b l e o
f c o n t e n t s -
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