Social Question

OpryLeigh's avatar

If you're a vegetarian/vegan and have kids, did you make/encourage your kids to follow the same diet?

Asked by OpryLeigh (25251points) October 1st, 2010

If you don’t have kids, how do you feel about parents that do feed their children a vegetarian/vegan only diet? Is it healthy for the child? Should the child have a choice or at least be offered a more varied diet until they are old enough to make the choice? Are there enough vegetarian/vegan foods to give a child all the nutrients it needs in the early stages of life?

If you do feed your child a vegetarian/vegan diet only what are your reasons and does your child appear to be happy (and healthy) with that?

I don’t know anything about how good/bad for you these diets so I am not criticising. I am only intrigued because I recently heard of a little boy who had to take his own food to a birthday party because his family were strictly vegan. The child was only 6 years old so I assumed that being vegan wasn’t his choice.

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48 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Excellent question. No kids of my own. Big believer in free choice. I guess I think the kids should have their choice in what type of diet they follow, but that’s got to be tough from the parents perspective. The kids can get all the nutrients they need from a vegan diet if the parents are knowledgeable on nutrition, but it’s not easy.

muppetish's avatar

I have no problem with parents raising their children as a vegetarian / vegan as long as they make sure to meet all nutritional requirements for a balanced and healthy diet. Some of the vegetarians I have met do not have balanced meals at all. Others are healthy, strong and eat balanced meals. Since kids especially require careful nutritional intake, parents should consult a nutritionist (who has experience with their type of diet – seeing someone who has little to no experience with veganism is not going to have enough useful advice.)

I think veganism in particular can be healthy for the child (if done properly.) As the child grows older and wants to explore different tastes, I don’t think parents should forbid their children from trying different foods. If the parent has reservations about the health aspect of those foods (such as eating meat or dairy with added hormones) then they should explain why they do not want the child to consume that particular food, but still leave the choice up to the child.

I have a friend who was raised a pescetarian (the only meat she consumes is fish) and while she did feel some resentment toward her parents for not allowing her to eat junk food as a kid in favour of vegan snacks (dried fruits, granola bars, etc.) she does not carry those sentiments any longer. She is glad she was raised with healthy eating habits.

I’m neither a vegetarian / vegan (though I do intend to change my diet) nor am I a parent.

Discobitch's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe

Free choice based on what data?

nikipedia's avatar

I guess it depends on why the parents are choosing to be herbivores. If it’s a matter of personal preference (“I just don’t like the taste of meat”) it seems stupid to then force your kids to try to adopt your palate.

However, if you’re a vegetarian for logical (e.g., the meat industry is the one of the worst things we do to the environment; people with a vegetarian diet tend to be healthier and live longer) or ethical (e.g., the animals we kill and eat are raised in inhumane conditions while clearly possessing faculty for fear, suffering, and pain) reasons, it would seem hypocritical to then only apply the dietary rules to yourself rather than extending them to your children.

So if I ever have children they will certainly be raised without meat in their diets, and I would hope when they were old enough to make their own choices they would continue not to eat it.

CMaz's avatar

Does it make a difference?

The food you eat is the food that is available for your children.
I do not believe choice is an issue or should be an option for the most part.

Teaching your child to follow direction and accept/appreciate what they have.
Instead of what they want.

That lesson will come soon enough.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@ChazMaz When you put it like that, I can’t disagree (providing the child is raised with a healthy diet that provides the necessary nutrients).

YoBob's avatar

I believe that @muppetish is exactly correct in stating “as long as they make sure to meet all nutritional requirements for a balanced and healthy diet”.

This, however, can often be rather problematic, particularly with children. I know many vegetarians and vegans who are quite healthy. However, the harsh reality is that we evolved as omnivores and getting proper nutrition as a vegitarian/vegan takes a level of effort that is rather difficult to expect of children. Additionally, complete proteins and the full complement of amino acids that require planning to achieve in a vegitarian/vegan diet are absolutely critical in child development, particularly in the development of that big blob of grey matter in our skulls.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

I agree with @nikipedia; if/when I have children, as a vegetarian myself, I will raise them without meat in their diets.

Getting proper nutrition as a vegetarian/vegan is not as hard as some would have you believe. Plus, I would venture to say people who eat meat are just as bad as getting proper nutrition as those who don’t. Meat does not make or break healthy diets.

nikipedia's avatar

Where did this myth that it’s hard to get proper nutrition as a vegetarian come from? Does anyone have a source showing that vegetarian children are less healthy or their brains are less developed than omnivorous children? Or is this just a wild-ass guess?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

We’re all vegan, as a family. We feel eating a vegan diet is the healthiest way to go so why wouldn’t we want our kids to eat the same way we do? Why would I, as an educated mother, not give them what I think is best for them? Some of our reasons for being vegans are ideological and all the reasons were discussed with our 4 year old who had no issues making the switch and when he wants to eat meat (in pre-school) or cheese (at parties), he does. Our 20 month old never ate meat to begin with and we don’t make a deal out of our diet at home. Just like us, the kids are eating healthier than they ever have – meat or lack of it plays such a small role – vegan diets are about balance, grains and veggies and everyone gets the recommended protein amount through tofu, tempeh, vegan meat substitutes and grains (we saw a nutritionist for detailed food plans for every member of our family…as an aside, how many parents you know have actually done that, no matter their diets?). Our kids regularly see their doctor, are growing through the roof and have energy to tire out an ox if an ox was energetic enough to babysit them.

We, as parents, all raise our children in ways we think is healthist, for them – this is why we raise them on a vegan diet, because we know for a fact how unhealthy meat and dairy is and after the rigorous research we have conducted, we believe this is the best for our family. What other parents to with their kids is about their knowledge of nutrition and what they believe is best. No parent can tell me not to raise my kids on a vegan diet because I tell no parent to not give their children meat.

The burden of ‘proof of healtiness of diet’ is not on me, it’s on whoever wants to get into this discussion with me. The question shouldn’t be ‘should vegan parents make their kids eat they way they do?’ because it implies that everyone else somehow lets their kids decided and choose to eat meat and dairy, given all possible options. Since this doesn’t happen, all of our kids eat what we tell them to eat and none of it has to do with imposition of beliefs or it all has to do with imposition of belief and then we’re all guilty of the same thing. What needs to happen is that all parents should be asked about their reasons for feeding their kids what they do and let them critically examine what habits they’re passing on or what facts they’re informed or misinformed about. Because, I gotta tell you, you can try to see if my kids are sick all you want, but I know your (not yours, but you know what I mean) kids are overweight and on a horrid trajectory, healthwise.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@nikipedia I was referring to the fact we don’t synthesize amino acids, and plants don’t contain complete amino acid complexes. The parents need to know what plants contain what amino acids to get the full dietary requirements.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Tofu is a source of complete protein – it provides all of the essential amino acids a body needs, period.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir After I hit the answer button I thought Simones going to hit me with the soybeans. Only soybeans contain pretty much every amino acid. Only one though.

NaturallyMe's avatar

I am vegetarian but not a parent. If i ever were to become a parent, i probably would not forbid them eating meat, because my husband eats meat. I’ll recommend a veggie diet though through my example i suppose – i only cook vegetarian foods anyway, for both me and my husband, and if my husband wants something meaty (which isn’t all the time), he makes it himself.
And any person can most certainly get all the nutrients they need from a veggie diet, as the others have said.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Tofu is ok from time to time, but as a dietary staple?
I’m going to ask this as a question just to see what I get.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe It doesn’t have to be a staple, there are other sources of protein and I think people are unaware of how little protein we actually need and eat more than 200% more than they need, in our society. Even non-controversial nutrition advise speaks to how meat should not be a staple if you’re going to talk about staples and recommends a couple of servings/week.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir You’ll get no disagreement from me that most of us eat too much of everything but we are talking kids and protein. They need all of the amino acids. If they miss out on one it can be bad for their development.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe You know what else is bad for their development? – hormones and antibiotics from meat injected with either/both – the trend in girls hitting puberty earlier than ever is linked to the very thing. Anyhow, kids too, in our society, get too much protein. My 4 year old, according to the nutritionist, needs about 14–17 grams a day and most of that he gets from soy or almond milk and the whole grain oatmeal meal he gets in the morning, literally…add some grains and breads over the day and he’s over the limit by evening without any additional protein from soy or veggie meat (which he eats, as well, daily).

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Understand your point. My point was it isn’t just the quantity, it’s the quality. I forget the total number of different amino acids, but they are all required to be in the diet for the body to use. Almost all plants are deficient in at least one amino acid. It takes a little knowledge or research to know what to mix and match. You’re up on your knowledge of this but I’m guessing there are more than a few parents that aren’t as informed.

YoBob's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe As I understand it, quinoa also contains a complete complement of amino acids.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I complement you on the effort you have put in to ensure you and your family are getting good nutrition. In fact, this kind of illustrates what I was saying above. It is quite possible to follow a healthy vegan diet. It does, however, take a bit of work.

Another poster made the excellent point that omnivores are just as prone to not paying attention to complete balanced nutrition as anyone else.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I can’t speak for all parents out there but you can bet your cute tushie that when parents become vegetarians and vegans that they have paid more attention and have done more research than anyone about what’s actually necessary and healthy and how to make sure their kids get it. @YoBob Sure, it takes work, but shouldn’t every parent take the time to educate themselves on what’s best for their kids, nutritionally and otherwise?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@YoBob Someone mentioned something about quinoa the other day. I’m not familar with it but I’ll look into it. Thanks
@Simone_De_Beauvoir I wish all parents would put the amount of effort into their kids well being you and jean do.

wundayatta's avatar

Are there vegans who deny their babies breast milk?

YoBob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Of course. Every parent does what they think is best for their children. Of course, there are as many opinions as to what’s best as there are parents in the world. That’s what makes forums like this so interesting.

YoBob's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe It’s a grain about the size of a small grain of rice, but round like a lentil. Most mega-marts carry it these days. One of my favorite dishes is Tabouli made with qunoia rather than bulgar.

faye's avatar

My kids were vegetarian when we were. It was one of the choices parents make for their children. I believe it to be more healthy and humane. Knowledge of combining different foods in 24 hours make getting enough protein easy.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta There are plenty of non-vegans that do, that’s for sure. Whether breast milk is safe (and this has nothing to do with whether it represents dairy, since our own milk isn’t dairy) has to do with what the mom is consuming, food wise – I heard of a study not long ago where a researcher wanted to compare levels of hormones in adults to a control group and she thought babies/infants would have none in their systems in terms of chemicals or hormones and boy was she wrong…they, at an infant age, have signs of unhealthy substances in their bodies and that is exacerbated by breast milk, for some people…so sometimes it’s not about denying breast milk, it’s about what the healthiest choice is.

wundayatta's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir The non-vegans who don’t use breast milk usually substitute cow milk or goat milk or something. If a vegan did substitute cow-milk for breast milk, that would be highly ironic.

How do you figure that breast milk is not dairy?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta In a loose sense of the word, dairy is products of other animals’ mammary glands that humans consume, I don’t get your confusion. One’s own milk is what each mammal should consume so there’s no issue. As for supplementation, there are soy based formulas out there.

faye's avatar

Breast milk is natural, dairy is other animals.

tragiclikebowie's avatar

Semi-off topic: when I was a baby I couldn’t digest breast milk so I was fed a soy formula – and this was in the 80s

wundayatta's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir As an adjective, dairy means “Of, for, or relating to milk or milk products.” (citation).

It’s really just a question of what “vegan” means. All I have heard is that they are vegetarians who don’t eat eggs, milk or milk products. Human milk being milk, I wondered if that would be inappropriate for vegan babies.

muppetish's avatar

@wundayatta I always thought the word “dairy” was derived from the noun referencing the building (O.E.D. “1. a. A room or building in which milk and cream are kept, and made into butter and cheese. b. Sometimes in towns the name is assumed by a shop in which milk, cream, etc. are sold.”) A “dairy” is the location where non-human milk (milk from cows, goats, etc.) are collected for consumption.

Dairy in the non-building context, as we more frequently use it now, refers to the substance collected from a dairy (O.E.D. “orig. U.S. Foodstuffs containing or derived from milk, considered collectively.”)

Veganism (O.E.D.): ” 1. A person who on principle abstains from all food of animal origin; a strict vegetarian.” – Breast milk does not go against veganism.

Hope that clears up some confusion.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta Right ‘milk or milk products of other animals’...that just has to be implied, no? Why would anyone think of breast milk as dairy?

downtide's avatar

I went vegetarian shortly after my daughter was born, and I was vegetarian for the following eight years. I didn’t enforce a vegetarian diet on her too, although there were certain things I couldn’t bring myself to cook, and I let my partner do that. On the other hand I don’t disapprove of parents who do raise their children to be vegetarian and if the diet is well balanced, it’s healthy. Probably healthier than most kids’ junk-food diets today.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I think @Simone_De_Beauvoir nailed what I would’ve said better than I could’ve, so I’ll only add to the discussion, that we are really careful about getting all the omegas (3, 6, 9) and they are available from plant sources. It can be done, certainly, though I’m aware that to be as informed as we are and to have all the things needed available is a privilege.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I was hoping you’d answer this as I was already aware that you are a vegan and a dedicated mother. Your answer certainly didn’t dissapoint and I thank you for being so thorough in your reply. The only question I have is regardng your comment that diary isn’t healthy. I was raised to believe (and it may have been because I was raised on a diary farm!) that milk is a valuable source of calcium, especially in younger children (growing bones and all that!). What do you use instead of diary to get the calcium we need?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Leanne1986 Soy milk, almond milk, calcium fortified cereals and loads of green veggies like spinach that are loaded with calcium.

nikipedia's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: I had a huge, amazing amazing spinach salad for dinner last night with almonds sprinkled in… calcium, iron, protein, and lots of other good stuff :)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@nikipedia Dude, I cannot handle any nuts in my salad, it’s crazy. I can only eat them separately from anything else or grated. I don’t do so well with nut intake, must get better.

kess's avatar

If you are a vegan, then you must see some benefits in being one, then naturally you would like to pass that on to others,

Then your children should be the first to reap those benefits.

And if not then why not?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

My parents were into a macrobiotic diet when I was a kid under 10yrs old and for several years then it was a very depressing time for me. I remember going to visit my grandparents in the summers, eating delicious and healthy foods, gaining a little bit of weight and then going back home to drop down weight again, be hungry all the time and very very very moody. I wouldn’t do that to my own kids if I had any, I’d let them make their own choices.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Neizvestnaya That sucks. It’s clear, any diet can be done wrongfully.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t mean to press this point, because it’s silly, really. I don’t care what people do, and if vegans don’t consider human milk to be dairy, that’s fine with me. Still, having the tendency towards nit-picking at times, I’m wondering whether if you express milk from a woman and make cheese out of it—in a dairy—is that still not dairy?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta I don’t know. I feel like people have done that. It doesn’t matter to me, really, because it doesn’t go against veganism when my own children (my own flesh and blood that have shared all my nutrients) are fed my breast milk.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@wundayatta I’m sure different vegans have different takes on breast milk, but I’d guess most vegans would say that human milk is fine because it’s not an animal product. It’s not that milk is out because it’s milk, but because of the extraction of it from a cow, how it’s extracted, and the treatment of the cow throughout its life (and death).

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