LK: How old are your kids?
EL: We have two kids that are both being raised vegan. One who is five, and can lift a Volkswagen over his head, one who is three-and-half, who tears around the apartment on her scooter and bike at breakneck speeds. Both have been vegan since birth.
As vegan parents we knew immediately we would be raising our kids vegan; there was just no other option as we saw it. Our entire household, including our dog, is vegan.
Once you understand the benefits of a vegan diet for human health, the sustainability of the planet, and for the animals, we clearly know we’re doing the right thing for our kids. As expected, there are other, well-intended friends and family members who think otherwise and have both cautioned us about our choices or judge us because we are raising them vegan.
As I said, they are well-intended.
Guaranteed, they wouldn’t say one word if we were raising them on the Standard American Diet (SAD) or taking them to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. “Happy Meal,” by the way as its marketed by McDonald’s, is the ultimate oxymoron. The way we think about raising our kids vegan is that we’re giving them an advantage they will thank us for later in life.
LK: Are there challenges you experience raising kids vegan (either from your kids or school/ caregivers, peers, pediatricians, etc) and how do you handle them?
EL: While there are challenges to raising vegan kids there is nothing insurmountable as 75% of what everyone else eats, on a balanced diet, is vegan anyway. The occasional birthday party, which in our case is as many as two per weekend, where we didn’t come well-prepared or the school snacks that consists mostly of dairy and egg-laden ingredients, or the grandparent who feels the need to ask if they can have a piece of fruit (yes, this happens — actual fruit); we’ve easily overcome these challenges, so far.
LK: What do you feed your kids on a normal day?
EL: Luckily for us, our kids love all of the plant-based milks and would rather eat broccoli over brownies. Breakfast can be a bowl of cereal, toast with vegan butter, or pancakes and tater tots (on the weekends). Their lunches consist of fruit, veggies, hummus, a fruit pouch, a granola bar, and usually some sandwich that they both love. Vegan cheese with Just Mayo or sun butter and jelly. Most parents forget that meals like peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti with marinara, and rice with beans are all vegan all the time.
Dinner is something different every night as I love to challenge myself in the kitchen preparing new recipes for some of my old favorites. The kids love homemade fettucini Alfredo (cashew cream-based), fried rice (sometimes with VeganEgg added), pesto penne, vegan Shepard’s pie, and tacos. Vegan tacos will please everyone.
LK: Do you see benefits in your kids’ health/attention, etc vs non-vegan peers?
EL: While we’re not supposed to compare our kids to the other, meat-eating kids, I can tell you I know one thing for sure: ours are never constipated. May not seem like a huge win, when other parents have to call off playdates because their kids is crying on the toilet all morning, we do feel having “regular” kids is a sign of a much healthier diet. There is no real required nutritional value to eating meat, dairy, and eggs. And our kids’ check-ups are always excellent. They are thriving. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misinformed or doing it wrong. Setting aside all the amazing alternatives for non-vegan foods, a whole food, plant-based diet is nutritionally superior to any other diet. And the physical and intellectual growth we see in our own children proves this every day.
LK: What’s it like being a ‘vegan Dad…’ Dads are, you know, associated with ball games and hot dogs, barbecuing meat, taking kids out for pizza and burgers, etc. What do you eat? How have your peers/fellow parents responded?
EL: Where we live we have many vegan friends and many of them are parents. Some of them contributed content to my latest book, “The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids,” and some of them have helped us with so many aspects of going, and staying, vegan. Meanwhile, I have many other friends who are not vegan who are supportive and ask many questions. Most seem doubtful but all are willing to try the burgers and dogs I bring to a BBQ as well as the potato and macaroni salads. Recent 23andMe results showed that I actually have Just Mayo in my DNA.
When they try these foods they are amazed at how good they are and then I hold my tongue I want to ask them if it’s so good why do they still eat meat?
There have been so many innovative new foods in the past five years that it’s finally safe to say that going vegan means giving up nothing.
LK: Do you think schools should or need to address plant-forward diets more than they are? Some school districts have been adding more vegan options to lunch programs. What are your thoughts on this?
EL: We had our own experience with our daycare a few years ago. We realized we were paying the same tuition as the other parents but not benefitting from the daily snacks that were offered. Because so many dairy and egg products are subsidized and readily available, there were no snack options for our own vegan kids. We took it up with the corporate office and let them know that by offering plant-based options they were not only addressing our concerns but the concerns of parents of lactose-intolerant, or egg-allergy, kids. Within a few months, they started to offer vegan snacks on our recommendation.
As our five-year-old is about to embark on his journey to kindergarten, I am sure we are going to have to start this process again (unless some trail-blazing vegan parents were there before us).
I truly think the future is vegan. I think that most schools, dining halls, and restaurants are really going to step it up in the coming years. They will see that this is not a trend and that offering vegan options will benefit their bottom line.
LK: How do you celebrate Father’s Day as a vegan?
EL: Selfishly when I’m asked, “what do you want for Father’s Day?” My usual response is: keep the kids away from me for as long as possible. This sometimes works.
When it doesn’t, I’d like to have the kids know how to make black coffee in my Chemex, cook up a VegEgg omelet with Follow Your Heart smoked gouda, some hashbrowns with peppers, and a fresh fruit salad. Feed dad and then let him go back to sleep.
Having kids is like gathering everything you’ve ever owned, throwing it on the floor, picking it up, and repeating for infinity. Dads deserve a day off from being a dad and that day might as well be Father’s Day.