Veganism at our house began with myself, followed by my husband. When we made the ultimate decision to become a vegan family, we knew this journey would be a challenge for our son. He was your typical 9-year-old, whose favorite foods were pizza, burgers, and steak on those special occasions at his grandparent’s house. So he was not thrilled by our choice, to say the least. Like any typical American child, food was a social event, representing holidays & birthday parties. He bonded with his friends at the lunch table as they swapped snacks and discussed their lunches. Our son was at an age when fitting in was extremely important, and standing out was scary. For him, going vegan was just that, scary.
Once the decision was made, our goal was to educate our son about the food industry and the ethics of eating animals. This was important because there is a huge gap between where food comes from and what is on our plates. Like others on a Standard American Diet, my son was very disconnected from what he ate; food was just an item we purchased at the grocery store. We watched documentaries, everything from Forks Over Knives, Speciesism The Movie, to animal rights films like Blackfish, along with numerous Youtube clips of factory farms. Many parents don’t believe it is necessary to watch such gruesome images, but I didn’t want to continue sugarcoating the truth. I wanted my son to see the food system for what it really was and the pain and suffering behind it. We talked to him about the health benefits, the myths of protein and calcium deficiencies in vegans, and how he can thrive on a vegan diet.
The first 6 months were not easy. Our son continued to eat meat at family gatherings when it was an option, and complained about beign different from his friends. Though it was painful to watch, we knew it was part of the journey, and all we could do was continue to be great examples and encourage him to make the right choices. My husband and I knew we needed make this lifestyle enjoyable and easy for him. We made incredible vegan meals daily; we found vegan meat and snack alternatives, and even showed him how many of his favorite foods were actually vegan. We continued to search for foods he would enjoy that were healthy, vegan, and kid-friendly, and on his 10th birthday, we did an entire vegan party! It was a huge step in the right direction.
Many parents ask me for advice on transitioning their families to a healthy vegan diet. What I found that worked for my son (which took some trial and error) was finding vegan versions of his favorite non vegan foods. I struggled with this at first, I wanted to avoid packaged foods as much as possible. I realized I would either have to buy some mock meats, or this journey would come to a halt. I did some research and found there are many options out there, everything from soy, seitan, to black bean burgers! Mock meats came in handy when he craved meat and meat-like textures! His favorite brand is Gardein, their chicken actually tastes like chicken and is a healthy option! Breakfast time he still has his favorite foods like waffles, which I found many brands offer vegan options, like Van’s. My son is a huge fan of soup, so Dr. McDougalls Right Foods soups are a staple in our home. He loves pizza, we have made numerous vegan pizzas and tried all sorts of toppings! His favorite is hummus pizza! It is a great way to add a creamy texture without using cheese! I encourage parents who are looking into veganism not to be afraid to try everything vegan food out there. It is not easy for children to give up their favorite foods, so make the lifestyle enjoyable. It becomes easier as you go to have a nice balance of home made meals and some store bought vegan options.
As his journey continues, he still struggles a bit, but we celebrate every little step he makes! Making a huge lifestyle change is hard, for my son, it has been a challenge for sure. With each vegan meal, I smile, as I know I am creating a beautiful vegan future!
Hummus Veggie Pizza
-Preheat oven to 400
– one vegan pizza dough (I purchase mine premade from the local store)
– 1 container of garlic hummus
– 1 cup fresh baby spinach
– 1 cup chopped broccoli
– 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
– 1 cup sliced mushrooms
– seasonings: black pepper, garlic powder, and dried basil
– roll out dough in either square or round pizza form, depending on your preference. Spread a thin layer of hummus on top of the dough. Next, layer with baby spinach, followed by mushrooms, broccoli, and sweet onions. Season basil, black pepper, and garlic powder. Bake at 400 until veggies are soft and crust is golden!
A great easy recipe for dessert is this Quinoa Brownie recipe I found! My son loved it! These are sweet, gooey, healthy and amazing! Never buy boxed brownies again!
Also by Ewa: 5 Mental Benefits of Exercise
More in Vegan Families: How to Nurture Your Vegan Baby
Kid-friendly Recipe: Mushroom and Black Bean Quesadillas
Photo: Ewa Johnson