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One common myth you will frequently hear is that you cannot raise a healthy child on a vegan diet. According to CBS News, “stories of vegan parents being arrested for malnourished children pop up every few years in the U.S., and the cases in Italy have made international news.” However, the problem lies not within the vegan part of the diet, but it is the inadequacy of the diet. This was the case for those that made the news. “Where on earth did they get the idea that this was a vegan diet?” says Reed, regarding reported diets of solely nuts and berries or soy milk and apple juice. Reed Mangels is a nutritionist in Amherst, Massachusetts, who works with the Vegetarian Resource Group, a nonprofit education, and advocacy group.
“Parents raising vegan kids need to be armed with facts, like being able to rattle off which foods and supplements are providing adequate vitamin B-12 and protein, and where their kids are getting calcium. For those who would question the safety of raising vegan babies, her suggested response is: “The doctors say we are doing it right.” The American Academy of Pediatrics’ book, “Pediatric Nutrition”, includes a chapter on vegetarian and vegan diets. It tells us how, with sound nutrition and dietary planning, “it is absolutely possible to provide a balanced diet to vegetarians and vegans.”
There is also a misconception around reluctancy of change. A lot of people may be interested in adapting a more vegan lifestyle, but fear it is too hard, especially when it comes to their kids and picky eaters. On the contrary, transitioning doesn’t have to be difficult. Raise Vegan suggests how parents approach the idea is key. Letting children get involved in the recipe decision, grocery shopping, and or preparation of the meal can be fun and rewarding for them. “Tell them it’s OK if they don’t like one kind of vegan cheese because there are others to try too. If they don’t like one kind of vegan yogurt, have them try another flavor or brand. Make them feel like they have a say. It’ll help them be more open-minded to the fact that there are great vegan options available.” They also recommend keeping it simple with naturally healthy vegan foods like a peanut butter and jelly, or whole grain breads, or even veganizing family favorite meals.
Another myth that you may encounter is that we should not be unveiling the brutal truth behind the meat and dairy industry, as to the journey of how that “meat” ended up on their plate. Many people say this is detrimental, or too traumatic for children to hear. Alex Myles from The Elephant Journal writes, “I have talked to many who are vegan who say that they wish their parents had explained where food comes from when they were younger, as once vegans and vegetarians awaken to the cruelty and make the connection between what is on our plates, and what occurred before it got there, we are horrified to know that for so many years we played a part in the barbaric abuse and suffering of sentient animals.” In today’s culture, it is the norm, to teach what animals are pets and to be loved, and what animals are for food. According to an eye-opening new research paper called, The Conceptual Separation of Food and Animals in Childhood, “These family traditions, along with current pop culture and food advertising influences,contribute to a food socialization process whereby children learn to conceptually distance the animals they eat from those with whom they have an emotional bond or for who they feel ethically responsible. In other words, children learn what animals to love and which to eat, according to accepted social norms.” Stewart and Cole’s research describes the indoctrinated culture in which we have all grew up and accepted as the norm, and just our way of life. However, they also hint to the idea that we are now entering a time of awakening, one of which our moral compass has pointed us to.
In summary, some of the most common myths surrounding raising a vegan child are; You Cannot Raise A Healthy Child On A Vegan Diet, It Is Too Difficult To Make The Switch, and You Should Not Be Completely Honest And Forthcoming About How Their Food Ended Up On Their Plate. In response to these, we found that a child can indeed thrive on a vegan diet, but the caregiver should be well educated, and well thought out planning is key to ensuring they are getting all necessary nutrients. If considering switching over to a vegan lifestyle, it does not have to be a difficult one for you or your kid, just try to keep it simple, and include them as much as possible. Education is key. You know your child best, and know what they will respond to the most, but do educate and talk to your kids about the facts on where their food comes from and how it got there, or you or they may regret it later in life.’