The Health and Social Implications of Raising Vegan and Vegetarian Children

Abattoir's 3 from the Garden
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’ll naturally want to raise your offspring as herbivores. But it is healthy? Is it in your child’s best interest to abstain from meat and animal products?

Yes! Rest assured that children can thrive as vegans or vegetarians. Like any other diet, you have to offer a variety of balanced, wholesome foods and give some thought when planning meals to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Basically, you have to use common sense.

According to Joanne Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina, authors of “Raising Vegetarian Children: A Guide to Good Health and Family Harmony,” a balanced vegetarian diet can protect children from obesity, heart disease and other pre-conditions for adult diseases. Children and adults don’t need dairy or meat. They can get iron, calcium and other nutrients from vegetable sources.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are based on whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and legumes-all the foods doctor recommend you eat more of.

So, if this is true, why do vegetarians-let alone vegetarian families-routinely face such harsh criticism from some doctors, friends and family members?

Food is a highly personal topic. As someone who’s been vegan for 10 years, I can attest to the emotional weight people place on food. No one wants to feel that their diet is morally unjust. Many people feel guilty by just being in the presence of vegetarians, without anything being said about factory farms or agricultural practices.

People say vegetarians are deficient in nutrients, that we’re setting up our children to be mocked, and that we just hate good food. But none of these claims are universally true. They are just attempts at being critical.

As someone who’s raising a vegan child, I wonder if this criticism will overflow onto my child or if people will be more accepting of a vegetarian lifestyle by the time he’s engaging in real conversation. Is vegetarianism, as I suspect, a healthy diet being unfairly vilified? Or does vegetarianism still have a lot to prove?

Creative Commons License photo credit: atl10trader

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About Sarah Valek

Sarah Valek is a freelance writer based in Cleveland, Ohio. She has written numerous articles on alternative parenting and the challenges of raising a vegan child in a meat-eating world. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and art from Ithaca College. She spends her days drinking soy lattes and taking her son bird-watching.

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