This feature was written by Cory Warren. Cory is a husband, father of three, and vegan athlete who helps busy families eat more plant-based foods! His blog, Lean Green DAD, helps over-scheduled, busy people (mostly parents) maintain a healthy balance of plant-based nutrition, fitness, and overall wellness so they can go the extra mile for their families.
I’ve found that a healthy combination of education and what I call “parental marketing” helps my kids connect to the food they’re eating and the health benefits associated with it. The education portion is the “why.” Why has your family chosen to follow a vegan lifestyle? Discuss this subject with your kids, and really make sure that they fully understand why your family has chosen this path. Talk about why animals are here on the planet and how smart they are. Read children’s books that promote positive images of animals. Tell your kids how proud you are of them for living this way and how, as a family, you’re an unstoppable force of love and compassion for all living beings.
Parental marketing can be fun, and in our family, it usually occurs after we eat a meal. I like to ask my young ones to show me their muscles after they eat certain foods. I also explain how they’re getting a wonderful amount of protein with each and every bite, which helps their muscles grow big and strong like their favorite superheroes!
With the right combination of education and parental marketing, your kids will truly understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and they’ll be prepared to answer questions and handle tough situations if they encounter them at school.
In a rush to get lunches packed and kids out of the door on time? Have your kids make their own lunches the night before. Set lunch boxes out on the counter, and have them pack their favorite vegan snack foods that don’t require refrigeration.
Stock the fridge with fresh, pre-cut fruits and veggies for them to choose from to put in their lunches. Reusable plastic containers are great for fruits and veggies, and most of them come with small, separate dip or dressing compartments. If they have a personal say in what goes into their lunches every day, they’ll be much more likely to eat them later on.
When your diet and lifestyle are matters of choice, rather than an allergy, it can be confusing for teachers, who are used to having parents and kids constantly tell them that they cannot have a certain food because of health reasons. When you meet with teachers, ask them if you can discuss your child’s diet. You might have to remind them what a vegan diet is. In our family, we simply say, “Our family eats no animal ‘products’ of any kind, including eggs, dairy, and meat.” This basic message resonates well with many teachers.
Informing teachers about your child’s diet is just the beginning. Teachers might feel a bit overwhelmed. They might wonder what they can feed your child, and you might almost see it on their faces! This is an opportunity to make their lives easier by offering to make a vegan option for all special parties or events in exchange for a simple heads-up about when they’ll be held. You might even want to give teachers a “secret stash” of vegan cookies for impromptu occasions.
Once you tell a teacher at your school that your kids are vegan, the word will spread quickly. This is a good thing. Chances are good that your child will not be the only vegan kid in the school. In fact, if you look hard enough, I bet you’ll be able to find a vegan teacher or faculty member, too. Having fellow vegan kids to relate to—even if they’re in another class or grade—will always be a good thing for your child. When my daughter was 5, a staff member came up to her and said, “Hey, I am gonna try this vegan diet thing.” What a huge win!
Do your kids have a science project or book report due? Why not do the assignment on a vegan subject? If your kids have the option to choose what they read or report on, it’s an excellent opportunity for them to present their vegan lifestyle in a nonthreatening, welcoming way. It might even inspire others to pursue this lifestyle. Have fun diving into such subjects as why going vegan is good for the planet and how many animals are saved each year by living this way.
With the right combination of marketing, education, communication, and hands-on experience, your kids will have the tools that they need to lead by example, be open to inclusive conversations about the way they eat, and become proud representatives of the vegan movement.
Our kids are beacons of light and positive energy. While we know that most kids would choose a vegan lifestyle if they understood what their “chicken fingers” were made of, some might have a more difficult time making the connection, and that’s OK. We have to do the best job that we can to arm our kids with the right amount of knowledge and confidence to go forward and proudly wave their “vegan flags” for all to see.