Get tips for raising vegan kids plus recipes ideas straight from parents who have raised thriving vegan kids for years!
If you are newly vegan or thinking about going vegan and have kids one of your biggest concerns is going to be what about the kids. Today we’re sharing tips for raising vegan kids and of course we are going to give you tons of recipe ideas along the way.
Unless you are going vegan before having kids or your children are under 2, there is obviously a lot for concern as well. Often kids who transition later in life have a lot of opinions, especially the older that they may get if you don’t get them on board with the reason for why you yourself are going vegan.
We hope to break down the tips that not only helped us as we transitioned, but also things that we have learned along the way.
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Let’s just straight into the tips –
1. Be honest
Kids are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for. No you don’t have to go into gory details with 4 year olds about the truth of the dairy and meat industry; however, you can explain that you weren’t aware of some things and you have learned some things and you would like to make some changes.
Whether you are going vegan for your health, animals or the environment, take time to explain the why to your child(ren). When kids get explanations that make sense to them they are more likely to register it as something they too would like to do.
2. Transition them slowly
This isn’t a race. No one is asking you or your kids to be the perfect vegans immediately. We recommend that you start by swapping out one or two things first. For example- change their milk to a non-dairy alternative or make their favorite treat (cake, brownies, etc) by making them vegan. Don’t tell them until after and then casually mention it. When they get into their brains that vegan food can taste delicious, then they are more likely to want to make more changes.
For us, we started with just one meatless meal every week. Gradually we did two, then three. This also gave us time to find recipes that we liked and ones that we knew we should pass over in the future.
Doing it in a slow transition also helps to not shock their brain into something they view as tragic as well.
3. Substitute all their favorite foods with vegan substitutes
We read in an online forum once that someone went vegan with their whole family and they needed help because all their kid wanted was vegan chicken nuggets and they went vegan to try to get their kids off processed food.
This point, in a way, reverts back to point #2. You can’t make drastic changes immediately, especially for children.
If you kid was heavy on frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets before going vegan, then chances are they are still going to want those now. Give them the vegan chicken nuggets. But, pair it with a bowl of fruit or a small salad. Encourage them, especially if they hate these types of food, to try 3 bites. After that they may be done for today.
We also have a rule in our house that we all (adults included) must try new foods at least 7 times before we say we don’t like it. We do this because yes, you may hate raw broccoli. You may even hate roasted broccoli. But you may like steamed broccoli. They are different ways to cook foods and committing to trying them different ways is helpful. If you haven’t found a way to like something after 7 times, chances are you do not really like it.
Additionally for this point, if you kids have 10 favorite meals that prior to going vegan you knew you could always make and there would be no fussing over dinner, then you should start by veganizing these meals first.
4. Don’t make them feel left out at school, parties, or holidays
Being completely honest, we learned this one the hard way. We went somewhere and there was nothing but fruit for our kids to have that the host was serving. I had brought some PB&J sandwiches, but when you have that and all the other kids are eating pizza, it doesn’t feel the same. Most especially in the eyes of a child.
One way we make sure that our kids never feel excluded now is to ask what will be served and then make a vegan version of that (or buy it) and take it with us. Most places do have microwaves so if you bring a vegan pizza with you, then you can heat it back up.
So whether they have something special going on at school, a party to attend or you are having the holidays at a relatives house, we encourage you to call ahead and ask what will be served and then take the same or as close as you can things there.
For holidays, since the menus are usually vast or pot luck style, we usually ask the kids what they would like and then go from there and create portable containers of their own meals to eat, then we bring a dessert to share.
5. Give them tools for explaining veganism to their peers
We’ve all heard the phrase, “kids can be cruel”. And it’s true. Especially when something is viewed as “weird” or “different” to them. Kids can pick on and make fun of other kids for the most minuscule things, so when your kids say they are not eating meat, ice cream, cheese, or something else, then other kids may turn into vultures ready to attack.
Make sure that your kids (who are old enough) have the tools to express themselves and why they are choosing to make these changes in their lives.
If you are vegan for the animals, make sure that your kids know that they can say that animals are harmed and they don’t want to contribute that. The older the child, the more details you can give them about how animals are harmed.
If you are vegan for the environment, then explain how the environment is stronger when we eat more plants and less meat.
Do things to build confidence in your child(ren)’s brains that boost how comfortable they feel responding to peers.
For our kids, reading Kayla The Vegan was also helpful.
6. Let them help prepare the food, especially lunches
Whether you are vegan or not, it’s known that the more you can get kids into the kitchen to prepare their own meals and snacks, the more they will be interested in making it. Whether it’s cars made from apples and grapes to a full broccoli or kale loaded casserole or soup.
Kids definitely are more interested in trying foods that they help prepare!
Also allowing them to taste things as they go and explore the different stages of cooking has been helpful for us!
7. Don’t be upset if they slip up
When you are raising vegan kids you can’t be upset if they slip up.
If you have small children (under 12 we’d said), you can expect them to be able to ask “is this vegan?”, or “does this contain milk or eggs?”; however, you can’t really expect them to know that they can’t have gelatin, honey, shellac and more. Most of the times it is hard for adults to remember, so trying to expect a young child to remember is crazy talk.
What you can do is have conversations with all the adults in their lives, especially school staff, babysitters and others that they may stay with overnight, of what are things they can and cannot have.
This is much different if your kid has an allergy to something, but if you solely went vegan for health, environment, or animals, this is bound to happen to both kids and adults at some time and we just have to remember that going vegan is a journey and that there is no perfect way to be a vegan. The goal is to reduce the harm done to animals and if your child accidentally consumes a cookie they were offered, it wasn’t intentional and we should move on.
Older kids can learn and have more expectations to understand what they can and cannot have, but even then, the pressures of being a teenager, maybe out traveling for sports, and more can all lead to a slip up. Again, we should just move on and not be upset.
8. Let them pick out new foods to try at the store
Try a vegan burger, burrito, cheese, or something else and you loved it but your kid hated it? That’s normal. We all have different taste buds.
Next time, let your child go into the store with you and pick out something to try. It may still be a miss, but giving them control and options over the food they consume can lead to more conversations, better understanding, and a happier time with a new lifestyle.
9. Make sure they are getting the proper nutrients
This is a fine line to balance. Kids undoubtedly need a certain amount of nutrients and getting that, especially with picky eating kids, can be a hassle.
We would recommend speaking with a dietitian over your pediatrician and even more so one that is versed in plant based eating and/or veganism.
Many pediatricians don’t have any extensive knowledge about nutritional needs (only the basics are explained in medical school), so they may not have the proper knowledge about the benefits of going vegan and what vegan kids need to thrive.
Even more so, finding someone that knows plant based or vegan lifestyles is even better because they know that you truly can get all the protein, iron, and more from eating plants.
If you cannot afford to see a specialist, we recommend that you just offered a varied diet. There’s nothing wrong with vegan meat substitutes or ice cream in moderation. Make sure they are getting fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and other healthy ingredients to help them grow!
10. Keep the menu fun
One of the best ways to keep kids interested in being vegan is to keep the menu tailored to things they love. Our kids love tacos, so at least once a week we have tacos of some kind. We try to add in fun things like pizza fridays or creamy pastas that they can slurp and have fun with. In between those we have healthier meals that are loaded with veggies, but still taste amazing like our tex-mex vegan rice or broccoli, cashew and chickpea skillet meal.
The goal here is to have kids enjoy the foods they eat on a vegan diet and not look at it like something that is hard or an annoyance. The more they can have fun, the more the will want to continue!
What are Vegan Meals that Kids Love?
We thought you’d never ask! Of course we have some recipes to share with you! These are easy vegan meals that our kids love, but make sure that you check out our website for even more ideas!
We hope you enjoyed these tips for raising vegan kids! Want even more tips? Check out our (not kid specific) Tips for Going Vegan!