When my son was a baby, I wrote a story for a major news outlet on my decision to raise him plant-based.
The response was intense, traumatic, and perhaps naively unexpected on my part. In the comment section of my story, I got viciously attacked—accused of abuse and neglect for not feeding my son animal products and called out for breastfeeding by people on the internet who vehemently argued that breast milk was not vegan.
I am sharing this experience to let you know that if you decide to raise your child plant-based not everyone will agree with your choice—I can attest to that firsthand.
However, the way you choose to raise your family is yours, and if someone doesn’t agree with your well-informed, well-researched healthy choices then that’s on them—not on you. In my opinion, your choice to consider the health of the planet while you make conscientious choices for your family is something to celebrate!
Almost a decade after my initial story came out, our world is much more informed, and the plant-based community has grown more mainstream. Social media in particular makes this global community much easier to access.
I have written articles and spoken on the subject of our plant-based choices, and the response for the most part is welcoming and grateful, which warms my heart. There is still a stigma surrounding raising a child plant-based, but I am not letting myself be shamed, and it is my hope that you won’t take that on either. I am finding my people, my voice, and I am confident in myself and the way I am choosing to raise my family.
So let’s dive in—here are some of my suggestions to embark and continue on a plant-based way of life for your family.
While I am often billed as a lifestyle and wellness expert, I am by no means a medical professional or a nutritionist, so when it came to the health of my son, I made sure that I consulted with both our family doctor and a certified nutritionist as our journey began. Regular check-ins with our GP, just as any other parent does, are an integral part of our healthy lifestyle and are a key component to the success of raising your child plant-based.
I do a lot of research into nutrition and healthy eating, but consulting with a nutritionist is always of benefit, particularly if you don’t have the opportunity to do the copious amounts of research on your own.
Connecting with the plant-based community is an inspiring way to develop your understanding of plant-based living; I follow all kinds of awesome vegan accounts for recipes and lifestyle inspo and have zero shame in hitting up those DMs when I have questions!
We are avid readers in my household, and vegan recipe books are a big passion of mine. My kitchen doubles as a test kitchen—the more you learn, the more you can have fun with this journey, and that includes making mistakes. Not everything you make is going to be a masterpiece, particularly when you’re just starting out, but as with any new skill, it’s all in the practice.
Getting your kids in on the action is an enjoyable part of the experience and a great way to strengthen their connection to food. My son loves making kale chips, and I am certain that some of the pleasure in eating them comes from the pride in making them himself—rinsing the kale, peeling the leaves from the stem, and that oily massage before filling a baking tray with his work!
Visiting farmers markets, growing herbs, smelling my morning coffee beans, peeling potatoes, chopping veggies, even carefully packing the leftovers in containers—his involvement in all of it makes the experience and connection to food more mindful.
While we are 100 percent plant-based in our home, once my son reached school age, we ran into challenges. School celebrations often came with non-vegan candies and treats, as did children’s birthday parties. I made the decision to enforce a strict no-meat rule, but if my son is at a birthday party and wants a slice of cheese pizza I don’t restrict him—I let him choose, and I don’t judge him for his choices.
We are so excited in those moments when we attend another plant-based kid’s party or when a resourceful parent hooks up a vegan cupcake, but we don’t expect it. I find that by not restricting the food and encouraging the mind-body connection, at nine years old, my son is able to make his own decisions about what he enjoys, and they often organically echo the lifestyle choices we follow in our home.
We talk about how food makes him feel, and I support a balance mentality. If he wants a homemade vegan cookie or two for dessert, I encourage him to enjoy it, while at the same time teaching him to balance his plate with other potentially more nourishing foods. Giving him control over which veggies and fruits he wants with dinner, or which protein source he wants to enjoy, empowers him to make his own positive food choices.
Now that he is a little older, we have check-ins about how he is feeling with our lifestyle choices. There have been moments where his snacks have been made fun of, which was hard, and there have been victories where kids on the playground happily share in his plant-based goodies. I think the key here is not to be defined by what other people think of you, and so this is what I try to instill in him—a lesson that whether you are nine or 90 holds true.
If your dietary decisions are healthy and make you feel good then that is what matters.
I do my best to educate him with age-appropriate information while encouraging a respect for nature in all forms. Most of his school friends do not follow a plant-based diet and tolerance of other people’s lifestyles while celebrating our own is important as he begins to formulate his own opinions.
We live each day celebrating the joys that life has to offer and that includes our plant-based food. It’s immensely pleasurable to nourish and delight my son on the weekend with a stack of vegan waffles topped with a thick swirl of almond butter, vegan chocolate chips, hemp hearts, cinnamon, flaxseeds, fresh fruit, and nuts. There is so much abundance to embrace with plant-based eating; it is quite the opposite of the restrictive diet that so many naysayers imagine.
I tend to veer on the healthy, whole-food side, but I make sure to sprinkle in kid-friendly classics with a vegan twist: coconut ice cream, oven-toasted mac ‘n cheese, birthday cupcakes with vegan frosting—all of the goodies. As my son’s tastes mature, I am having even more fun introducing flavours and foods. We are currently exploring our Chinese heritage in the kitchen, and it’s so incredibly pleasurable to embark on this plant-powered journey together.
Developing his pallet early has helped; having a taste for raw cacao and dark chocolate over conventionally processed options means my son will often naturally gravitate toward a healthier choice.
So, I think the major takeaways for raising your child plant-based are:
Find your people. Trust me, there is a whole community of folks out there, excited to raise their families as plant-based as possible. Share ideas, trade recipes, set up a group to pass on outgrown toys and clothes (because caring about the planet isn’t just about what we put on our plates; there are so many other ways to show up).
Trust your gut but do the work, research, source professional opinions, and expertise, and have fun. Experiment with recipes and ingredients, and make plant-based living a beautiful part of your family life.
And no shame when it comes to hitting up those plant-based DMs for advice!