My son became a vegan overnight in January 2018, whilst in his final year of a psychology degree in Bath. Even though he lived away from home half the year and I am a nutritional therapist, I still found it a challenge to manage. As a very considerate boy and the oldest of 4 children he had always been the peace maker in the family, the one who would take one for the team and would compromise so that his more vocal younger siblings got their way. However, prior to becoming a vegan he had a lot of research and had concluded that this was an entirely necessary step to save the planet and became quite evangelical about it. This caused some issues in the family as the others were not initially convinced by his views, felt a little judged by him and were surprised by the change in him. In addition to my children, I had a young lodger staying and had to give a lot more thought towards what we would all eat to make sure everyone was eating a balanced diet and I wasn’t tearing my hair out. As my son is so well informed and so passionate, other family members began to consider his arguments. There was also a lot in the media about the need for a plant-based diet and some of their friends were also making changes. After this, different members of the family started to give up different foods. My husband and youngest daughter gave up all red meat mainly due to its impact on the environment. It is due to the fact that they use a lot of land, which can then not be used to plant trees and produce a lot of methane. Unfortunately, my daughter is not that keen on fish. She is 15 and slight and in the middle of her GCSE’s – so I am mindful of keeping her healthy and was worried about her cutting out too many foods and not feeding her brain and body properly, whilst she is still growing and developing.
My husband also stopped eating any dairy products as he felt that as his concerns were mainly environmental, he should not be using any cow-based products .
Against this background my eldest daughter is still a confirmed carnivore and, although living away from home, looks forward to eating family favourites from the past when she comes home. On top of this there are also personal preferences in terms of types of dish and flavours.
When he became a vegan, my son was at the University of Bath where there is a lot of interest in veganism. Two of his housemates became vegan at a similar time and they were able to share ideas and recipes, but there are many people, often children that are moving into veganism unilaterally with much less support or ready knowledge. This made me think how hard it must be for some families where providing a healthy vegan diet for your child, is yet another thing to try and squeeze into your already busy life.
In looking into this I have learnt that veganism is quite complex in terms of motivation. As such it is worth considering the motivation as to why your child wants to become a vegan. It may well be environmental, animal welfare or personal health. However, it may also flag the possibility of an unusual relationship with food and clearly if this is the case it is important to know this.
In searching for a solution, it would be relatively easy to resort to lots of the now available vegan convenience products. Whilst this is useful occasionally, they do have their own issues in terms of impact on the environment and nutritional value.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at some of the health aspects of being a vegan and share more of my experiences and some of the solutions I have found.