Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Monday, March 10, 2014

Help: My Daughter Went Vegan!

Tips for helping your child become vegan

An interesting coincidence occurred recently.  Two parents I know from my children's school approached me about their children's decision to go vegan/vegetarian.  These parents were supportive, but overwhelmed with what to cook for them since their families were very much carnivores.  One parent expressed concern that her daughter was going to starve because she was only eating side dishes.  The other parent was worried about dining out because there was nothing for her to eat except French fries.  They were eager for guidance and help to support their children on their new diets.  

I felt such compassion for these parents, knowing first-hand how daunting a switch to a plant-based diet can be.  Apply the additional worry of a parent trying to do the best for their child, and it would be even more overwhelming.  

Here are some ideas to help:

1. Make meatless Monday a new tradition in your family's home.  Click here for a previous post with information on The Humane Society's campaign for this cause.  Meatless Monday couldn't be easier. Need some ideas?  How about spaghetti with marina sauce and a green salad; tofu stir fry with rice; bean and corn burritos with rice; or vegetarian chili and cornbread?

2. Add a mixed meal or two to your dinner menus.  Tacos, sushi, soba noodle bowls, and lettuce wraps are all great ways to please a family with a mix of carnivores and herbivores. Click here for some meal ideas and recipes.

3. Try some meat alternatives.  In order to be a healthy vegetarian/vegan, I recommend eating a diet high in vegetables, limiting processed meat alternatives. However, there are some very good products available that I encourage you to try out like you would their animal-based counterparts.  Field Roast, Gardein, and Lightlife offer some great products (available at Whole Foods).  In a previous post, I share some great recipes using some of these products.  And remember, you don't have to have "meat" to get protein.  Click here for a great infographic from Kris Carr on plant based proteins.

4. Switch out milk and cheese for a non-dairy version.  There are several varieties of non-dairy milk, (rice, almond, coconut, hemp), all available at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.  Taste a variety until you find one that your family likes and replace your dairy milk.  Daiya and Go Veggie! have some great cheese alternatives you can try switching out for dairy cheese.

5. Do a little prep before you eat out.  The next time your family eats out, check out their menu online and discuss some meal options.  Call ahead to the restaurant to see how they can accommodate a vegetarian/vegan diner.  With your child, create a list of veg friendly restaurants for the family. Here are some of my favorite: Fresh Brothers, Chipotle, California Pizza Kitchen, Lemonade, and Ruby's.

6. Create a recipe file.  Check out VegNews, Vegetarian Times and other veg food blogs for recipe ideas.  Once you have a stack of go-to's, you'll have more confidence to whip up a meal that pleases the whole family.  Check out my Pinterest boards for tons of recipes.

7. Build a community.  One of the hardest parts of changing to a plant-based lifestyle can be the isolation and loneliness.  Make sure your child has resources to help her answer questions and reply to people who may be curious about her diet.  PetaKids is a fabulous website for parents and children.

8. Try a vegetarian/vegan restaurant the next time your family eats out.  Demonstrate your support for your child by introducing them to a vegetarian restaurant.  Oh what a liberating feeling it is to go to a restaurant and not have to worry about finding something on the menu to eat!  Some of my local LA favorites are Sage Bistro, Cafe Gratitude, Rice, and Veggie Grill.

Keep in mind that it's a process.  Work together with your child to make sure she is educated about her food choices so that she is getting what she needs nutritionally.  It will be a learning a curve for the whole family, but the effort will be worth it for the change she is making for her body, the animals, and our planet.

Please let me know if this post was helpful and if I can answer any other questions.