Vegan Family Profiles
by Rebecca Hess
Please list your family members' names and ages along with something special about them (occupation, favorite food, favorite past time, etc.):
- Gary, age 44, is a computer tech. Likes golf, running, basketball, fixing things and spending time with his family.
- Jill, age 44, is a stay-at-home mom. Likes reading, writing, cooking, working out and spending time with my family.
- India, age 14's interests include dancing, riding horse, sewing, reading and would love to live like the pioneers.
- Noah, age 11, likes guitar, riding bike, basketball and Legos.
- Ezra, age 8, likes riding bikes, swimming, golf, all sports and playing in the woods.
- Judah, age 6, likes riding bikes, basketball, golf, tennis and food.
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Why did your family go vegan?
We decided to go vegan for health and scriptural reasons. Caring for the environment and animals also played a part in the decision, but we really feel it is healthier and that God calls us to eat this way. He does want both our bodies and our minds to be healthy and sound, and being vegan is the best way to do this.
Is everyone in your family vegan and if not, what's that like?
Yes, all 6 of us are vegan.
Were your kids raised vegan from the start or did your family transition into being vegan?
When our first child was born, we began to eat in a more healthy way, eliminating sugar, white flour, and factory meat. We did transition slowly, replacing each bad food with healthier ones. But it wasn't until our 3rd child was born that we went completely vegan through the information we received at Hallelujah Acres. We have now been totally vegan since 1997.
Are extended family and friends supportive of your lifestyle? If you recently transitioned to veganism, how did they react to your change in lifestyle?
Our family members have never been supportive of our lifestyle! They all eat the SAD (Standard American Diet), and most think it is not a healthy way to eat and that we are crazy! There are some who try to understand and will accommodate us, but that is rare.
Do you know other vegan families in the area?
No. We live in the upper Midwest, very much centered within the cattle and dairy industries. It is rare to find anyone who is vegetarian, let alone vegan. It's very much frowned upon to not eat meat or dairy products as most people view it as an attack against the farmers.
How do you handle holidays and birthday parties?
For holidays and other gatherings, we either eat prior to going or we bring our own food. We have been doing this for a few years now, so most of the people expect that is what we will do.
Do you have any favorite recipes or cookbooks?
Recipes for Life by Rhonda Malkmus, The Cookbook for People Who Love Animals, RAW - The Uncook Book, Vegan Family Favorites, and The Lowfat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook. I also like Whole Foods for the Whole Family - but I have to adapt most of the recipes to make them vegan. I also have just taken a lot of old family favorites from our childhood and changed them to make them vegan, and also created a lot of recipes myself, based upon the foods my family enjoys.
Please describe any social or emotional issues you've had to deal with in raising vegan kids.
There have been some very hard times, especially in the beginning. We got ridiculed quite a bit. People seemed to want to push us to eat what they were eating and criticize our decisions. There were some heated discussions and it was not fun. A lot of people said we were denying our children the joy of eating, say, ice cream, and they would be scarred for life because of it. Or that it was going to stunt their growth or cause them to contract some major disease or something. It was brutal really.
When we first changed our diet, we thought we should just let our children eat whatever was served to them so we wouldn't offend anyone. But the children would get physically sick so often from doing that or have terrible side-effects; we finally decided we could not compromise any longer, for the sake of our health. We decided to stop feeling intimidated or feeling like we would offend anyone, because we needed to do what was best for our family.
It was hard on the children for quite a while, and I think they felt like they were just too weird and it was really difficult for them to deal with. But, as we kept on with it, and would talk about it and give them suggestions of what to say, it really doesn't seem to bother them any more. They know how to respond to the critics, and it has gotten easier to follow our convictions. Now our children know what they can and can not eat and it has really helped to have those boundaries set. And as time goes on, some of the people have come to realize this is just the way we eat and they don't fight us about it as much.
Have you met any resistance (or ignorance) when dealing with doctors and/or teachers?
Well, my husband and myself have gotten the most flack from doctors because we have had to see them for emergency purposes. I have been told I am misguided, wrong, and malnourished, and that we are all too skinny! Since our children have been so healthy, they really haven't been to the doctor - haven't had the need to go. As for teachers, we homeschool, so thankfully we do not have that hurdle to go over.
Do you have any words of advice to offer other vegan families or families in the process of transitioning to veganism?
Read, read, read! The more reinforcement and positive encouragement you can get, the better. You can do this! Stand your ground and do not be intimidated into eating what you do not want to (in a nice and polite way, of course!) The parents are the key to the success and health of the family. If the parents are dedicated and set a good example, the children will naturally follow. We transitioned quite slowly, which helped us to adapt to the changes more easily. I would advise parents and children to educate themselves and their children by reading as much as you can from reliable sources that are pro-health and pro-vegan. The China Study is an excellent book. There are other accounts of families who have gone this same route - search for them on the web or at a health food store, and have your children read about this as well. Focus on the fact that in eating this way you are doing the best you can for your body as well as the planet.
Getting the children involved in meal planning and cooking is a plus. Have them prepare a menu for a week and have them make as much of the meals as are age appropriate. Make it fun, like have a Mexican night, or Italian night or Hawaiian night fixing foods that are native to those cultures. Make smoothies with fresh and frozen fruits with different combos and add greens to the smoothies to get those in as well. Try to fit in as much fresh raw fruit and vegetables whenever you can. We have a rule - you must eat the raw food first before any cooked, and you must have a big green salad every day.
That way we are getting all the nutrition we need to be healthy and creating a habit we hope will stay with all of us throughout our lives!!!