This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer.
If you are a plant-based vegan or transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle you may find that not everyone in your family is on board with your decision. As you educate yourself you likely want to raise plant-based kids, but get resistance at every turn. If you’re living in a house divided by eating preferences and want your kids to eat healthy, these 5 tips will help you implement a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your family without making you go crazy in the process.
It’s no secret in my world that my husband and I are VERY different! He’s the outgoing, gregarious guy hanging out next to the deli tray. I’m the quiet observer, talking to the few people I know, and munching on the veggie tray. He’s a meat-eater through and through. I’m a flexible plant-based vegan. I want to raise plant-based kids. He doesn’t want our kids to have a restrictive diet.
Is it healthy for a child to be vegan or plant-based?
My husband believed that a plant-based diet was too restrictive and thus wasn’t healthy for our kids. He was worried they wouldn’t get the nutrients or calories they needed. In particular he was concerned about their iron. With a well rounded plant-based diet that includes plenty of vegetables and starches such as potatoes, corn, rice, and beans. You do however need to be sure that your children are consuming enough calories. I do this by making sure my kids are eating plenty of high fat plant-protein in the form of nuts, seeds, and avocados. This article from Forks Over Knives is a great resource.
It Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing
It’s taken quite some time, and a whole lot of compromise, to come to the conclusion that a healthy plant-based lifestyle doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
I used to spend my days worried about everything my kids ate, whether is was organic, non-dairy, non-processed, Non-GMO, sugar free, and on and on.
Then I would find out that when my husband took my kids out for breakfast they’d eaten pancakes with artificial syrup, with a side of bacon and sausage. It would quite literally cause me to have an anxiety attack. Here I was trying so hard to encourage healthy plant-based eating with my kids and he’d ruin it all with a trip to the diner.
When I spoke to my husband, he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. They were having a great time together! The boys loved their breakfast! Why was I upset about that?
My reply was that he was feeding our children harmful foods that would lead to long term health complications that cause heart disease and cancer!
He’d respond that he didn’t think eating pancakes once and awhile was going to harm them.
I realized I had to let some things go for my own sanity. However, I knew that most of the time my kids were with me eating food I felt good about.
Raising Plant-Based Kids in a House Divided
Shorter than breaking up our family over dietary preferences which seemed pretty ridiculous, my husband and I needed to come to a consensus when it came to feeding our children. He didn’t want the kids growing up with a restrictive diet. I didn’t want my kids eating harmful foods, or developing poor eating habits that would take with them into adulthood.
That’s when came up with the following strategies to help create common some ground.
These strategies help us raise kids who aren’t confused about food, and have created some peace in our marriage. I hope they will help you as well!
1. Come to an Agreement on the Basics with Your Partner
What are the foundations of your child’s diet that are most important to you? Talk to your spouse about these foundations at a time when your kids are not around. Explain why these things are important, but also be willing to hear your spouse. Come to a reasonable compromise. I find it’s helpful to write things out, and stick it on the refrigerator. That way everyone remembers the agreed upon foundations of daily healthy eating practices.
For me the most important part of raising healthy kids is to be sure that they are getting plenty of vegetables and fruits in their diet. We also agreed on buying organic produce, following the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen guidelines.
We came to an agreement on what a healthy plate for the kids looked like. Agreeing that half of their plate should be vegetables, a quarter of their plate a whole grain, a quarter of their plate a healthy protein source, and a side of fruit.
2. Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice to Your Partner
My husband does not like receiving a lecture from me, and I’m sure your spouse feels the same way. When I stood on my soapbox and declared all the reasons why the foods he was eating was ruining his health, and the health of our children, he would understandably get defensive.
After learning my lesson, I realized if I stepped back and allowed him to ask me questions, he was much more open to hearing what I had to say. He’d actually be curious about the health benefits of legumes, or why flax seeds were a great addition to oatmeal.
3. Don’t Argue About Food in Front of the Kids
Arguing about food in front of your kids causes a great deal of confusion, and doesn’t promote a healthy relationship with food for them.
There are times when my husband puts a plate together for the boys and it’s not ideal. Or he offers them a snack right before we’re going to have dinner. It takes a lot of willpower not to “fix” it, but I’ve realized I have to do what is best in order to raise healthy happy kids in the moment.
Arguing with my husband in front of the kids about serving them a sugar filled granola bar before dinner was not going to be helpful for anyone.
Instead, bite your tongue, and approach your spouse at a later time when you are alone.
4. Create a Plant-Based Grocery List Together
I’m very particular about the products I buy for our family. My husband is not. I’m a religious label reader. My husband is not. I go to the grocery store to buy foods for our family, and so does my husband. Grab my Pantry and Fridge Staples List HERE.
I can’t ban my him from the grocery store, and so he often comes home with packaged foods I would never buy. This used to send me into a panic. I felt like I was in a losing battle against processed food. Even though I didn’t buy these foods, my husband kept buying them.
That’s when we came up with an agreed upon grocery list. If he must buy granola bars, he now knows I prefer Larabars. If he gets bread from the store, he now knows I prefer the sprouted whole grain bread.
Taking the time to make a grocery list with specific brands of foods that you like, and that your spouse is okay with too will save you from having a pantry and refrigerator filled with foods you don’t want your kids to eat. It will make the entire meal time process so much easier!
5. Be Flexible
This is the most challenging part for me. If my husband was as excited about healthy whole plant-based foods as I am, we would be 100% on the same page at all times. But the truth is we’re not, and we’re never going to be. Instead of becoming frustrated, and constantly trying to control everything my kids eat at all times, I’ve learned to be flexible.
There is so much freedom when you let go of perfectionism when it comes to your diet and the diet of your kids. Rather than feeling like you’re in a constant uphill battle with your spouse, you allow room to enjoy meal time with your family.
Sharing in the mealtime experience is such a human necessity. Focusing on the conversation, the time shared together, and enjoying a healthy meal will promote healthy happy kids so much more than a hyper focus on whether they’re eating the “right” healthy foods at all times.
When you and your spouse have different diets and health habits it can have a strain on your relationship. That strain is amplified when kids come along. But the most important thing is to model healthy behaviors in front of your kids. That includes showing respect, compromise, appreciation and love for your spouse.