“Mum I’m becoming a vegan”. Those were the words said to me by my 16-year-old girl as I was halfway through stuffing a chicken to have a lovely Sunday afternoon family roast with her and her two younger brothers.
The Initial Shock
“Oh God, don’t be stupid,” I replied as I rolled my eyes making sure the stuffing went all the way inside the chicken.
“That’s gross… and I’m serious,” she replied.
Great I thought. Just great. As if I don’t have enough on my plate. I don’t have time for this ethical stance on animal rights. Am I right? Being a vegetarian was one thing, but becoming a vegan was taking it to a whole different level.
I thought I’d be smart. If I went along with her she would soon get sick of it and realise that this life choice was not for her. After all, it was a peer pressure thing…she wanted to fit in with her friends at school, all the cool YouTubers she currently followed were vegans and more importantly, it was just a phase she was going through, it would soon pass. Just like the phase when she was obsessed with One Direction. She could never live without Burger Rings – could she?
Just a Phase?
As time progressed this phase did not pass. She became more passionate and more determined that this was a lifestyle choice that suited her. She did not waver at my suggestions but more so looked at me as if I were going mad. “Why don’t you be a vegan that just eats fish?” “Don’t you miss eggs?” “Would you like crackle with your roast vegetables?” “A little butter on your roll won’t hurt you.” Think my lowest point came when I rationalised this comment; “ How can you call yourself a vegan if you won’t walk the dog?”
The truth is, I didn’t know how to cook for a family with two boys that absolutely loved meat and a daughter that not only didn’t eat meat but also any other animal products as well. I didn’t feel I had the time to cook different meals seeing as I didn’t get home from work until after six and lastly I worried I didn’t have the finances to adequately cater for all these different meal options.
On her birthday I looked at her face when her friends all chipped in and got her a pair of Dr Martens Vegan 1460. The material was described as… Vegan-friendly. A non-leather synthetic material which is soft and supple, and has a subtle two-tone finish. She was literally in heaven.
I soon realised that I had two options. I could keep waiting for the “phase” to be over or I could embrace the “phase”. I decided to first ask her the question as to why she wanted to be a vegan, perhaps something I should have done from the beginning and not merely dismissed. “So, why do you want to be a vegan?”
Her reply surprised me. It was not a whimsical unthought out response but one filled with passion, deep thought and emotion. “I initially wanted to be a vegan as I had been a vegetarian for a while and understood that being vegan was better for animals and it seemed like the next logical step, but I never understood why. And then a while into my vegan journey, I listened to a podcast about veganism by Russell Brand called Under the Skin – plant based diet and plant based consciousness.
I found this really interesting and cemented my desire to live a plant based life, as it presents the negative effects that the use of animal products has on the animals. Although I initially went vegan for my respect for other animals, I am constantly learning about the detrimental effects that the meat industry has on the environment and how veganism is good for health.” I told you, a well thought out and heart filled logical response. I was gobsmacked.
Learning about the Vegan Life
I then sat down and watched videos with her titled Cowspiracy, What Cody Saw, Earthlings, Farm to Fridge and Hatchery Horrors… and yes they were actually as awful as the title suggests. I had a tear in my eye. I listened to podcasts with her by Russell Brand and Simon Amstell that she listened to over and over again. These were thought provoking and informative and I have to admit I started questioning my choices, past generations choices and the world’s choices in general. For the first time, I could actually comprehend why she decided to be a vegan.
But my daughter is not alone…Did you know that much of the world is trending towards plant-based eating and this massive global shift could be here to stay. Veganism is definitely on the rise. Since 2006 there has been a 350% increase in those opting for a plant-based diet. Millennials are central drivers of this worldwide shift away from consuming animal products with around 64% being under the age of 34. There is an increasing trend of people turning vegetarianism to veganism, just like my daughter.
The Role of Social Media in Veganism
The question that many people are asking is – ‘Has social media played a big part in the vegan movement?’
There is no denying that it has allowed the vegan message to spread a lot quicker than it would have otherwise done. Almost 50% of the world’s population has access to the internet. Social media and vegan influencers from vegan chefs to vegan bloggers have played a big role in this shift.
The platform Instagram has been credited for the rise in veganism as it has transformed a kooky hippy diet to an aesthetically-pleasing cacophony of ‘earth bowls’ and ‘green goddess’ smoothies. Vegan people on Insta are beautiful, fit, cool and healthy. Vegan photos and hashtags all communicate that the vegan movement is “the place to be.” #veganlife #veganchics
So, after much wishing that she stayed a vegetarian as it was by far “easier” for me, I then decided to embrace her choice and support her in her lifestyle choice. I Googled everything on veganism from ‘best vegan breakfasts’, ‘vegan diets for teen girls’, ‘vegan recipes’, ‘beans with the highest proteins’ and ‘quick and easy vegan meals’. I quickly learnt about nutritional yeast, acai bowls and alternative milks such as soy, almond, coconut and macadamia. I read up on the benefits of fermented veggies, split peas, nuts and seaweeds. I also purchased cool cookbooks such as Vegan Eat – A Cookbook (that happens to be vegan) by Shannon Martinez and Mo Wyse. And I became actually obsessed with reading labels on everything… contains milks solids was a definite no.
Embracing the Vegan Life
And then the weirdest thing started to happen. Whilst I currently can’t live without eggs and chicken (and neither can my boys) and cooking with ghee, I began to LOVE vegan foods. Her choice has opened up a whole new life for me. I love eating vegan food and making vegan dishes. I love green bowls, smoothies with soy milk and frozen banana, adding sunflower seeds, pepita seeds and almond slithers to my salads for extra crunch, making my own veggie stock and hummus. How had I ever existed without so much hummus?
I now happily exchange honey for maple syrup or stevia, have tri-coloured quinoa and wild rice on hand for the extra protein, exchange cows milk for either soy, almond, coconut or macadamia, stock the freezer with frozen fruits, especially bananas for smoothies, have a fridge full of greens such as spinach and kale, have a pantry full of chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans and lentils and have plenty of LSA, almond butter and peanut butter on offer.
So if your child comes up and announces to you that “Mum, I’m becoming a vegan.” Breathe, smile and above all embrace, after all its predicted to be the biggest trend in 2018 and it isn’t going to go away. Perhaps then go and pour a glass of vegan wine, and then another, and cheers to having a child with a well informed social conscience, who is willing to make a stand for social justice and what they believe in. And then be open to their teachings, for if you are open you will learn more about eating, health and the environment than you would have ever thought possible.
Tips for new Vegan Parents:
- Accept. Accept. Accept: This is probably not a phase and will not go away.
- Listen to your child: Trust them that they know what choices are right for them and listen to the reason behind their choice.
- Research, Google and learn as much as you can so that you can cook for and support your child as much as possible.Buy food items when they are on sale and stock up – tinned beans, lentils hummus, falafels, split peas and fermented veggies.
- Meal prep on a weekend so that you are organised for the week ahead. Cook your quinoa, roasted veggies and veggie and tomato sauce and have them ready to go in the fridge.
- Visit farmers markets together so that you can buy locally grown products that are in season.
- Have a fridge filled with a variety of greens such as spinach, kale, lettuce and collards.
- Have jars filled with good and easy to access sprinkles to add nutritional content to meals including almond slithers, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nutritional yeast, sesame seeds, chia seeds and seaweed flakes.
- Eat Oreos together.
- Visit vegan cafes and enjoy a latte with almond milk together.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been through a similar experience with your son or daughter. How did you handle the initial shock, and down the track, how are you finding it now?