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Help a 7-Year Old and His Mom

An Animal Person reader has asked my advice, and though I know some stuff and am resourceful, thousands of heads are better than one.

Here’s the situation: A 7-year old decided a few weeks ago that he no longer wanted to eat animals. It sounds like the rest of the family are omnivores, though not daily meat eaters. Mom believes this is a moral issue, she wants to be as supportive as possible, and she doesn’t want her son to become discouraged.

Allow me to stop right here and say: Congratulations to the kid! Fantastic! Awesome!

Some details about the individual are that he is allergic to eggs (and beef) already and cannot have peanuts or tree nuts either. I think peanuts are highly overrated, not to mention not particularly nutritious. Tree nuts are a different story; staples of my diet are raw, organic almonds and walnuts, and I’m not sure what I’d do without them (more flax seeds and pumpkin seeds, I guess).

What I’m not at all educated about is soy and boys. Mom says:

I also know that it’s not good for boys (especially) to have too much soy. . . . For the past few weeks I have given him some prepared vegetarian and vegan foods, but those are primarily based on soy protein, and anyway I prefer to cook fresh foods for my children. So far I’ve come up with lots of variations on rice and beans, and quinoa, besides using some of those prepared products (such as "recipe crumbles").  I know that he needs about 29-40 grams of protein daily, and some of the prepared foods meet that in one serving, but as I said I don’t want to depend on those primarily.

The Food Allergy Survival Guide, written by Jo Stepaniak, Dina Aronson and Vesanto Melina appears to be a great resource. Also note that in each of the authors’ links, there’s an opportunity to ask a question, AND there are plenty of questions mom probably has that have already been answered. In addition, there are links to other books about children, nutrition and veganism.

Here are some great stories and photos of real vegan children that I find inspiring. Here are some diet plans for kids, and Healthy Eating for Life for Children has "kid-tested recipes" in addition to the nutritional information needed for planning meals. Here’s an online guide to raising vegan children (Erin Pavlina’s). Finally, just going to and following the "parenting" link or the "soy talk" link (on the navigation bar) will no doubt be helpful.

Again, I don’t know about soy and boys other than it doesn’t make them gay (yes, that was actually a controversy for a while). I do know that eating processed foods of any kind, frequently, isn’t healthy, and mom’s right to prefer cooking fresh foods and minimizing the faux meats.

Anyone have any other suggestions? I think it would be helpful if the entire family had a couple of vegan meals together each week. I think that would minimize how different he might feel as well as make him feel supported and encouraged.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I think you've addressed the question pretty well so far, and I share your feelings about the support he is getting (but wanting the family to have more vegan meals *together*).

    Some other resources:

    Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World: A Complete Guide for Parents by Erin Pavlina
    Healthy Eating for Life for Children by Neal Barnard, Amy Lanou, PCRM
    Raising Vegetarian Children: A Guide to Good Health and Family Harmony by Jo Stepaniak

    February 28, 2008
  2. mom of the 7 year old #

    Just to clarify, I am in total agreement about our family having at least some vegan meals together, and that is what we've been doing a few times a week. My husband is the main holdout (and always has been), but he is even coming around and joining in those meals – my son is persistent in encouraging him and maybe the message is more effective coming from a child.

    And in the interest of not making my son feel isolated or "different" from the family, I have tried to make vegetarian versions of whatever meal the rest of the family is eating on the other nights. (And I usually have been eating whatever he eats.)

    It'd be a lot easier on me if the whole family went vegan or at least vegetarian because I'd only have to prepare one meal for all of us. I appreciate all these resources so much. (I have the same peanut/tree nut allergies and over the years have been frustrated that it seems like nuts are such a staple of vegan nutrition.)

    February 28, 2008
  3. kim #

    Did anyone mention beans for protein and the Vegan Lunchbox Blog (archives) and cookbook? Vegan Lunchbox has amazing suggestions for kids' meals (and adults too!).

    February 29, 2008
  4. Kids are smart 🙂

    Some of these books might be helpful:

    March 4, 2008
  5. Mike Grieco #

    Bela is very healthy, intelligent and like his six year old sister – they never ate meat. Thanks to their beautiful, intelligent, healthy, and compassionate mother. Here is some insight on Bela. He decided to write this letter soon after the wolf skull was put in my mailbox.

    Thank you, Bela!

    Please, do not buy animal skin clothes
    Whitehorse Star
    January 30, 2008

    A message to stores: people should not buy your animal skin clothes because
    they are made of animal skin.

    Stores should not carry this stuff.

    People should not decorate their store or house with animal parts because
    animals shouldn't be hunted or trapped.

    It bothers me to see animal parts in stores because animals were killed to
    make those decorations.

    Canadian Tire is one of the stores that I want to stop from using animal
    parts to decorate with.

    A message to ordinary locals: please do not buy animal skin clothes because
    animals were killed to make them. Please do not take any jobs that involve
    killing animals.

    A message to everyone who has pets or sled teams: mushers should always send
    their sick and weak dogs to the vet to get help. All pet dogs and sled dogs
    should be spayed or neutered so they won't have puppies, and the mushers
    won't have to kill extra puppies.

    A message to hunters and trappers: hunting and trapping should be banned
    from this country because animal deaths from hunting and trapping are not
    fair to nature. Animals should be allowed to live in peace and die
    naturally, just like us.

    Kids can have an opinion about hunting and trapping.

    Please do not put anything bad in our mailbox or on our doorstep.

    Thank you.

    Bela Westfall
    (Age 9)

    March 12, 2008
  6. Canaduck #

    As a vegan with wheat, soy, and nut/peanut allergies, I can really sympathize with this boy. Plus, I think his mom is great for being so understanding. I stopped eating fish and pork when I was about seven years old, but everything else took about fifteen years, so I can really admire somebody who is smart enough to figure things out so early on.

    That said, I have been vegan for about four years now and am still learning new things to eat. I have a lot of beans and chickpeas and rice, and just recently discovered nutritional yeast. I also like sandwiches made with veggies and rice bread. A fun (and relatively easy) recipe for quesadillas you might consider trying:

    And some very yummy bean burgers:

    They have you crumbling multigrain bread, but you can use rice crackers, rice bread, or even oats (though the first two are tastier.)

    I guess I don't have anything to say that's REALLY useful, so mostly I just wanted to voice my support and say good luck!

    March 14, 2008

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