Eric C. Lindstrom went vegan overnight. What started as a 30-day health challenge soon became a bet that, to this day, Lindstrom still refuses to lose. His journey became the subject of 2017’s The Skeptical Vegan, a self-deprecating and honest look at a middle-aged man going vegan overnight. In The Skeptical Vegan, Lindstrom not only wrote about his transition to ethical veganism, he also wrote, in some detail, about making vegan babies. Babies that soon became the inspiration for his recent book, The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids. We sat down with him recently for an exclusive “raising vegan kids” Q&A.
Why did you write The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids?
ECL: It needed to be written. There are books about raising kids vegan but they focus on diet. Diet is just one part of veganism. I wanted to also address the environment and animal rights.
I was so fortunate to have many contributors add gravitas to this book. Drs. Neal Bernard and Tom Campbell, Gene Baur, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and so many more helped make this book the last word on whether or not you can raise your offspring vegan.
What do you hope parents will take away from the book?
ECL: That it can be done. It’s a challenge, but anything worth pursuing is a challenge. You’re giving your kids such a head-start on excellent health, an educated outlook on the environment, and a true love for animals.
For many decades we have been fed, pun intended, so many misconceptions about health-advantages of meat, dairy, and eggs. Especially dairy. I dedicated two full chapters to dairy since I think it’s the most important thing to remove, or hopefully never start on, from your family’s diet.
What are your top tips for introducing a vegan lifestyle to kids?
ECL: Teach by example. Eat your veggies, mom and dad. If your kids see you enjoying vegan foods, they’re going to enjoy vegan foods. Always have washed and cut fruits and veggies on-hand, and you’ll find that your kids will grab the and devour them (like I used to devour a box of Fruity Pebbles). If they see a bowl of apples or fresh pears, they are going to want to eat them.
Humans are herbivores. Grazers. Our bodies thrive on a vegan diet.
My other tip is to recognize the fact that until they have a paying job and a way to get to the grocery store, you’re 100% in control of what they eat.
How do parents overcome the challenges associated with bringing up their kids vegan?
ECL: Always be prepared. And persistent. The two p’s. Be prepared to not only answer all questions from well-intended friends and family members but also be prepared to have vegan food with you wherever you travel. Road trips, the movies, birthday parties. Your kids will feel less “left out” if they have their own treats whenever they want them.
And be persistent. You’re going to come up against some pretty strong opposition to raising kids vegan. Dig your heels in the ground and don’t back down. It’s tough at first, but it all evens out over time.
What do you feed your kids on a normal day?
EL: Luckily for us, our kids love all of the plant-based milks and would rather eat broccoli over brownies. Breakfast can be a bowl of cereal, toast with vegan butter, or pancakes and tater tots (on the weekends). Their lunches consist of fruit, veggies, hummus, a fruit pouch, a granola bar, and usually some sandwich that they both love. Vegan cheese with Just Mayo or sun butter and jelly. Most parents forget that meals like peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti with marinara, and rice with beans are all vegan all the time.
Dinner is something different every night as I love to challenge myself in the kitchen preparing new recipes for some of my old favorites. The kids love homemade fettucini Alfredo (cashew cream-based), fried rice (sometimes with VeganEgg added), pesto penne, vegan Shepard’s pie, and tacos. Vegan tacos will please everyone.
Do you see benefits in your kids’ health/attention, etc vs non-vegan peers?
While we’re not supposed to compare our kids to the other, meat-eating kids, I can tell you I know one thing for sure: ours are never constipated. May not seem like a huge win, when other parents have to call off playdates because their kids is crying on the toilet all morning, we do feel having “regular” kids is a sign of a much healthier diet. There is no real required nutritional value to eating meat, dairy, and eggs. And our kids’ check-ups are always excellent. They are thriving. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misinformed or doing it wrong. Setting aside all the amazing alternatives for non-vegan foods, a whole food, plant-based diet is nutritionally superior to any other diet. And the physical and intellectual growth we see in our own children proves this every day.
What’s next for you?
ECL: I’m thinking someone needs to write “Sending Your Vegan Kids to College.” The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids sets the stage for a lifetime of excellent health and a compassionate perspective on all life on our planet—but now those littles are headed to university.
When you look back over the eighteen years you spent taking care of your children and fight back the tears dropping them off at college, you’ll want to know that what you’ve taught them carries them through their entire lives. We all have a responsibility to the next generation to right so many wrongs. Actor and activist James Cromwell said it best after reading The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids, “(this book is) a guide to the gift that keep on giving: veganism, the best survival tool for whatever comes next.”
Eric C Lindstrom is the author of The Skeptical Vegan and The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids. When he is not writing, he is the Director of Marketing for Compassion Over Killing, a Washington DC-based animal protection agency. Lindstrom lives in Ithaca, NY with his vegan wife, two vegan toddlers, and vegan dog, Kimchi. For more information, visit TheSkepticalVegan.com.