As head mama, I wanted to share the story of how I handled my daughter's journey into veganism in the hopes of helping other moms navigate this tricky territory.
—Jennifer Law, Founder Bergen Mama
“Mom, I’m going vegan,” my 13-year-old daughter announced on a Wednesday morning in the fall of her 8th grade year. It was a typical day, and I was rushing to get the kids off to school. I barely paused to listen, much less ask questions, and responded with a quick, “Oh, okay, do you want a smoothie for breakfast?” I figured this was yet another whim inspired by her friends or something cool she saw on Instagram.
Nope, it wasn’t a whim.
At dinner (after playing her usual four hours of tennis), my daughter balked at the sight of the organic turkey meatballs and pasta, which had been in our regular family dinner rotation for years. “Mom,” she said, “I told you. I’m vegan.”
That’s when I came out of my mid-week stupor and perked up. “Wait, you’re really doing this?”
“Yes” she said, explaining that she wanted to eat healthier and that if we all gave up meat (and eggs and dairy), it would be better for the environment. Realizing this reasoning might be more well-thought-out than I’d anticipated, I instantly swung into concerned mom mode and started firing off the questions: “Do you know what vegan means?” (“Yes.”) “Do you know that becoming vegan involves strict dietary restrictions?” (“So?”) “How do you plan to get protein?” (“Beans, nuts and tofu, of course.”) And finally, “Do you realize becoming vegan means you will actually have to eat vegetables?!!” (“Yes, Mom, duh!”)
So there it was—a very adult decision from my oldest child. A bunch of thoughts raced through my head: Should I “let” her go vegan? How much extra time and effort will this diet require from me? Is this a healthy enough diet for a young competitive athlete? Will she stick with this or soon go back to her regular go-tos of junk food and bagels?
And yet I knew that if I didn’t support her on this, it would just encourage more eating battles—ones I knew I would lose. My daughter is the type of kid who would never blink first in a staring contest. And besides, the thought of her actually eating more (ahem, any) vegetables was such an enticing idea, I decided to embrace it.
From veggie quinoa to tofu salad, stir fries to overnight oats, I bought and cooked vegan meals all week long. And to give my daughter credit, she tried it all. She was eating things I could never in a million years have gotten her to eat with any amount of begging or pleading— ever. She devoured everything from organic green soups to avocado toasts, veggie burgers and tempeh. About two months in, she announced that her favorite dish from our local organic market was Brown Rice with Tofu and Kale, and would I “please go get it whenever they have it?” That’s when I knew for sure that this wasn’t just a phase.
Fast forward five months. My daughter is still very much vegan, though there have been a few detours here and there. It’s a challenge for me to find her vegan food all the time and still feed the rest of the family, but for the most part, we’ve committed to this way of eating. My daughter’s skin looks great, she has plenty of energy, and she’s even acting sweeter to me (though that might just be imagined). Truth be told, I’m feeling pretty energized and healthy myself. I give the whole experience a big green light.