Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jennifer McGregor.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
More and more people have been converting to vegetarianism and veganism in recent years. A reported 6% of the U.S. population is now vegan, up from just 1% in 2014. What’s causing this trend? There are many reasons why one might convert to vegetarianism. Regardless of whether you believe eating meat is unethical, there are many health benefits to a plant-based diet. First and foremost, eating meat has been linked to a variety of conditions—cancer, heart disease, obesity, and hormonal issues, to name a few—while a plant-based diet has been shown to reduce these risks.
In addition to being better for your health, vegan and vegetarian diets are also better for the planet. Industrial animal agriculture, which is responsible for most of the world’s meat products, is a key driving factor behind greenhouse gas emissions, according to One Green Planet. Therefore, by eating less meat, you can cut your family’s carbon footprint, save water, redirect grain that can be eaten by people in need (rather than consumed by agricultural livestock), and help protect the world’s rainforests and endangered species.
If you’re looking to maintain your family’s health while reducing your carbon footprint, a vegan or vegetarian diet might be the way to go. Here’s how to get started with raising a vegetarian family.
Tips for Parents
Raising vegan or vegetarian children doesn’t mean you have to immediately give up all meat products. Sometimes, slowly transitioning to vegetarianism by eliminating one product at a time can be easier and more successful in the long run. For instance, you might start by limiting consumption of specific meats, possibly replacing them with eco-friendly, cholesterol-free meat alternatives.
You can also swap animal-based products like milk, cheese, ice cream, or butter for vegan alternatives, which can be made from coconut, almond, cashew, and more. Try to stick with local, organic whole foods whenever possible. Choose high-quality plant-based foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein sources such as nuts, seeds, and beans.
Before you make the switch, you also need to consider nutrition. This might include discussing your child’s health with a pediatrician and/or nutritionist. Does your child have any health conditions or specific dietary needs? With any diet, you’ll need to ensure your child is getting adequate nutrition and proper amounts of protein; vegan and vegetarian diets are no different.
Tips for Pet Owners
If your family is going vegetarian, should you include your four-legged family members? That depends. Cats, for instance, evolved to eat meat and might have a harder time on a vegan diet. Dogs, on the other hand, can benefit from a vegetarian diet. Rover.com reports that switching to a vegetarian dog food can decrease your dog’s risk of skin allergies, liver disease, and kidney stones.
Although switching your pet to a vegetarian diet can be good for your pet and for the planet, it’s not always the best idea. It’s important to check with your veterinarian before making such a major change to your pet’s diet. Even if your pet is getting adequate nutrition, you might need to increase your number of vet visits to monitor your pet’s health on the new diet. If you have a young puppy or if you’re considering breeding your pet, it’s best to stick with a more traditional dog food.
At the end of the day, your decision of what to feed your family is deeply personal. Every situation is unique. Before making any major lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor, nutritionist, your child’s pediatrician, and your pet’s veterinarian to help determine what options might work best for your entire family.