I’ve been a vegan for more than 15 years myself, having moved in that direction for health and animal wellness reasons. Long before I had them, I knew I’d be raising my kids vegan, for so many reasons: health, climate change, animal welfare, etc.
But when I look back at the journey it essentially comes down to three kids that predate our own: Luke, Rose and Abraham. Because of them, and a very clear conviction that a plant-based diet is the best thing for health and the planet, I was convinced about six years before I had any kids that when I did have them, they would be vegan.
In my early days of being vegan, I was fortunate to be working at what many people would consider to be a sort of vegan Mecca: New York’s Candle Cafe and Candle 79. People would literally take a taxi to the Cafe to grab take-out during a layover at Laguardia. One customer, who lives in LA, threw her daughter’s sweet 16 at Candle 79 ... in NEW YORK!
Working at the restaurants not only ensured that I was eating arguably the best plant-based food in the country, but also meant that I was now fully immersed in a plant-forward community of vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians. Thanks to the amazing food and a couple of compassionate and generous owners, Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza, the restaurants were filled daily with high vibe people; a looper at Winged Foot sat one table away from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Though I saw many celebrities, politicians and titans of industry come through the doors, my favorite three customers of all time were three kids that I watched grow up vegan during my 8 years there. (BTW, George Carlin and Adam Yauch, rest their souls, are tied for 4th after these kids....)
Here are a few things I saw in these kids that convinced me that my kids, and all kids for that matter, should eat a plant-based diet:
Smarts: They were all insanely intelligent. At 2 years old, Luke could identify every President by looking at their faces as they flipped across his mom’s phone. Rose was doing an in depth project on animal rights and the ills of factory farming while in elementary school.
Good Behavior: Their behavior was consistently better than other kids I saw in the restaurant, or anywhere for that matter. They sat in their seats, enjoyed their meals, ordered for themselves, said hello and conversed with adults that weren’t their parents, building quality relationships with our entire staff.
Curiousity: They were genuinely interested in what was going on. They wanted to know what was on their plates, who people were, why things were the way they were and how to make a smoothie.
Kindness and generosity: They were always so gosh-darn nice. And I know many kids are generally nice and sweet, but these three were just beyond. They said nice things to people without prompting. They had good manners and drew us pictures. They would volunteer along with our team to support the New York Coalition for Healthy School Foods to help make the lives of other kids, who were less fortunate than they were, better.
Balance: This was really the kicker and what sealed the deal for me. With these three you never saw the big high-low swings I saw with other kids. They never threw tantrums, never were manic spazzes, and never sulky kids mired in the doldrums. They seemed to be always…happy.
I attributed a lot of these behaviors to being vegan. They were taught how to be considerate and thoughtful in their food and behaviors towards food. Their parents raised them to be curious and interested about what was going on in the world around them, including what went into their bodies and on their plates.
Through my observations of and relationships with these three kids it became clear to me that my kids would be vegan. Through watching and knowing their parents, I knew that my as-yet-unknown future wife and I would need to be vegan parents to make that happen.
It was with that clarity that I was able to say, on a very early date with my then soon to be wife, that if I was going to have kids, they were going to be raised vegan and that was a must if we were going to continue on. I knew what I wanted and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.
11.5 years later I’m fortunate to say that we’re happily married with vegan twin boys that are each an embodiment of everything I saw in Luke, Rose and Abraham. Proudly vegan.