Animal Aid

BUILDING A VEGGIE FUTURE - Part 3

The Wheeler boys have been veggie 
        from birth and are loud and proud about it!

In the third section of Building a Veggie Future we report on the issues surrounding eating out and the problems of food shopping for veggie children.

Time for tea

"I've lost count of the times the only options have been either burger and chips or chicken nuggets and chips!"

Fiona - Edinburgh, Scotland, whose children, Ciara and Alainna are 3 and 14 months

Eating with friends

  • Of the 64% of vegetarian parents who choose to bring their children up veggie, 34% say it becomes an issue when they visit friends' houses and when they eat out, as it is hard to get veggie children's portions.

  • Of the 18% of children who return to eating meat, the parents of 35% of them said it was because they were offered meat and liked the taste; while 32% said it was because the children wanted to eat in places like McDonald's with their friends.

You can be as strict as you like about what you feed your child at home but will she/he be missing out at fun occasions - birthday parties, tea with friends and meals in restaurants? At home, you can shower your children with veggie treats but what about when gelatine-filled sweets are handed around at school or friends' houses?

Mark from Derby, has two veggie boys, Anthony and James, aged seven and nine: "My children will ask trusted adults (e.g. school dinner staff) whether an item is really veggie and often do not get satisfactory answers. Some friends' parents try to persuade them to eat meat by being untruthful - 'well, chicken/fish isn't really meat' or 'you must eat meat or you will get sick'. But the boys are loud and proud about being veggie and look very healthy on it too." The boys have been veggie from birth, dad veggie for 20 years.

What parents say:

"When the children first started going to other children's houses, we had to explain to the parents what they ate and why. But it was then accepted and most mums just wanted to get it right. I couldn't have asked for more."

Sandra - Lamberhurst, Kent, mother of Rebekah, 11 and 8 year old twins, Bethan and Jack.

"We are often penalised in restaurants for wanting veggie children's alternatives and often have to pay more for them."

Linda - Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, whose sons Calum and Findlay are 9 and 7

"Being vegan is a strong part of my son's identity but I think he would find it easier if there were more child-friendly vegan products - particularly at Christmas, Halloween etc."

Heather - Bradford, West Yorkshire, whose son Jack is 6

Our advice to veggie parents and children is to tell friends and family about being veggie in advance and suggest ideas if it's something they are not used to. Cafes and restaurants also respond to customer demands, so if they haven't got what you want, tell them! Adult veggie choices have progressed enormously over the past decade and, as the number of veggie children increases, so should the choice of food available for them.

Vicki's girls are proud to be vegetarian, and some of their friends wish that their own families were 
        veggie too!

"I had already been a vegetarian since I was 12 and a vegan since 14, so I think my family assumed that I'd bring my children up as vegetarians. They may have made the odd comment along the way, but they've never really criticised me. Had I brought them up as vegans I think I would have received many more negative comments, which partly influenced my decision not to, as it's very hard having to constantly defend your position to other people. In an ideal world, however, I'd have liked to raise them as vegans, and I hope that as they get older they will consider turning to veganism themselves. They, themselves, are very proud to be vegetarian and have never wished that they weren't. In fact, several of their friends wish that their own families were vegetarian!"

Vicki - Southampton, pictured right with Lucy, 5 and Naomi, 7

At the supermarket

"My son thinks veggie foods should have child-style pictures on them."

Mitzi - London, whose son, Oscar, is 6

What parents want to see in food stores

  • Regular in-store promotions of vegetarian products - 82%
  • Vegetarian products made easier to find in the store - 72%
  • Better labelling of vegetarian products - 70%
  • More frequent bulk-buy offers on vegetarian products - 68%
  • More child-orientated vegetarian products - 62%
  • More child-orientated dairy-free/vegan products - 52%
  • Better informed shop staff - 48%

Almost all of the parents raising vegetarian children who responded to our survey said that they want more recognition from supermarkets. They'd like to see multi-buy offers on products like soya milk and packs of tofu - and they'd also like to buy things such as frozen veggie burgers in larger, family-sized boxes. Many parents said that they want to see more child-friendly vegetarian products in stores, such as gelatine-free desserts, dairy-free Easter eggs, veggie 'rashers' and soya nuggets.

The way in which vegetarian and vegan food packaging is designed can also be off-putting to families. Many veggie products are marketed by supermarkets as healthy or sophisticated, which lessens their appeal to children, who'd rather see brightly-coloured packaging. Most of the parents who completed our questionnaire said they'd like to see in-store promotions of new vegetarian products, in order to encourage more shoppers to try them. They also want shops to make it easier to find veggie products.

What parents say:

"I'd like to see more products without cheese. It's all far too dairy-based."

Fiona - Carlisle, Cumbria, whose children Asia and Eden are 11

"It makes sense to look at the readily-available alternatives instead of trying to change unethical companies. Energy and money could be better spent using vegetarian, organic box schemes, local farmers' markets and independent shops."

Becca - Liverpool, Merseyside, whose son Joseph is six months old

"I'm disappointed with manufacturers who continue to use gelatine in desserts and sweets, making it very difficult to buy treats for the family. Why don't they use pectin?"

Gail - Swindon, Wiltshire, whose children Kira and Ryan are 14 and 16

"It would help if they could notify customers of new products in stock for vegans and veggies."

Lerysia - Rugby, Warwickshire, whose children Alex and Jooles are 13 and 16

We are calling on all the main supermarkets to provide more of the products that vegetarian and vegan parents want. You can help by writing to, or asking to speak to the manager of your local store. Nowadays, they do like feedback from customers. Many have 'customer comments' cards in the store for people to fill in.

In the final section of Building a Veggie Future, we offer a dozen top tips to disarm the critics.

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