Parents, Make Your Kids Responsible For Their Own Vegan Thanksgiving

Vegan TofurkyI’ve been vegan since I was 14 years old.

My diet is far from anything new for my family, as they’ve essentially watched me grow into a young woman under veganism. They haven’t seen me eat so much as a piece chicken since I was in junior high, and yet big family events like Thanksgiving always concern them as they continually stress over what I’ll eat.

It’s been ten years mind you since I first told my my parents and grandparents that I wouldn’t be eating meat anymore, and although they reacted positively and were very supportive when I was teenager, the annual anxiety that consumes them over my dinner options is beyond unfounded. My grandmother’s wringing hands and worried tones start the moment I get home from the airport, as she makes a point to count the number of dishes I can and can’t eat. While I always sense that my dietary restrictions still manage to throw her, I can also tell that my efforts to relieve her of worrying are hardly every acknowledged, as I remind her that I have everything under control, I’ve thought about what I’m contributing to the dinner, and that she shouldn’t be concerned.

When I decided to ditch animal products in the ninth grade, I did the research myself — learning how to meet certain dietary requirements with conducive food pairings and fortified soymilks. I hoarded recipes which I vividly remember trying out in my kitchen, pasting them into a notebook which I still own. I learned to cook as a young kid with veganism and don’t really have many memories preparing food any other way.

I wasn’t the kid who went meatless and then decided to subsist on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — although I did know many like that growing up. I came to my first Thanksgiving prepared, making my own dishes and encouraging my family to try some should they wish. I’ve been assisting in Thanksgiving preparations since I was little, and going vegan has never once compromised my participation. Every year now I prepare an assortment of dishes which I enjoy making, but I also make sure to cook them because I’ve never wanted to burden my family with my own choices.

Parents and extended family shouldn’t lose sleep over how to feed their meatless children come the holidays. Dragging kids into the kitchen and making them responsible for their own diets sets a precedent for how to conduct themselves at big sit-down dinners. It shouldn’t all be on the hostess, or the parents, to suddenly whip together an entirely meatless spread for their suddenly vegetarian guests. If children are making these choices for themselves, they should be actively involved in the process and learn early that being a good vegan or vegetarian often means bringing their own food to events.

Children are more than capable of reading up, trying out recipes (with adult supervision), and understanding the responsibilities of such a diet. Granted, meatless living has received massive exposure in recent years and has become way more accessible and acceptable since I was a kid. But if children want to try out these types of diets, they should know that a large part is being informed about nutrition and not expecting the grownups in their lives to do everything for them.


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