A topic that raises a lot of controversy and questions: vegan parenting. We’ll hear from Derek Tresize and the team at Vegan Muscle & Fitness to hear about their advice on raising vegan children. Derek Tresize is a father of two healthy, beautiful children, who you can see at the @veganmuscleandfitness Instagram. This is a continuation of our interview with the Vegan Muscle and Fitness team on vegan fitness.
David: You hear a lot of questions these days about veganism and raising kids vegan. Some people have concerns about the health and safety. What advice and insights do you have to share from your journey of fatherhood?
Derek Tresize: I feel really passionately about this topic. There are a number of vegan parenting groups online, and you can even see anxiety from the parents in those groups. We have never had an issue with breastfeeding, raising our kids, or anything like that. We have been vegan since the start, and so have they. Some people say that raising kids vegan is forcing your beliefs on them, but that’s simply not true. Every parent feeds their children the same food they eat. The whole foods route is nutritionally superior to the standard route.
I hear people talk about the social concerns of raising kids vegan. What if your mother says your kid won’t get enough iron? Well, what would your mother say if you’re giving your kids fast food every day rather than not enough iron? We have the wrong fears as parents. We’re worried about what others think as opposed to what’s best and healthiest for our kids. I saw a study that 25% of children under 5 don’t eat any fruits or vegetables. That means no colors on their plate, no antioxidants, no minerals. We don’t have that problem. We found raising our kids vegan gave them a head start to their health. All the foods parents can’t get their kids to eat are loved by our kids. We have a fridge full of fruits and vegetables that our kids love to grab and eat. The biggest challenge we have is getting our kids to not pig out on fruits, vegetables or beans when it’s almost dinner time! They eat salads for lunch, and they love it.
“They key is starting them vegan from the start, and making sure you’re eating what they eat – you can’t eat junk food and expect them to eat vegetables. You need to set a good example.”
Then, there’s the social aspect. We talked with them about the fact animals are our friends, not food, and not eating them is healthier. I’ve used the analogy that our bodies are like a toy or a bike. Everything gets old, but if you take good care of it, it will last a lot longer. So you will live a longer life and not get sick as often. They’re involved in cooking. They enjoy being vegan, and they have actually talked to other kids about their veganism. At a birthday party, we’ve seen them say no to pizza and cake, and some other kids actually get curious when a parent decides to give Miles a vegan piece of cake. Other kids ask about his special piece. By the time he’s an adult, he’ll have impacted hundreds or thousands of people just by being him, all while improving his health.
They don’t ever feel deprived, and we’ll pack the occasional dark chocolate or decadent treat in their lunch. It’s normal to them, and they love it. Between them, they’ve lived almost 11 years, and they’ve never needed antibiotics. When most of the kids in their class got the flu they didn’t. Between them, they’ve only had one doctors visit for being sick. They live athletic lives with gymnastics, mountain biking, and other sports. As a personal trainer, I encourage them to be very active. They live healthy, happy lives, and they’re having an impact doing so.
Forest Nash: I’ve actually also never been on a dose of antibiotics. I’ve been vegetarian since birth and then vegan, and I had none of those ear infections or anything that kids get.
Max Seabrook: I’d like to jump in to say that antibiotics are lifesaving in many cases, but you shouldn’t take them for just anything.
Derek Tresize: Of course, and we’re not anti-antibiotic or anti-vaccine. Those are lifesaving inventions. They eradicated infection as a leading cause of death. However, they’re over-prescribed and mess with gut flora, plus there’s the resistance issue, so being healthy enough not to need them is definitely a plus.
Look who joined us! Is it ever being hard began vegan, Miles? When you’re at school or anything?
Miles Torres-Tresize: No.
David: You’re in the interview now, Miles! Do y’all have any other information to share about Vegan Muscle & Fitness before we end the call?
Derek Tresize: We’re lucky to be really busy these days. Max is studying in medical school, and Forest and I have in-person personal training. We scaled back, but we still have our online courses and nutrition courses. We have a crack team here ready to help people. We are all practicing athletes in our own right, and we have been training people since 2009. Anyone who’s looking for help, we’re happy to provide it.