How to Raise Your Children Vegetarian, an Interview with “InstaFather” Andy Shaw

Hey! Happy Monday, everyone.  You already know that I attended The Blog Connect a few weekends ago. I met some awesome new blog friends there including Andy Shaw from Instafather.com. Up until then, I hadn’t met any dad bloggers, so I was really interested in getting a guy’s perspective on blogging. I learned all about Andy’s site, his take on parenting, his gorgeous family, and how he somehow manages to balance it all. We also talked about food a bunch because Andy and his wife are vegan and they are raising their children vegetarian. 

I know that a bunch of you have children or are expecting, so I thought having Andy here on the blog would be a fun idea. I’m NOT currently expecting a child {my mini doxie is enough}, but as a vegetarian myself, I’ve always wondered what it would be like if I chose to raise my future kiddos with the same lifestyle. What are some problems that could come up? What are some common misconceptions? What are the benefits long term? 

So, whether you’re currently a vegetarian yourself, thought about raising your children vegetarian, or just want to read a freaking hilarious interview with a dad blogger… keep scrolling. 

Raising your children vegetarian, an interview with Andy Shaw via simply-nicole.com

Hey Andy! Introduce yourself to my readers.

I’m Andy, a guy who spends his days working in college admissions and his nights watching “Moana” for the 821st time. I’m passionate about helping new dads gain confidence in becoming more involved parents because that benefits everyone — that’s what instafather.com is all about. I don’t do a lot of how to’s; it’s more “here’s a realistic look at what being a new dad is like — including the stuff your friends won’t tell you — and why you’re going to be great at it anyway.” I’ve got three kids: twin two-year-old girls, Hannah and Quinn, and a soon-to-be four-year-old boy, Elliott. I’ve been vegan for about five years, and my wife longer than that. We live in York, Pennsylvania, where saying you are vegan is a good way to get a confused reaction.

Raising your children vegetarian, an interview with Andy Shaw via simply-nicole.com

You’ve raised your three kids vegetarian since birth. Why did you decide that, and was it difficult?

We wanted to give our kids the best possible start with nutrition, and it also is important because we really are against factory farming. Avoiding meat from birth is the easiest way. It wasn’t a difficult decision because there’s so much evidence out there that veggie kids have one of the healthiest diets; getting them enough protein isn’t an issue either because we can get them tofu, nuts, beans, and so forth. Actually, it was harder figuring out if we should make them vegan like us.

Did you get push back from friends and family members?

Not distinctly. We have very supportive friends and families, although it’s fair to say some are still figuring out exactly what veganism is, as most people are. But the proof is in the non-dairy pudding: even with our daughters being premature, they are now in excellent shape. Breastfeeding had a lot to do with that, of course. And yes, breastfeeding is acceptable if your baby is vegetarian. Yep, I get asked that.

Sometimes I’ve heard people say, “You are forcing your beliefs on them!” But nobody says that about a kid who is taken to Sunday School, right? The kid doesn’t get to decide what faith they are exposed to; it’s assigned to them because their parents hold strong beliefs that it is the best lifestyle. This isn’t much different.

Raising your children vegetarian, an interview with Andy Shaw via simply-nicole.com

What are some benefits to raising your children vegetarian?

So much of the food options for kids these days (Wow, that makes me sound old!) are just terrible. By being vegetarian, we’re cutting out a lot of nutritional nonsense without a second thought. Now, let’s be real. They still eat pizza and (veggie) chicken nuggets, because, I mean, they are toddlers! But it’s nice to see how much they love hummus and fruit. So. Many. Grapes.

I think a common question a lot of people have is “are your kids healthy?” Obviously, you wouldn’t do something that harms your children, but can you elaborate?

It’s a fair question because it’s unusual to have vegetarian kids, especially where we are in Pennsylvania. The real question people are asking: “Are you kids stunted in growth and do they seem weaker because they aren’t eating meat? I heard from a friend of a neighbor’s uncle that a kid died once from not eating meat.” A lot of that thought process is misunderstanding how much protein we need and also assuming you can only get protein by eating meat. Our pediatrician is well aware the kids are vegetarian, just as the OB-GYN was aware my wife is vegan. We’ve had no issues!

Another common question – Do children need meat to grow?

I do love how you phrased this because it’s the heart of the conversation. People assume “meat” is a magical dietary staple that you need to grow big and strong. Meat is a way to deliver certain nutrients, such as iron and protein. Since kids can get that from eating peanut butter or quinoa or tofu or a myriad other non-animal sources, the question is really “If a kid does not have meat, will they have a lower quality life?” I’d say the answer is no.

Raising your children vegetarian, an interview with Andy Shaw via simply-nicole.com

Do you supplement with any vitamins?

They do get a multivitamin every day. They’d likely be fine without it, but it’s nice to cover your bases.

What are some struggles with raising children vegetarian?

We have to be vigilant to make sure people know they are vegetarian. That way my son doesn’t accidentally get handed a hamburger at a party. Would I freak out? No, because life isn’t so absolute — everything isn’t ruined because of one hamburger. But we don’t want him to exposed to something he hasn’t had before; it would legit mess with his stomach!

Also, we are slowly trying to get them to understand what some people use animals for. We’ll say things like, “Yes, that’s a cow. Mommy and Daddy don’t eat cows, although some people do. We like them where they are.” We’re not going to demonize meat eating because they will have lots of friends who eat meat, and I don’t want to raise a bunch of finger-pointers who act holier than thou. I want them to understand where we are coming from and how that fits into the big picture.

In social situations that involve food {i.e. a birthday party}, are they missing out on anything?

That is exactly why they aren’t vegan. We don’t want them to sit in the corner while the rest of the kids eat pizza. That is a lot to ask of a three-year-old. So they can have cake and ice cream and pizza at parties like any other kid. Although Hannah actually had barbecue chips instead of cake for her birthday. She is weird.

Raising your children vegetarian, an interview with Andy Shaw via simply-nicole.com

What are some typical meals for your children?

A piece of lettuce. Oh, sorry, I thought you asked what people assume we feed them. We’ve had vegetarian chili (beans + Boca crumbles… so good and without the cholesterol!), roasted cauliflower and broccoli fries, stir fry with tofu, and the classic spaghetti and marinara. For the most part, we try to feed them what we eat. Being toddlers, they let us know if that will be acceptable for this evening’s meal. Again, since they’ve never had bacon or steak, they aren’t asking us for it. Is that stuff tasty? Yep! Of course it is, that’s why people love it. But we can offer them so many other flavors, it’s not like they are eating bland, blah meals.

What are some tips that you could give to parents who might be interested in raising their child vegetarian?

There is no shortage of cookbooks available; my wife loves “Oh She Glows.” Also, don’t feel bad about letting other parents know your kid is vegetarian; it’s not “funny” for them to feed your kid a hot dog, and they should respect your beliefs. Mostly, just remember your kids model your behavior. If you eat vegetarian, they won’t see any reason not to do the same. If you eat vegetarian but drink soda and eat cookies all the time, they will do the same; that’s one reason I drastically cut down on sugar!

Raising your children vegetarian, an interview with Andy Shaw via simply-nicole.com

Quick Question Time:

I drive a:

Minivan. Like a boss.

In my backpack right now is:

Laptop because I’m always writing or creating something. But I also usually have a diaper bag nearby. Travel without wipes at your own peril.

My top 3 parent must-haves are:

A comfortable rocking chair (I have spent a thousand hours rocking my kids, for sure). Snacks, which don’t have to be elaborate. We bribe our kids with saltines like they are made of diamonds. And the ability to let go, because so much of parenting is dealing with what is thrown at you, and I mean literally. You can’t stew in things.

I’m most proud of:

My wife. People just don’t do what she accomplishes every day. I’m proud to be her husband.

My fav guilty pleasure is:

Girly alcoholic drinks. I do not need to prove my manhood anymore. I have three kids.

If I had to describe myself in 3 words, they’d be:

Nap time yet?

If I could travel anywhere, I’d go to:

Santorini, Greece. We went for our honeymoon and it’s breathtaking. Plus I got to wear super fancy linen clothes.

My favorite social media platform is:

Instagram. Facebook evolved into something I didn’t recognize. On Instagram, people seem more supportive and I love seeing snapshot of everyone’s day.

My typical Starbucks order is:

Soy chai with this bag of lightly salted popcorn they sell that I can’t find anywhere else.

// Learn more about Andy by visiting his blog and Instagram. 

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17 Comments

  1. May 8, 2017 / 9:40 am

    This is a great post! My parents are both vegetarian, although they did give me meat as a child – pretty much only chicken nuggets and ham, though – they wouldn’t have known what to do with much else! I switched to vegetarianism of my own accord, and even at 8 years old it didn’t cause me trouble. Apparently, I used to ask my parents for their food instead of the ‘children’s’ food they gave me!

    I’ll second the comment about messing with the stomach, as well – I started eating meat again (temporarily) as a teenager, and it was definitely not the best for my body! I can only imagine it would be worse for children. Your body does get used to a meat-free diet pretty quickly.

    • May 8, 2017 / 9:47 am

      Thanks for reading, Isobel. Yes, I’ve been a vegetarian for 9 years now, and there’s no way my stomach could handle meat at this point.

    • May 10, 2017 / 12:28 pm

      Thanks Isobel! I can’t imagine what would happen if I suddenly ate meat again but it wouldn’t go well – I don’t have the microbes to handle it anymore.

  2. May 8, 2017 / 9:49 am

    I love this so much!! It’s not super common to raise your child vegetarian so it’s awesome to see people embracing a healthier lifestyle!

    • May 8, 2017 / 9:58 am

      Thanks Emily! I completely agree!!

    • May 10, 2017 / 12:32 pm

      Appreciate that Emily! I have a circle of veg friends but it’s still, for the most part, unusual. I think we’ll find in the next generation it is much more commonplace, however, as millennials have kids (I’m barely a millennial but I count!)

  3. May 8, 2017 / 1:31 pm

    Loved getting to read this interview. My boyfriend grew up pescatarian, so it’s interesting to think about it from the parent’s side and thinking about how to make decisions going forward. Very cool. Thanks to you both for sharing!

    • May 8, 2017 / 1:48 pm

      Glad you enjoyed reading it! Andy is full of great parenting knowledge for the future.

    • May 10, 2017 / 12:34 pm

      Thanks Chrystina! And now you’ve had the experience of dealing with a vegan speaker at a conference haha … it really comes down to people being a little bit patient and accommodating and vegans being flexible when possible, especially when it comes to their kids.

  4. May 8, 2017 / 4:05 pm

    Loved this! Especially the part about a kid dying from not eating meat. Seriously? I recently had a conversation with someone who said to me after I told them I have gestational diabetes that I shouldn’t eat peas because they have a lot of carbs…. There were peas in my veggie stir-fry. I laughed and kept eating.

    • May 8, 2017 / 4:08 pm

      Haha! People are crazy. You keep eating those peas 🙂

    • May 10, 2017 / 12:35 pm

      Jessica, I can’t believe the stuff some people come up with! Now, I don’t eat peas but that’s because peas. are. the. worst.

      • May 11, 2017 / 11:03 am

        Agree to disagree. I love peas. I mean pea guacamole, have you tried that stuff?

        • May 11, 2017 / 11:23 am

          pea guac!? it definitely sounds interesting!

  5. MCR
    May 9, 2017 / 11:39 pm

    This is great, Andy! I’m going to steal your “I do not need to prove my manhood anymore, I have three kids” line. As the other vegan father of three vegetarian kids living in York, PA I thank you for writing this.

    • May 10, 2017 / 5:59 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting, MCR! Glad you enjoyed the interview.

    • May 10, 2017 / 12:36 pm

      MCR – Ha! We have to stick together, after all. I remember having a guy or two ask me about getting a minivan, and I said what do I have to prove? What’s manlier than being a dad?

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