Looking for a summer camp that gives kids the knowledge, motivation, confidence and skills they need to make a positive difference in the world? And that serves vegan food? Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will teach kids to be leaders, activists, compassionate citizens, and solutionaries. Read on to learn more about the inspiring, life-changing YEA camp... Guest Post by Nora Kramer, Executive Director of Youth Empowered Action Camp (YEA)
Many veg kids and their parents are accustomed to being one of a small minority not wanting to eat hot dogs, hamburgers, and other typical meat-based meals at school or camp, and perhaps tolerating some ignorant remarks from others, maybe about the food chain or a desert island.
But what about a summer camp that serves all vegan food, and has plenty of other campers and staff who also care about animals, the planet, and good health? Or a camp that is all about helping youth get more involved in community service, social justice, and activism for causes they care about? That is Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp
, a week-long overnight camp with locations in northern California, Oregon, and Massachusetts.
YEA Camp, which is prepping for its fifth summer of programs for youth 12-17, is first and foremost a leadership program for young people who want to make a difference in the world. YEA's purpose is to support youth in getting active on an issue they care about once camp is over. The curriculum -- designed to build campers' knowledge, skills, confidence, and community support -- is engaging and fun, tapping into and expanding campers' passions and interests while affirming their power to make an impact on social issues they care about. Campers choose issues such as factory farming, school bullying, environmental protection, gay marriage, and more. They learn skills like how to start a school club, fundraise, and use art and social media for social change.
Alumni campers have done so many inspiring things after camp, it's hard to keep track or be surprised anymore. From launching school clubs, getting more vegan options in the school cafeteria, initiating school-wide anti-bullying programs, ending dissection in school biology classes, leading neighborhood clean-ups, holding fundraisers, and volunteering or interning with different nonprofit organizations, YEA Campers go home and make a difference on issues they care about for years to come.
While all of YEA Camp's food is vegan, being vegetarian or vegan is certainly not a requirement to attend, and in fact many campers have never given any more thought to going veg than the average teen. The vegan food is not the point of the camp -- changing the world is. YEA Camp seeks to bring our actions into alignment with our values and commitment to peace, compassion, equity, sustainability, and social justice. YEA Camp tries to model "being the change we wish to see in the world," as Gandhi said. Serving meat or dairy would undermine everything we are standing for.
At the beginning of camp, many non-veg campers are nervous about the food, while other campers who are vegan or vegetarian are beyond thrilled to be able to eat everything, and to not have to ask questions or eat the "alternative" or "special" meal at the side table, like at other camps. In the end, though, everyone is beyond impressed at the deliciousness of vegan cuisine, with kid-friendly meals such as French toast and pancakes for breakfast, mac n' cheeze and burritos for lunch, pizza with Daiya and veggie sushi for dinner, and chocolate chip cookies and brownies for dessert. Don't worry, there's also plenty of veggies and salads and gluten- and soy-free and other options too!
YEA Camp is an opportunity for youth to meet like-minded peers and adults, to pursue a cause that really matters to them, to get encouragement and training on how to make a difference in ways that feel right for them, and to have what many campers describe as a life-changing and unforgettable experience. And to eat amazing vegan food for a week while having a great time. Not a bad way to answer the question "How did you spend your summer vacation?"
YEA Camp 2013 will be held: California: July 14-21Oregon: July 27-August 3Massachusetts: August 10-17YEA Camp helps to make arrangements for youth flying in from out of the area. To learn more about YEA Camp, take a look at this two-minute video or visit www.yeacamp.org.
If you could color Easter eggs in exactly the same way that you did as a child...AND not contribute to animal suffering by using real eggs, then wouldn't you? You can! Eggnots have arrived! Eggnots are ceramic eggs that look and feel the same as a real eggs. I hope all parents who care about animals will try these. Check out how beautiful the natural dyes came out... I think it's important that as vegan parents, we don't isolate our kids or limit their experiences and activities just because they're vegan. Vegan kids shouldn't have to miss out on anything-- there's a vegan version for almost everything out there. With a little effort and creativity, parents can find or make alternatives to common and holiday non-vegan activities. This includes coloring eggs on Easter. Of all the industries that use and abuse animals for food, the egg industry is arguably the worst in terms of animal treatment and suffering. Hundreds of millions of hens live in prison-like conditions-- stacked in wire cages on top of one another in filthy, windowless sheds where they're confined to a space the size of a piece of paper for their entire lives. Read more here.
Knowing the cruelty behind the egg industry, we could not in good conscience buy a carton of eggs and color them with our daughter. We had to find an alternative. The past few Easters, my daughter really enjoyed painting clay eggs, making paper mache eggs and doing other fun egg-type activities, but this year we were able to actually participate in a tradition that I remember doing as a child myself...dyeing "eggs" in mugs. We used the vegan-friendly Eggnots. They're so realistic that you'll think you're holding a real egg! I highly recommend them for vegan kids, as well as for kids who are allergic to eggs. I also recommend them for anyone who cares about animals-- it's one easy way to choose compassion over cruelty.
Eggnots are one of those products that give me hope and a glimpse into what the future can (and should) look like...a future that doesn't exploit animals for our needs and wants. Slowly, but surely, cruelty-free replicas are replacing non-vegan products. I think most people rely on animal products out of habit and comfort, but if you could have the same experience using a vegan version without harming an animal, then wouldn't you opt for that? Even Bill Gates gets this idea! He recently wrote a blog post on his website about how plant-based alternatives to animal food products are the key to a healthy, sustainable future! Instead of using artificial store-bought dyes that in addition to being non-vegan, are also toxic, we decided to make our own using natural fruits and vegetables. Using this post as a guide, we created:
BLUE: blueberries (boiled frozen blueberries in hot water, then strained blueberries leaving just the juice)
GREEN: chlorophyll (a few drops of liquid chlorophyll in mug)
RED: cherry juice
YELLOW: turmeric (boiled water with a few teaspoons of turmeric)
The colors came out beautiful and vibrant as you can see from the pictures. I was pleasantly surprised. We will definitely be doing this again next year, and adding more colors to our mugs!
From the Eggnots website:
- Realistic- they look and feel just like a real egg
- Inedible- no refrigeration needed, no mess and no smell
- Non-perishable and eco-friendly- EggNots ceramic will last forever!
- 100% safe for those with egg allergies
- Vegan-friendly- no animal products used!
- Convenient- No hassle of boiling and disposal!
- Made in the USA
If you could color Easter eggs in exactly the same way as you remember as a child...AND not contribute to animal suffering, then wouldn't you? You can. Use Eggnots!
HAPPY EASTER TO ALL!
Thank you to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for writing this important guest post. KC Theisen tells us why we should avoid live animal photo shoots, and why we shouldn't give baby animals as Easter presents. Please share this post far and wide.
Photo credit: Constance Avellino
Guest post by KC Theisen from the Humane Society of the United States
It’s almost Easter, and you may be thinking it’s time to shake off the winter with a photo shoot at your local studio. As grown-ups we can’t help but be attracted to pictures of kids cuddling tiny bunnies, chicks and ducklings. Or sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of the season that we want our kids to know the thrill of a real, live baby animal in the basket on Easter morning. But it’s not so simple.
These tiny new lives will soon be adult rabbits, chickens and ducks, looking forward to a long and safe life. Do you expect that the photographer is going to keep the five bunnies and 25 ducklings they ordered online and assure them a good life? Is your son or daughter going to be thrilled to clean Easter Bunny’s litter pan in six months? Most Easter babies are cast off into the wild shortly after Easter, to die of exposure, starvation or predation. Lucky ones are surrendered to an animal sheltering organization, but they might spend months waiting to find their forever home.
This year, make a different choice. Consider giving a plush toy or a chocolate rabbit. Plush baby bunnies or chicks make fabulous gifts for your kids. They also make great photo props, don’t carry diseases and won’t suffer if your child outgrows them. A plush pet can go along with the kids on car rides, to school and become a lasting memento of springtime and Easter. If your family loves sweets, fill their baskets with delicious candy such as lollipops and jelly beans.
You can’t deny that kids and animals go together so don’t. Celebrate the season of renewal with a trip to an animal sanctuary or nature center, so your kids can see spring’s babies with their natural families. Or celebrate Easter at a local park, watching ducks on the pond and learning about our magnificent natural world. Visit or volunteer at your local animal shelter or humane society (find yours at http://theshelterpetproject.org) and let your kids get up close with the dogs, cats, puppies, kittens and even rabbits and ducks who were cast-off by impulse buyers last year.
And if you’ve thought it through carefully and are ready for a lifetime commitment, spring is
the perfect time to open your home to a new addition. Adopt a pet who will remind your family for years to come that Easter is about celebrating life and sharing compassion with all living creatures.
Take a pass on the Easter babies as gifts or photography props this year.
Make a different choice; a compassionate choice.
Looking for animal-friendly Easter books for kids? Check out the list at Vegbooks.
All photos by Constance Avellino
Guest post written by KC Theisen, director of Pet Care Issues at The Humane Society of the United States.
Kids are the future of the vegan movement, so it's crucial that we involve them at events, conferences and festivals. Thank you to the NYC Veg Festival for offering a dedicated space just for families-- a place for parents to stop by and pick up information about raising vegan kids, and where kids could participate in vegan-friendly activities that promote kindness and compassion towards animals. The kids and their parents were inspired and empowered to make a difference for animals, the environment, and their own health. With the help of my husband, I set up the children's area literature table with coloring books, wristbands, bookmarks, tattoos, comic books, stickers, and other materials for kids and their parents. We also had fun, giveaway prizes. Thank you to all the wonderful organizations for participating including Teachkind, Vegbooks, Mitch Spinach, Today I Ate a Rainbow, Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp, Kids Gone Raw, Grey2K USA, and the individuals who participated including NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Families Meetup members, Lottie Hanson and Christina Burke, HEART Humane Educator, Kim Korona, Institute for Humane Education graduate student, Kate Skwire, Vegbooks Outreach Coordinator, Jennifer Gannett, Super Sprowtz founder, Radha Agrawal, Certified Holistic Health Coach, Ellie Aaron Chef Maddie Sobel from PCRM (Physicians for Responsible Medicine), Fiona Walsh from the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, nutrition and wellness consultant, Jennifer Medley, and Vegan Chef and Yoga Teacher, April Dechagas.
We also had a table for kids to play the animal-friendly board game, Fur & Feathers, as well as table filled with printouts to color, including this fun Vegan Plate page. Another table was set up for the activities, including making healthy vegan snacks such as rice/kale balls and rice cakes with hummus/apple butter/apple sauce spreads, seeds and grapes used for making faces. There was a mat for kids to sit on and read from our kid's vegan library with books provided by Vegbooks. There was also a table set up for puppetmaking.Also, congratulations to Danette Suarez who guessed how many fruits and veggies were in this jar (below). She guessed the exact number- 401!! The prize.... a Rainbow Kit donated by Kia Robertson from Today I Ate a Rainbow! Danette is a second grade teacher so she is looking forward to using it in her classroom!
Guess how many fruits and veggies?
Here are photos from the children's area...
Such a wonderful, jam-packed weekend full of activities to inspire and empower kids to be kind to animals...and eat healthy! Thank you to all who participated and made the children's area special for all of the kids and parents who stopped by.
My Talk on Raising Vegan Kids
I shared personal experiences as well as ideas, tips and resources I've gained from researching and talking with other vegan/vegetarian parents.
Laying the Foundation Early to Raise a Compassionate, Healthy Child
Pregnancy Research shows that what a woman eats during pregnancy may shape food preferences later in life. In the womb, the baby gulps down several ounces of amniotic fluid a day and this fluid is flavored by the foods and beverages the mother has eaten. So what you eat in pregnancy can result in preferences for certain foods for a lifetime. In other words, if you eat broccoli while you're pregnant, there's a much better chance your baby will like broccoli. So for the sake of your baby, eat a varied, healthy diet and skip the soda, chips and ice cream!
Research also shows that the foods our children eat in the first 15 years of their lives is critical and has more of an impact in determining later diseases and illnesses than the last 50yrs of your life.Here are a few tips to help develop HEALTHY eating patterns in children: Healthy eating is really 2 parts: It’s what we DON’T feed our kids (animal products), and its about what we DO and SHOULD feed our kids. Healthy eating is about adding nutrient-dense foods into your diet that fight cancer and other illnesses, and provide phytonutrients to keep us healthy. (Read: Disease Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right by Dr. Joel Fuhrman)
Be Consistent: it can take up to 15 times exposure to a food before a child accepts/likes a food. Don't give up!
Be a good role model: you can’t snack on oreos and potato chips and expect your child to eat carrots and celery. Let your child see you eating healthy foods. Eat together.
Cook and bake with your kids: kids are more apt to try something that they’ve helped make. My daughter helps me by mixing and pouring ingredients, mashing up tofu in her hands for tofu scramble, ripping kale, and adding fruits to the blender for green smoothies. An added bonus is that she often eats half of it before the recipe is even finished! Buy kid-friendly baking tools, and a fun apron. This also reinforces science/math/motor skills!Bring kids grocery shopping: let them pick out foods that they already like and also challenge them to find new foods that they want to try. Adults should do this too!
Grow vegetables in your backyard or windowsill if possible. Go to a farm to see vegetables growing in the ground. Also, pick-your-own fruits and veggies in season.
Remove the competition: just as you remove meat and dairy from your households, you should also remove the junk and processed foods. If kids are hungry and there isn't any junk food around, they'll be forced to grab something healthy to eat. Keep fruits and veggies visible out on the counter so when kids are hungry, that's the first thing they'll see/grab.
Redefine the word “snack” dessert” etc: snacks don’t have to be crackers, chips, ice cream, or sugary stuff, they can be what we typically view as breakfast, dinner, or side dishes. (Ex. pieces of roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, chunks of tofu). Dessert can be fruit, not ice cream. Try freezing 3 bananas and then blending them in a processor/vitamix, and you instantly have creamy banana ice cream using only one healthy ingredient (add peanut butter too)!
Be Creative: make art/faces out of fruits and veggies. Put food on a kabob. Use cookie cutters to make shapes. Tell a story about a bunny who loved carrots, or Mitch Spinach, etc. Kia Robertson from Today I Ate a Rainbow recommends making it fun!Doctors- Dr’s receive little to no nutrition education (20hrs average, but some don't receive any training) in med school. Their courses have a heavy emphasis on treatment and pharmaceuticals, rather than prevention. It’s likely in regards to nutrition that you know more than them. Dr's always want to fatten up thin kids to get them on par with the rest of the kids in this country (obesity epidemic!), but because veg kids often eat more fruit, veggies and other lower calorie but higher nutrient-dense foods instead of high-calorie, high fat foods such as doritos, ice cream and mac & cheese, then it's common sense that they will be thinner.
Don’t worry about being perfect: the typical standard American toddler eats the same few foods over and over (chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, ice cream, pizza) so by not feeding these foods, you’re already ahead of the game! It's not about purity, it's about the overall picture.
1) Protein- if you’re eating a sufficient caloric diet, then it’s almost impossible to be deficient in protein. The protein myth in this country was created by meat industry, and we typically get 400x more protein that we need. Animal protein is what’s killing us! According to Forks Over Knives...“We’ve never treated a single patient with protein deficiency, yet the majority of patients we see are suffering from heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases resulting from trying to get enough protein” 2) 25% toddlers between 1-2yrs old eat no fruits/veggies at all!
3) American kids eat less than 2% of their entire diet from fruits/veggies! They move into adulthood eating 90% of their calories from dairy products, white flour, sugar, and oil.
4) Heart Disease risk factors are being seen in kids as young as 10yrs old.
5) CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has predicted that this is the first generation of children that may NOT outlive their parents.
6) By the time American children are 15 months old, French fries have become their most commonly consumed vegetable.
Kids don't want to feel left out or different; they want to fit in with their peers. So it's our job as parents to help them with this. There are also ways for kids to gain a better understanding and appreciation for why their family is choosing a vegan diet. Here are a few suggestions: Visit a farm sanctuary- so kids can get up close and personal with rescued animals
. These sanctuaries are very successful in creating a powerful, long-lasting connection to animals. Kids are less likely to want to eat animals after meeting them. Since most vegans don’t visit zoos, this can be a good replacement for that. Make holidays and events extra special- you can come up with new family traditions, but try to also include some classic traditions that other kids will be doing- just do it with a vegan twist. Nowadays almost everything can be "veganized." For example, you can make a vegan gingerbread house, color wooden or paper mache eggs instead of dying real eggs, snack on vegan jelly beans
, and make vegan candy corn for Halloween.Read kids books that affirm vegan values- where animals are respected and shown in a positive light, rather than being used by humans in exploitative situations such as in zoos, circuses, and horse-drawn carriages. Skip the books that show kids eating hot dogs, drinking milk, eating ice cream, fishing, etc. Vegbooks is the best online resource for finding veg-friendly books. Also read books about brave people throughout history who were once viewed as being different and in the minority such as those who worked for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights but were later viewed as heroes, who despite challenges, spoke up for what was right.
Find a vegetarian/vegan parenting group in your community, and if there isn’t one, start your own. It’s really important for kids to be around other veg kids, and it’s also a great resource for veg parents to get together with other like-minded parents to exchange advice, ideas/tips, recipes, etc. If you live in the NYC area, join the NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Families Meetup
. Show your kids the power of activism. If they feel strongly about a specific animal or issue, encourage them to join a protest, write a letter to a newspaper, have a vegan bake sale, hand out literature, or create an art project. They’ll most likely have fun doing this, and it will teach them to be a voice for the voiceless.
Remember there are opportunities for teaching kindness and empathy all around us- here in NYC every time I step outside I come across pigeons, squirrels, and bugs such as spiders, ants and flies. Teach kids to respect these not so cute and cuddly creatures as well. Encourage your kids to stop and watch their behaviors. Instill curiosity and reverence. Model kindness by teaching them to never intentionally step on creatures/animals, chase them, or hit them.
Take advantage of social media to create a virtual support community. Ask questions, get advice and share some of your own tips and ideas with other vegetarian/vegan parents. Follow on Twitter & Pinterest and LIKE on Facebook any and all pages related to vegan kids/vegan parenting. You will be exposed to wonderful articles, recipes, ideas, and inspiration.
I wrote a post for Girlie Girl Army that I wanted to re-share on my website. It’s a piece for parents who are raising vegan kids. I hope it will give you the courage and pride to raise a child according to principles of integrity and compassion. Here it is!
"Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar." -- Bradley Miller
ORIGINAL ON Girlie Girl Army:"When I tell people that I’m raising my child vegan, I sometimes feel as though I have to defend and explain my decision. My decision is passive, I'm just leaving out certain foods from her diet. But parents who are feeding their kids meat, dairy, and eggs are actively adding in foods. So shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t they have to defend their decision to purchase that hot dog that came from a pig who never stepped foot on grass or saw the sky (except from the slot in the truck on her way to the slaughterhouse) and whose mother was forced to live in a tiny metal crate amid her own urine and feces, where she was unable to even turn around or take a step forward or backward for weeks on end?
Why don’t parents who are feeding their kids meat and other products taken from animals have to defend their decision? They’re giving their kids cow’s milk, which is exactly that … cow’s milk! Isn’t that a little strange? It’s meant to fatten up calves. Humans are the only species that drinks another species’ milk, and we’re the only species that drinks any milk past infancy. Casino mogul Steve Wynn said it best: “It’s liquid cholesterol!”
What exactly is it that people are concerned that my child will be missing out on … high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity? It surely can’t be protein, calcium, or iron because there are tons of healthy plant-based sources (spinach, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fortified juices, cereals, pasta, etc.) that don’t have the added fat and cholesterol, not to mention the hormones and antibiotics.
The sad truth is, in this society, any behavior or child-rearing decision that goes against the norm is often seen as wrong or irresponsible. Even weird. And that’s a shame because it often prevents people (in this case, parents) from doing the right thing. Unfortunately, society’s backlash is a strong deterrent, and so is the desire to adhere to the status quo.
NYC Veggie Parade, 2012
Despite the many studies indicating that vegan diets are not only appropriate for children, but may in fact be healthier (for example, the American Dietetic Association—the nation’s largest group of nutrition professionals—stated, “Well-planned vegan diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes”), parents are still opting to add animal products to their children’s diet, mainly as a result of tradition and being constantly bombarded with messages from the dairy and meat industries. Years of slogans like “Milk does the body good” and “You need meat for protein” have been drilled into our heads by multi-billion dollar industries pushing their products. If milk does the body so “good” then why is it that the countries that consume the most milk are also the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis- and vice versa. And the more animal protein that a population consumes, the higher the prevalence of osteoporosis. There is a big protein myth out there, but the fact is Americans eat about 400% more protein than necessary, and even vegetarians eat more than they need.
It would be unethical for me to feed my child meat, dairy, or eggs based on what I know about how animals are raised for food. You can look the other way or deny that it’s as bad as they say, but the truth is, the majority of meat/dairy and eggs sold in this country (>95%) come from animals who have been raised in appalling conditions in overcrowded, filthy warehouses, where they are crammed into small cages and crates and denied basic necessities, including fresh air, sunshine, grass, and companionship. Simply put, I don’t believe that animals should be treated like this, so I’m choosing to leave cruel animal products out of my child’s diet. I’m teaching her that if she wants to help end animal suffering and also not knowingly contribute to major environmental problems including climate change, water and air pollution, deforestation, and soil erosion she has to be a part of the solution, and that means not supporting it (with dollars). This is what it really means to live according to your values.
Catskill Animal Sanctuary
People raise their children according to their own set of morals and values. Just like a Buddhist wouldn’t raise her child Catholic and an environmentalist wouldn’t raise his child to be wasteful, I wouldn’t serve my child chicken fingers or ice cream. Children are little extensions of ourselves (at least until they’re old enough to make their own decisions). In our society, we typically do not allow children to make the decision to participate in anything that is morally questionable until they are of age. Since I consider the way that animals are raised for food in this country to be morally abhorrent, I therefore would not impose animal products upon my child and would not allow her to make that decision until she is old enough to think critically and understand the consequences.
So instead of focusing on what a vegan child is not getting (fat-laden, cholesterol-filled slabs of meat as well as milk, cheese, and eggs from miserable animals who’ve been raised in terrible conditions), let’s focus on what they are getting (a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds). And my daughter is getting a whole lot more than that including a moral compass based on compassion, justice, courage, and integrity. So if you’re raising a vegan child like I am, stop being on the defensive, and start embracing it! Be proud that you are living with intention and consciously choosing compassion over cruelty!"
Tis' the season for creative and fun holiday baking and crafts. Here's one recipe that combines them both! Using all vegan ingredients, you can make clay ornaments using cookie cutters. So it's as fun as making cookies, but at the end you'll have ornaments to paint and decorate and give as holiday gifts.
Using three common ingredients found in most kitchen cabinets, you can make Christmas ornaments that are sturdy and will last for a long time. They are the perfect craft for a preschooler. You can make some for your own Christmas tree as a keepsake, and they also make perfect holiday gifts for aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and teachers.
Charlotte had fun mixing the ingredients (cornstarch, baking soda and water), and shaping them using cookie cutters. After baking them (and cooling), they were ready to be decorated. You can use glue with glitter, beads and whatever else you can think of. Charlotte painted this batch with vibrant watercolors. When she was finished, we tied a string through the hole, wrapped them up, and they were ready to handed out as gifts.
Here's the simple recipe copied from Woodside Kitchen blog. INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup baking soda
3/4 cup water
In a medium sized pot combine the cornstarch, baking soda, and water. With an adults help the kids can stir this mixture over medium-low heat. After a couple of minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken. When it looks like smooth, mashed potatoes, remove the pot from the heat. Spoon the ball of dough into a bowl and cover it with a damp cloth until it's cool. When it's cool, knead it on a smooth surface until smooth. Add more cornstarch if it feels sticky.
Rolling, Cutting, and Baking
Preheat oven to 175 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out clay to 1/4 inch thick on a surface lightly dusted with cornstarch. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Transfer shapes to the prepared baking sheet. Use a straw to poke a hole in the center top of each decoration, then get the kids to blow out the small piece of clay. They love this task! Place them in the oven for about an hour, turning them over halfway through cooking.
Have fun, and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
The Switch Witch is a tradition meant for families who want to have a healthier, more compassionate Halloween. Kids trick-or-treat, eat a few pieces of candy, then swap out the rest for a special toy from the Switch Witch!
The Switch Witch
For kids, Halloween is all about dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, and coming home with plastic baskets, bags, or even pillowcases filled with candy. However, for vegans this presents a problem since most candy is not vegan. Now there is a perfect solution for vegan parents…as well as parents who just don’t want their kids to eat ridiculous amounts of candy filled with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, carnauba wax, and other chemicals. Enter the Switch Witch.
The Switch Witch is a pretend character just like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. It's similar to the Tooth Fairy, except instead of exchanging a tooth for money, kids exchange candy for a toy. Here’s how it works:
When kids come home with a big bag of candy, parents have a few choices. You can let your kids have a few pieces of candy, you’ll just have to swap out the non-vegan pieces for vegan pieces. Or you can skip the candy altogether and just plan on the Switch Witch taking it all. I don’t recommend the latter because I think it’s important for kids to participate in the ritual of not only collecting the candy, but also eating some (in moderation). If you’re not going to let them have any of the candy they collected (or you swapped out), then it’s probably not fair to even let them trick-or-treat in the first place.
After kids enjoy a few treats, then it’s time to prepare for the Switch Witch. Have kids put all of their leftover candy in a special bowl, or keep it in the original trick-or-treat bag. Right before bedtime, kids put the bag outside of their bedroom door, or the front door. While they’re sleeping, the Switch Witch will fly in and take their candy, leaving a toy in its place. When kids wake up, they’ll be excited to find a special present! Be creative, and add your own touches to help make the tradition fun and unique to your family. Vegan or not, it’s a common sense approach to dealing with too much candy.
Halloween is a favorite holiday among kids, and incorporating the Switch Witch just makes it better. Kids get to trick-or-treat, eat some candy, and they get a special present the next morning.
So what do you do with all that leftover candy? Without kids finding out of course, parents can take the stash to work for co-workers, donate it to a shelter, give it to friends or family, or just throw it out since candy is garbage anyway and not beneficial to anyone's health.
Some parents might feel that it’s only one day when kids get to eat candy, so we should let them eat whatever they want. However, it's not really just one day of candy-- when you spread out the amount of candy that most kids collect, it can, and usually does last for weeks. Seriously, do kids really need that much candy? Won't a few pieces, combined with a fun night of trick-or- treating, and a visit from the Switch Witch suffice?
Incorporating the Switch Witch into your Halloween tradition is a great idea for many reasons. With 1 out of 3 kids being overweight or obese (triple the rate from 50yrs ago), and rates of other food-related diseases and illnesses rising, letting kids consume pounds and pounds of sugary candy (and chemicals) is hardly a smart decision. This, on top of the fact that most candy is not vegan, makes the Switch Witch a perfect solution for parents looking for a healthier, safer, more compassionate Halloween. Start this year, and make it a new tradition that kids look forward to every year.
NOTE: If you think that your kids might be scared of a witch coming into the house, you could revise it and do a fairy, or some other animal. You could even do a "magic box." Kids can decorate a cardboard box, and then leave it outside of their room-- then overnight it magically disappears and in its place is a toy!
Create your own story about the Switch Witch, or pick up one of these books below to share with your kids:
On the topic of Halloween...
Try this amazing recipe for homemade vegan candy corn. I made it last year (and plan on making it again this year ), and it came out perfectly. It tasted just like the original
Here's a list of vegan Halloween candy.
Recipe for vegan pumpkin cupcakes narrated by Petey the vegan.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...vegan birthday here we are!
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
My daughter recently turned two. We celebrated her birthday in Vermont, and the theme of her party was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star-- which is one of her favorite songs. We shined lights in the shape of stars onto the ceiling, had glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the wall, a nightlight projecting Planet Earth, star confetti, star balloons, and other fun outer space decorations. But the real "star" of the party was the desserts. I made a round cake with white coconut whipped cream frosting to represent the moon, and yellow cupcakes in the shape of stars.
Besides the fact that most food coloring/dyes aren’t vegan, there are studies linking them to a whole host of health problems, including behavioral issues in kids. They are everywhere: in baked goods, cereals, snacks, candy, and many other common products. Even if my daughter wasn’t vegan, I’d want her to steer clear of these toxic products, there’s just nothing good about them. With some experimentation and creativity, it's easy to find natural, safe alternatives using vegetables, fruits and spices. No chemicals involved! Check out this beautiful bright pink frosting I made using just raspberries.
For my daughter’s birthday, I needed yellow dye for her star cupcakes. With a little help from my Twitter friends, I tested out turmeric. It worked perfectly! I mixed it into the frosting little by little, and tasted it as I went along to make sure that the flavor of turmeric wasn’t detectable. What I ended up with was a beautiful yellow-colored icing. I was so happy with the results that I plan to use turmeric from now on whenever I need a yellow dye.
Here’s the recipe for the cake/cupcake batter I used-- which came out soft, moist and delicious! I also included the recipe for the two icings I used: coconut whipped cream for the moon cake, and fluffy buttercream frosting for the star cupcakes. Enjoy!
VANILLA CAKE RECIPE
1 cup Sugar
1 2/3 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Grease and sprinkle some flour into an 8 inch cake pan or round (your choice)
- In a large bowl combine sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt
- Cut the shortening into your dry ingredients
- in another bowl combine vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla extract, and water to the bowl, mix well
- Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix well.
- Pour cake batter immediately into pan and bake
- Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean
Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Then place the cake upside down on a plate and allow it to cool an additional 10 minutes before frosting.
COCONUT WHIPPED CREAM Ingredients:
2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
1/3 cup vegan powdered sugar
1. Chill coconut milk in refrigerator from 4 - 12 hours. Chill whisk attachment from mixer, if room in fridge.
2. Attach whisk attachment to mixer. Open cans of coconut milk, being careful not to stir or shake the contents inside. Carefully scoop the top, thick part of the coconut milk from inside the can; discard the remaining coconut liquid/water. Place thick coconut cream in a medium mixing bowl; add sugar.
3. Whip until just smooth and thick, about 20 seconds. Do not overmix-- mixture will fall and become thin. Use whipped cream immediately, or refrigerate up to 4 hours prior to use
FLUFFY BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
* This recipe is from the book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
½ cup nonhydrogenated shortening
½ cup nonhydrogenated margarine
3½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup plain soy milk or soy creamer
- Beat the shortening and margarine together until well-combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes. Add the vanilla and soy milk and beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.
For more delicious vegan cupcake and cake recipes, check out this book.
It should be in every vegan parent's kitchen!
Enjoy the recipes and happy vegan birthday to all!
Having trouble getting your kids to eat fruits and veggies? Kia Robertson offers a fun, interactive solution that encourages kids to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day-- one from each color of the rainbow. Read on to find out about the Rainbow Kit she created, and get started helping your kids get healthy today!
America is facing a major health crisis, which can mostly be attributed to our diet. Many kids are eating processed foods daily; lots of sugary junk with little to no fruits or vegetables. About 25% of toddlers between ages one and two eat no fruits and vegetables at all. By the time American children are 15 months old (yes, 15 months!), French fries have become their most commonly consumed vegetable. The science overwhelmingly tells us that we can prevent (and even reverse) many of today’s epidemic illnesses and diseases by incorporating more whole foods (and less processed foods) into our diet. This starts with fruits and vegetables. According to one of the world leaders in nutrition research, T. Colin Campbell, who published more than 300 research papers including executing the most comprehensive study of health and nutrition ever conducted…if we all adopt a plant-based diet today we could potentially cut healthcare costs by up to 80%! Think about that for a minute. Can you imagine?
The nutrition guidelines in this country are backwards to say the least. They’re being upheld by outdated science, biases, traditions, and other misconceptions, rather than being based on real facts and science. We’re taking orders and advice from bureaucrats and doctors who are still stuck in the past when it comes to nutritional needs and disease prevention, the government is handing over huge subsidies to companies involved in factory farming, our kids in school are being “educated” by the USDA, and the billion-dollar industries that are exploiting animals, workers, and the environment are pulling the strings and controlling our food system. These societal issues are a little more complicated and difficult to untangle, but when it comes to our own families, we can take charge of the situation. We are in control of what our kids eat. After doing the research, we can be the experts. Kia Robertson, founder of Today I Ate A Rainbow! offers a creative, fun approach to helping families incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their daily diets.
Kia's daughter using her Rainbow Kit.
Kia created the Rainbow Kit. The kit includes:
This kit gets kids excited about eating fruits and vegetables. When kids are allowed, and more importantly encouraged to be involved in the process of what they eat, they gain confidence, knowledge, and a sense of personal responsibility in their health. The Rainbow Kit has this power.
- 1 Today I Ate A Rainbow! chart
- 4 sets colored magnets
- 4 achievement magnets
- 2 fridge magnets
- 1 color-coded shopping list
- The Rainbow Bunch book
- 1 bonus bookmark
The package presentation is beautiful-- after all, who doesn’t love rainbows. The goal of the kit is to get kids to eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables every day… one from each color of the rainbow, by tracking them on a color-coded refrigerator chart. The magnets are stuck on the coordinating color column on the chart every time a fruit or veggie is eaten. (The rainbow chart includes a written list of foods from each color to help get kids started). Once five are eaten and the quota is filled for the day, the kids can stick on their achievement magnet. What a great achievement it is!
The kit also includes a shopping list notepad- creatively color-coded so you can write down what you want to pick up at the grocery store according to color.
The Rainbow Bunch book is also included. It tells the story of five kids who ate no fruits or veggies; they couldn’t focus at school, they were too tired to play, and they got sick all the time. Then one day, starting one bite at a time, they started to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diets. They eat a rainbow each day, and they became happy and healthy! It’s a great book, and a perfect launching off pad for kids to get started eating a rainbow themselves. There’s also a rainbow bookmark included.
If you have kids, the Rainbow kit is worth its weight in gold. It’s an investment in your child’s health. So start today, and get kids involved and keep them involved way into to the future. I highly recommend the book, Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It is one of the most eye-opening, life changing books that I've ever read-- it will change the way you feed your children forever. In it, Dr. Fuhrman talks about the tremendous benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and how it can have long-lasting positive effects on our health way into the future. An important, must-read for all parents (I wish this book was given out to all new parents in the hospital!). Also check out the kid's book, The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach by Hillary Feerik and Jeff Hillenbrand. Tell me your child's favorite fruit or vegetable in the comment section below and you will be entered in the contest to win a free Rainbow Kit! Happy RAINBOW eating!
I recently spoke on the Raising Vegan Kids panel at The Seed: A Vegan Experience in NYC. It was exciting to be part of such an important event-- and to be able to connect with other parents raising vegan kids. If you missed the panel, here are a few highlights from my presentation...
I was very excited to be asked to be part of the ‘Raising Vegan Kids’ panel along with Nora Kramer, Michelle Schwegmann, and Chloe Jo Davis at The Seed: A Vegan Experience in NYC. I’ve gone to many vegan and animal rights conferences and events, but there is hardly ever a mention on the topic of raising vegan kids. And now that I have my very own vegan kid, it's relevant to me. I think because more and more adults are becoming vegan, and those adults are having kids, it makes complete sense that the subject of raising veg kids is also becoming more popular, and worthy of discussion. Thank you to The Seed for hosting a whole panel dedicated to the subject of raising vegan kids... definitely a big step in the right direction towards a better world for animals (and the health of our kids, and planet too).
Here are a few topics I discussed in my presentation:
Embracing veganism is the most effective step a family can take to fight animal suffering. If you have a vegan family, be proud that while you are not necessarily taking the easy road, you most definitely are taking the high road. Encourage your family to be proud and courageous in your family’s decision. We obviously know that a vegan diet is the best decision you can make for the well-being of animals, and according to many studies, (including by the United Nations) it's also the best decision you can make for the environment. It's also the best decision you can make for the health of your child. Despite countless messages being drilled into our heads about how we need meat and dairy to survive and thrive, there is now overwhelming evidence by many top physicians and organizations that say the contrary. In fact, countless studies show that if we leave meat and dairy off our plates, we have a better chance of avoiding many types of cancers, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes other debilitating and fatal diseases and illnesses. So when it comes to the animals' well-being, the environment, and our children's health, the facts and science are overwhelmingly on our side. So be confident in your decision to raise compassionate, healthy vegan kids.
Nora Kramer, Michelle Schwegmann, Chloe Jo Davis, Robyn Moore
Laying the Foundation Early to Raise a Compassionate, Healthy Child:
Research shows that what a woman eats during pregnancy may shape food preferences later in life. In the womb, the baby gulps down several ounces of amniotic fluid a day and this fluid is flavored by the foods and beverages the mother has eaten (things like vanilla, carrot, garlic, anise, mint, etc.). So researchers tested this by giving women garlic capsules or sugar capsules and then took a sample of their amniotic fluid and asked volunteers to smell the samples. The people could easily pick out the samples from the women who ate garlic. This shows that babies in the womb can also taste it since taste is primarily based on smell. So what you eat in pregnancy can result in preferences for certain foods for a lifetime. In other words, if you eat broccoli while you're pregnant, there's a much better chance your baby will like broccoli.
Research also shows that the foods our children eat in the first 10 years of their lives has a critical and profound effect on their lifelong health, so it’s important to introduce as many different foods as possible. Be consistent- it can take up to 15 times exposure to a food before a child accepts/likes a food. Don't give up!
Here are a few tips to help develop healthy eating patterns in children:
Be a good role model- you can’t snack on Oreos and potato chips and expect your child to eat carrots and celery. Let your child see you eating healthy foods.
Cook and bake with your kids- kids are more apt to try something that they’ve helped make You can start at a young age. My daughter helps me by mixing and pouring ingredients, mashing up tofu in her hands for tofu scramble, ripping kale, and adding fruits to the blender for green smoothies.
Bring kids grocery shopping- let them pick out foods that they already like and also challenge them to find new foods that they want to try. Adults should do this too!
Grow vegetables in your backyard or windowsill, or go to a farm to see vegetables growing in the ground or go to a farm where you can pick-your-own fruits and veggies in season.
Remove the competition- just as you remove meat and dairy from your households, also remove the junk and processed foods. If kids are hungry and there isn't any junk food around, they'll be forced to grab something healthy to eat.
Order a Today I Ate A Rainbow Kit!- which encourages kids to eat at least 5 servings of fruits/veggies a day, including one from each color of the rainbow. They can track it on a refrigerator chart with magnets. It's fun and interactive.
Social Side: Kids don't want to feel left out or different; they want to fit in with their peers. So it's our job as parents to help them with this. There are also ways for kids to gain a better understanding and appreciation for why their family is choosing a vegan diet. Here are a few suggestions:
Visit a farm sanctuary- so kids can get up close and personal with rescued animals. These sanctuaries are very successful in creating a powerful, long-lasting connection to animals. Kids are less likely to want to eat animals after meeting them! Since most vegans don’t visit zoos, this can be a good replacement for that.
Make holidays and events extra special- you can come up with new family traditions, but try to also include some classic traditions that other kids will also be doing- just do it with a vegan twist. Nowadays almost everything can be "veganized." For example, you can make a vegan gingerbread house, color wooden or paper mache eggs instead of dying real eggs, snack on vegan jelly beans, and make vegan candy corn for Halloween.
Read kids books that affirm vegan values- where animals are respected and shown in a positive light, rather than being used by humans in exploitative situations such as in zoos, circuses, and horse-drawn carriages. Try to skip the books that show kids eating hot dogs, drinking milk, eating ice cream, fishing, etc. VEGBOOKS is the best online resource for finding veg-friendly books. Also, besides kids books, read books about brave people throughout history who were once viewed as being different and in the minority such as those who worked for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights but were later viewed as heroes, who despite challenges, spoke up for what was right.
Find a vegetarian/vegan parenting group in your community, and if there isn’t one, start your own. It’s really important for kids to be around other veg kids, and it’s also a great resource for veg parents to get together with other like-minded parents to exchange advice, ideas/tips, recipes, etc. If you live in the NYC area, please join the NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Families Meetup.
Show your kids the power of activism. If they feel strongly about a specific animal or issue, encourage them to join a protest, write a letter to a newspaper, have a vegan bake sale, hand out literature, or create an art project. They’ll most likely have fun doing this, and it will teach them to be a voice for the voiceless.
Remember there are opportunities for teaching kindness and empathy all around us- here in NYC every time I step outside I come across pigeons, squirrels, and bugs such as spiders, ants and flies. Teach them to respect these not so cute and cuddly creatures as well. Encourage your kids to stop and watch their behaviors. Instill curiosity and reverence. Model kindness by teaching them to never intentionally step on creatures/animals, chase them, or hit them.
Dealing with Playdates, Sleepovers and School Functions
The first thing you want to do is make sure that your relative or child’s friend’s parents know that your child is VEGAN. Next, make sure they know what a VEGAN is, and exactly what foods they can’t eat. Nowadays, many kids are allergic to specific foods (e.g. dairy, peanuts), and there are more and more vegetarians and vegans so different diets shouldn’t be unfamiliar to them.
For events such as sleepovers, birthday parties, school functions, pizza parties, and cookouts, the number one most important thing you can do is find out ahead of time what they’ll be serving and supply your child with a vegan substitute, if possible. This will require a little more time and effort on your part, but it’s worth it to make your child feel part of the group.
Create a LIST- for grandparents, aunts/uncles, friends, babysitters, daycares. This is actually something that my Mom recommended. This can be especially helpful for grandparents who have other grandkids too-- so that they can buy snacks that all the kids can eat, because it’s inevitable that kids will want to share or have what the other one is having. On the list you can also include some non-obvious vegan ingredients to look out for when shopping that people may not know- such as whey, casein, honey, gelatin, etc. Click here for list.
Recommended Resources for Raising Vegan Kids
Despite living in a society permeated by mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and milk... it's getting easier and easier to raise vegan kids because there are so many resources available, online and in books. You can google almost any subject about vegan parenting and you'll get back tons of answers.
Take advantage of social media to create a virtual support community. Ask questions, get advice and share some of your own tips and ideas with other vegetarian/vegan parents. Follow on Twitter & Pinterest and LIKE on Facebook any and all pages related to vegan kids/vegan parenting. You will be exposed to wonderful articles, recipes, ideas, and inspiration.
Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World by Erin Pavlina of Vegfamily.com
Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times by Zoe Weil (makes a great baby shower gift!)
50 Awesome Ways Kids Can Help Animals by Ingrid Newkirk of PETA
Vegan Lunch Box: 130 Amazing, Animal-Free Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love! by Jennifer McCann
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
Healthy Eating for Life for Children by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Eating for Kids by M.S.J. Dana Villamagna and M.D., M.Sc. Andrew VillamagnaVegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward RebhalSkinny Bitch Bun in the Oven by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
Happy, Healthy, Vegan Kids by Tracie DeMotteThat’s Why We Don’t eat Animals and Vegan is Love by Ruby Roth
My message to vegan parents: Your decision to raise vegan kids means that you will often be challenging the status quo and swimming against the current, but don't let that deter you. Never apologize for choosing a lifestyle based on compassion and integrity. Deep in your heart you know you're doing the right thing for the animals, the planet and your children, so be proud and confident in your decision. Feel empowed. Live with a clean conscience knowing that you and your family are living according to your deepest values. Make veganism fun! Make vegan pancakes on the weekend, have vegan pizza parties, and make vegan ice cream sundaes!