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If a parent decides, for humanitarian reasons, to go vegan, is it reasonable to ask 4, 6, and 8 yo kids (generally upbeat and compliant) to follow suit, at home and away? In any case, how well do kids take that type of request? If it works for a short time (say a month) is it likely to work longer term? Does anyone have experience with this?

Update: It is now a few months and all is not well. The young kids cry when they are at a birthday party and cannot eat the cake. Sigh.

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    First of all, do your research on how vegan diets affect children. As someone who works regularly with kids as part of hobby activities (boy-scouts), a vegan diet can be incredibly debilitating for kids that are growing. This happens because it's really hard to have a balanced vegan diet, and kids are exceptionally less tolerant to missing nutrients than adults. It can be done, but they will need the right diet and the right supplements for it. – T. Sar Mar 4 '16 at 11:51
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    The hardest part would probably be other kids, activities they attend, even things like cheese pizza is out now. I disagree with Thales about supplements aside maybe a DHA vitamin every now and then, but I know how to get everything in a balanced profile from a vegan diet. If they have a taste for carnivorous diets, it could be a very hard transition and maybe necessary to ween them into vegan diets over a long period of time. Phasing out cheese has been hard for every vegan I know. Everything else there's an option for easily. – Kai Qing Mar 4 '16 at 23:10
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Some nutritionists advise against a strict vegan diet, particularly for very young children, as it can be difficult to meet their nutritional requirements.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/apr/20/veganism-safe-children

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/vegetarian-diets-and-children

As a parent your primary responsibility is the well-being of your children, so it's important to be very well informed, and base your decision on reliable, and objective nutritional research.

A less strict vegetarian diet may be an appropriate compromise, as long as you're very careful to ensure that they're getting sufficient nutrition.

The most cautious approach may be to simply cut back on meat products, but don't eliminate them entirely.

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    Do you have support for the claim to not eliminate meat products entirely? I'm asking because I still eat meat because I like it and eat very little, but have never really been able to substantiate the claim that meat is actually necessary from any age at all. The most I can get is that it's hard to match the collective profile, but nobody really shows a comparison of what the full replacement spread would actually look like. So much as I know, a little creativity and willingness to cook (or prepare) is all that's needed to totally replace meat. – Kai Qing Mar 4 '16 at 23:18
  • @KaiQing: I think the general consensus is that vegetarian is ok for children, if it is carefully balanced, while vegan is (at least) discouraged because it is close to impossible to meet a child's nutritional needs without supplements. This is supported by the texts cited in this answer. – sleske Mar 24 '16 at 12:36
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    And even that assumes your kids don't have allergies. I have one with a nut/seed/banana allergy. Balancing a diet becomes more complex. I think you can really restrict the menu at home due to your beliefs, but also recognize that your kids have to fit into their social environment too, and if there's pepperoni on the pizza at a party...well that's not where you set limits. Your kids ARE going to grow up and make their own choices, and you don;t want them to become carnival rebels as teens. Explaining your philosophy without being too strict controlling their lives is more likely to endure. – Michael Broughton Mar 24 '16 at 18:12
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Just my personal opinion, but:

I think this is a choice you should leave up to your children. Whether or not a vegetarian or vegan diet is good, advisable or even ethically required is very much in debate, with good arguments for both sides.

From a medical point of view, I think the general consensus is that vegetarian is ok for children, if it is carefully balanced, while vegan is (at least) discouraged because it is close to impossible ot meet a child's nutritional needs without supplements. So an important point against a vegan diet is that you may harm your child.

For such ambiguous cases, I think the children's wishes should take precedence. You can explain your choice to them in terms they can understand (even a 4-yo should be able to grasp the basic issue), then let them decide. And I would be very wary about a vegan diet (even if they should choose it), because of the concerns noted above.

At any rate, a decision like whether they prefer vegetarianism over eating the birthday cake should be left up to them, as it's really a very personal decision, and one they should be able to make.

Note: My wife is vegetarian (though not vegan), while I am not, and we let our daughter decide for herself - the result is she ocasionally eats meat, but rarely.

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