Hampstead mums 'on a mission' to explain why they are raising their kids vegan
- Credit: Big Questions Brighter Tomorrow
When Erika Nilsson-Humphreys posted about changing the lunch choices at her daughter's school on a Hampstead mum's group, she suffered "a lot of backlash".
Her six year old was stuck with unimaginative salads until a successful campaign with the school dinner provider to adjust the non meat option from veggie to vegan.
"It was a huge step forward, but when I posted about it on a local mums group, I faced backlash about pushing my vegan agenda," says the former investment banker.
"The problem is a lack of knowledge around a plant based diet. People think I am taking something away from them when I'm just trying to raise awareness with other parents. If you substitute coconut or oat milk for dairy, or serve plant-based burgers they taste exactly the same but are healthy, good for animals and good for the planet. Even if you don't relate to animal rights, you can't ignore that we have to swap to a mainly plant based diet to tackle climate change."
Nilsson-Humphreys and yoga instructor Keziah Breslin have a "mission and passion" to speak truthfully to children about food choices. The pair met when daughters Vivi and Liv made friends at school.
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"When my daughter started school, her best friend turned out to be vegan too and we mums became good friends. We have vegan books try to explain why we do what we do, but there is definitely a gap in the market for children who want a character or a hero they can relate to, who responds to the questions they have," she explains.
The duo have written two books as a "call to action" to educate children about plant-based diets. Livi and the Story of Climate Change and Livi and the Story of the Sausage Roll which explains that a pig is a living being with a mummy, a daddy and siblings "just like you and me".
Livi loves animals and nature, and has vegan superpowers, as she journeys through life questioning everyday things that we often take for granted.
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"The word vegan can be negative," admits the Belsize Park resident. "But the books hardly mention it. They came from thinking do we speak truthfully to children about food choices or about what it is to eat animals? No! We pretend this chicken is not from an animal. In modern society we don't live close to farms and are detached from food choices. The books engage a broad conversation in a child-friendly way to get them to understand the food choices that they make. What if they were empowered to know what those choices meant for the planet, animals and their health?"
Nilsson-Humphrey defends raising her daughter vegan. "Major nutritional studies have shown a plant based diet is good for any stage of life from birth. Our daughters are so healthy and vibrant, they eat 25 different plants a week, fruits, pulses, pasta."
She became vegan when Vivi was eight months old after learning about animal welfare and the use of chemicals in meat production.
"I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36. I was fairly healthy, never smoked and exercised regularly and I became obsessed with nutrition and went vegetarian. Then I met a vegan and watched some documentaries and my consciousness shifted. I thought 'this is crazy what we do to animals and how it affects our planet, our health.'"
Nilsson-Humphrey believes that "we are all born vegan." "No-one wants to hurt animals but society takes over it and tells us that's how it is and it's hard to question."
But she adds: "I don't judge anybody, I am not super human. I ate meat and dairy until I was 36. If I can change anyone can."