Real Vegan Families: The Colombo-Dahlgren Family


The Colombo-Dahlgren Family

Tell us about the members of your family – their names, ages, and an interesting tidbit of information about them!

Sharon (47), Pete (52), Greta (5) & Ursula (5). Pete and I met swimming masters about 11 years ago, and friendship grew into a relationship, we’ve been married 9 years. Greta and Ursula are identical twins!

When did your family start its vegan journey?

May of 2010 – almost 8 years!

What has been the most rewarding part of being a vegan family?

The most rewarding part at the start of our journey was how great we felt physically – we both lost weight and Sharon’s migraines diminished greatly. We also noticed our allergies improve – in fact, Sharon’s seasonal allergies basically disappeared (she had previously needed prescription medication). After we started our vegan journey we read more about the environmental impact of meat and dairy and of course the impact on the animals – knowing we were making a difference every day in tackling those problems feels even better than the health improvements!

What has been the most challenging part of being a vegan family, and how do you handle that challenge?

Now that we see how amazing it feels to be vegan (the food is better than anything we ate before), it’s frustrating to see other people resist this lifestyle – we were telling everyone we know about it, but not everyone wanted to try it. Food changes are very personal, and they have to happen when someone is ready. We know because we once ate meat, too. Sharon has been vegetarian since 1993, but it took her 17 more years to give up cheese and eggs!! We try to just live our lives and show our friends and family how good we feel and explain that while changing your food choices does take time and work (learning new recipes etc.), that it’s possible to make the change and the rewards are huge. We also try to introduce them to our favorite recipes so they see how delicious and satisfying a vegan diet can be!

What has been the most surprising or awkward encounter you or a member of your family has had because you are vegan?

When Sharon became pregnant and we shared the news with our friends and family, a few people asked us if we would raise the girls vegan. On hindsight, it’s not that surprising – while lots of people understand the benefits now – even 5 years ago, many people thought of it as a very restrictive way to eat – and one that might deprive the girls of things they need. As it turns out, we are confident that our girls get more nutrients than many kids who eat a standard American diet. We see some other kids sort of “addicted” to bread and cheese and resistant to eating vegetables. We’re happy that our girls love their fruits and vegetables. Sharon’s pregnancy was extremely healthy and the girls have been super healthy since birth! We feel like we’ve given them a huge gift to raise them this way.

What is your go-to family dinner when you are short on time?

Roasted or steamed veggies and some lightly fried tofu or Tofurky sausages!

What is the go-to lunch you pack for your child(ren) for school?

We are lucky, the girls attend a vegan preschool (lunch provided!) here in Portland, Oregon. They will start kindergarten this coming fall and we’ll be sorting out lunches then! I’m guessing we’ll do a lot of almond butter and jelly (assuming a peanut restriction) and some fruit and raw veggies, maybe some crackers or dried fruit, too.

What are your family’s favorite snacks (whether intentionally or unintentionally vegan)?

Fresh fruit (berries in the summer are so good in Oregon), Lara bars, dried fruit and nuts, popcorn (love our air popper), crackers.

Do you have any tips for eating out as a vegan family at a non-vegan restaurant?

We are lucky – we don’t have to do this a lot because we live in a city with lots of vegan restaurants and where the other restaurants usually have some vegan options. But when we travel and we are in a pinch we just get some french fries or a simple salad and make the most of it. We do our best to plan ahead so we always have some snacks on hand so we can fill in the gaps if we can’t fill up at a restaurant. We try not to sweat the small stuff like when there might be a tiny amount of milk or eggs in a burger bun or something like that – it’s impossible to be 100% vegan, but we do our best!

Does your family have any favorite vegan-friendly children’s books or cookbooks?

We like V is for Vegan by Ruby Roth. As for cookbooks, we love Dreena Burton’s Plant Powered Families and Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moscowitz.

What is your family’s favorite vegan business (either local or online)?

Kite Hill is our favorite vegan brand – their cheeses and yogurts are amazing. We also love many vegan restaurants and bakeries in Portland!

Have you been able to connect to other vegan families in your area? If so, how?

We have met several vegan families through our preschool (not all the families are vegan even though the school is). We treasure this as we head into elementary school where the girls will be more greatly outnumbered and won’t have as many vegan friends in their class. There are also some great Facebook groups that we have joined and have met some people that way. To anyone feeling isolated – look online – you will find lots of supportive friends near and far!

Do you have any words of wisdom to offer other veggie families or those making the transition?

I know it must be hard to transition kids who are not babies into a vegan diet – we are lucky that we didn’t have to do this as it’s all they have ever known, but we do talk to them about the fact that we used to eat animal foods so they understand that it’s a choice. Someday I’m sure they might try animal foods – we want them to make the same choice as us but we don’t want it to feel forced. I think for kids who are old enough, really understanding the implications of meat and dairy could help. As for trying new foods – which we are constantly doing too – we try to get the girls to help us pick out recipes and we allow them to reject a new food as long as they try it. We are slowly adding recipes to our list of things the entire family enjoys…but sometimes we do fall back to basics for the girls when Pete and I eat things they don’t like or aren’t ready to embrace. The world of “substitute” foods is incredible right now – there are so many amazing vegan cheeses and butters and meats – being open to these will help anyone eat a more plant based diet.

If not everyone in your family is vegan, what is that like? Any advice for other veg-omni families?

We are all vegan! I know it makes things easier!

What’s the main message of veganism that you’d like your children to take with them into adulthood?

We want them to understand that their food choices have huge implications on our world and on their health. This can be a heavy topic (i.e. factory farms, climate change) so we don’t press this a lot as they are still young, but we hope to open their eyes to this more as they get older. We have visited a few farm sanctuaries and hope to continue to do this as they grow up. We do talk about how food makes them feel, so they can appreciate how good it feels to eat healthy whole foods – this is something I wish I had thought about more as I grew up, and I think it will help them to have a healthy relationship with food.


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Posted in Family Life, Real Vegan Families