Raising Vegetarian Kids

My Sweetheart and I are vegetarians; we eat fish now and then but who can resist sushi out here on the west-coast? So the strident rule-followers say we are not actually vegetarians. My mother calls us “pescatarians.” And just because we are vegetarians does not mean that we hate meat. I drool as I drive by the KFC and smell that chicken frying…I do look on longingly when I see a plate of thick cut bacon going by me in a restaurant…I breathe deeply when I am visiting my mother (a verified-card-carrying carnivore) and listen to the pork loin sizzle as it spins on the rotisserie…we do not hate meat. We choose not to eat it.

Whatever though, that is not the issue. The issue is that we are raising our kids as vegetarians. Much to the horror of many people.

People exclaim in shock that the girls are not going to get enough protein. They won’t get any vitamin B-12, they won’t get iron, they won’t get this or that or…

Do people realize that there are cultures where vegetarianism is the accepted norm? Do people realize that just because I do not eat the “salty-supreme” pizza with salami and pepperoni on it, I will be okay? and my kids will be okay?

Some people have suggested that we are making decisions for the girls that are not ours to make. And then they asked if we were going to have the girls baptised. From what I understand you cannot “undo” a baptism. At least if the kids decide at some point later on in their lives that they in fact want to eat a shitty old hamburger, they can do whatever they like. So bring on the tofu-de-beast, I am hungry for some dinner!!

6 Comments

  1. This is something I’m quibbling over – whether it’s okay for me to make the decision for Zoë. I eat a basically vegan diet (with occasional bouts of cheesecake), and she is completely dairy-free, but loves meat. So, after a few weeks of both of us being vegan, and her subsequently intent to live on hummus, almonds and peanut butter as protein sources, I’ve reintroduced free-range eggs and about once a week, a few oz. of free-range meat.

    How do you get past that whole “I’m making an ethical decision for them” question?

  2. Ah, the vegetarian child. My son was fully carnivorous until he was 3 years old, and then a meat-eater with his dad & an unwilling vegetarian with me. Eventually, when he was a teen the deal was: if you grocery shop with me and cook it, you can include meat in your meal. And, he regularly did so.

    In spite of spending most of my adult life as a vegetarian (although the tipping point is getting closer to half as I get older and the bacon in the fridge beckons) I share some of the concerns of the carnivores when I hear about vegetarian children.

    Not because people cannot live entire lifetimes as vegetarians, but because our society is not set up well to support a vegetarian lifestyle and a couple of decades of insufficient vitamin B-12 and a person is on monthly shots for the rest of their life.

    My point about society is not so meaningful in the first years of eating solid foods when parents are ensuring legumes and dairy and the full range of veggies necessary to get all the vits & mins. But, once our kids are in daycares and at the homes of friends where vegetarian means you get carrot sticks – again – for a snack (because, remember, we can’t have nuts or nut products in a daycare, and if your child gets processed cheese strings everyone will want cheese strings instead of ham sandwiches.) Or the, “well, there’s potatoes and brussels sprouts” dinner.

    I admire you for setting them along a path littered with few dead animals (although Papa’s stout leather bags & footwear might have moo-ed once upon a time!)

    As for baptism, it can be revoked…. as all those of us who have been excommunicated can tell you. 😉

  3. Kudos to you guys for sticking to your guns. I was raised as a vegetarian and had my first taste of meat when I was 23 (Steak care of the Keg and my eager husband). I never felt like I missed out, and was/am a healthy person. I made the choice to swap over to ‘the dark side’ and now eagerly gobble down bacon and steak at every opportunity.

    I do not, however, attend Catholic Mass anymore, much to the horror of my family. I am constantly reminded that I made a commitment to got and the church…when asked for a comment about my veg-ism ending… most reply ‘meh’

  4. Zoeyjane…that is my question precisely! Is it the right thing to do? With religion, people often make the choice of where their kids go to church. Is that okay? Time will tell..maybe my little twin beans will demand the A&W Twin Burgers…

  5. Children are born and raised in a family, and that family has beliefs, traditions and ethics. Just like many families don’t believe in feeding their kids ‘junk food’ – i.e. soda pop, whoknowswhat weiners, processed foods etc. – most families have beliefs around what they consume, vegetarian or otherwise.

    Should the Jewish or Islamic family feed their kids pork because ‘everyone else is doing it’? Of course not. They take pride in their cultural beliefs, and most of the time, so do their children. A family will tell their children “Well, maybe Mikey eats hot dogs, but our family chooses not to eat those because they are not healthy.” (more info age-depending)

    A family will explain to their children the reasons they follow certain parameters, and when the kids turn of age, they can decide for themselves.

    I disagree that our society is not ‘set up’ for vegetarians. Excluding red meat, chicken and pork is actually quite easy, as more people realise the health benefits of a primarily vegetarian and whole grain diet. People sure have a narrow view of what vegetarians can eat!

    More and more people are accepting the proven link between high red meat consumption and cancers (ie. colo-rectal). Red meat consumption is down in a huge way in Canada. This is better for our environment, and better for our health.

    Stacey – stick to your guns! er…beliefs. You are doing your twins an enormous health favour.

  6. Yesterday’s epost from world renowned children’s expert Dr. Sears:

    The “we principle” (“This is what we eat…”) should flow as a natural part of parenting: “This is what we believe…, this is how we dress…,this is how we talk…,and this is what we eat.” Children expect this guidance from their parents. Some motivated moms conclude that they shouldn’t have to apologize to their children for making these changes: “After all, we’re the parents, and we simply say, ‘This is what we eat in our family – period.’”

    “But, Mommy,” Suzy protests, “my friends get to drink a lot of soda at their houses.” “Sorry, honey, we don’t drink that in our home,” you might reply. And you might add a softer touch, “Because I love you, I can’t let you pollute your beautiful brain and body with that junk.”

    It’s important not to be a nutritional wimp.

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