Saturday, November 15, 2008

Raising Vegetarian Kids

A while ago, a fellow blogger left a comment asking whether we are raising our children vegetarian and if so, how that is going. Because today is Saturday and I am not cooking anything so I have no photos or exciting recipes to share, I thought I would answer this question.

Before I do, let me say that I am no poster child for the vegetarian movement. I have no soapbox to stand on. It is not, and has never been, my goal to "convert" anyone. Veg is how I eat and how you eat is how you eat. My own husband is a carnivore and I have no problem with that. He eats vegetarian at home and eats meat when we are out. I am interested in giving people ideas of wonderful, healthy and delicious food that is vegetarian, not in telling people that something they choose to eat is bad.

So for now, my kids are vegetarian because that is how I cook in our home. Aside from a couple bits of charcuterie here and there, some salmon, and
the turkeys that are on their way, meat doesn't come in my house. I will continue to cook vegetarian for them until they leave for college. If, somewhere along the way, they decide that they want to have a hamburger at a friend's house or order meat in a restaurant, I will be fine with that. I believe diet, like religion, is a personal matter. You can influence your children but not decide for them. For now, my older son knows not to ask for a bite of Daddy's chicken sandwich and sort of understands why his dish of noodles at school doesn't have meatballs. My younger son just eats what is put on his highchair tray - or launches it over the edge.

Until that day, I do what all moms do - feed my kids the best I can. I am fortunate that both of them are pretty good eaters. My older son is pretty adventurous and has liked olives, salad,
fresh rolls with peanut sauce, etc. from about age 1. My younger son eats a lot of more quantity but is a little pickier and says "no" more. But he also likes olives and pickled ginger and vegetarian sushi. So really, I have no complaints.

Although I make fairly gourmet food for my clients, my kids eat a lot of cheese quesadillas and fake chicken nuggets. My husband comes home late enough that we don't eat as a family so I feed them something quick first. I look at their food intake over a week rather than what they have eaten in a given day. Like most moms I know, I just try and make sure that they have had some protein, some dairy (neither drink milk), some whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables. I don't stress too much about what each meal contains. I figure it all balances out. Both of my boys have been incredibly healthy (knock on wood), so I think I'm doing something right.


veggie belly said...

I was raised vegetarian. Our main sources of protein were grains, lentils and dairy. Even our dogs were vegetarian! I completely agree with your food philosophy - I have no problems with people around me eating meat. My husband eats meat. If we had kids and they wanted to order a burger, I wont stop them. I'm not one for 'brainwashing' children to be on your side.

Emily Rose said...

Thanks for posting about this! Helen is only 9 months so I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to do with the whole meat thing. My husband eats meat- but I never cook it at home. So far, Helen hasn't had any meat- I guess I'll just let her decide- I'm certainly not going to make an issue out of it if she does want to eat meat! I'm lucky that she LOVES all kinds of vegetarian protein sources- hummus, gardenburgers, beans, tofu, yogurt, etc.

merathon said...

sounds exactly like OUR family! i will never tell my kids they can't eat meat at someone else's house cuz i don't want them to feel like have to hide it from me if they do, but i'll let them choose for themselves how they'd like to eat outside the home-- and hope they choose to eat healthy like they eat at home!

Andrea said...

That was a great post, Dana. I think you have a really healthy, balanced attitude toward your children and their ability to make decisions. I really enjoyed reading about it!