Raising Vegetarian Kids: Is It Healthy?!
You and your partner have been meat-free for what seems like forever. The fridge is stocked with fresh hummus, veggie burgers, and lots of yummy produce—in fact, you can’t even remember what meat tastes like. But now that you’re growing your family, or have a baby quickly approaching solids, family and friends might push you to wave the vegetarian surrender flag and start stocking up on chicken nuggets and fish sticks. Do. Not. Listen. To. Them!
I’m not vegetarian myself, but I’m fully aware that there’s nothing inherently wrong with raising your kids without meat. That said, you should consult a nutritionist (and yes, there are plenty of vegetarian-friendly nutritionists out there!) who can evaluate your little one’s diet and make sure they are getting all the nutrients and vitamins, such as Omega-3s needed at each stage of growth. If your child’s diet needs adjustment, a knowledgable nutritionist should be able to help you figure that out without abandoning your vegetarian ideals. There are a few tricky bits to negotiate, though. If your child is in day care, or has a babysitter after school, you’ll need to make sure the care providers know of your little one’s diet and that they are provided with vegetarian options for your child to eat. Birthday parties, usually filled with pepperoni pizzas and hot dogs can be another rough spot—but they can be easily managed. Call the family who’s hosting ahead of time and explain that your daughter would love to attend, but that since she’s vegetarian, you were wondering if she could bring a vegetarian-friendly option to share with everyone. Chances are, the family will be thrilled to have you contribute extra food (with little ones, it seems like there’s never enough options!) and your child won’t have to feel left out when it comes to meal time.
Still, you can’t control how your little one lives his or her life in the long run. When your children start growing up and are old enough to think about vegetarianism on their own, you’re going to have to take a step back and let them make their own decisions. They might make decisions different from your own—and no, you never have to serve them meat in your home or buy it for them if you don’t want to—but your children are their own people, and if they choose to eat meat on their own or out with friends later in life, you have to respect that as their choice and not take it personally. And hey, let’s all admit it—there are far worse things out there they could be spending their lunch money on than a burger!