When Your Child Becomes a Vegetarian
When my daughter informed me, “Mom, I’m becoming a vegetarian,” I thought to myself, “That sounds like work…for me.” I love my teenage daughter but sometimes she stresses me out as most teenagers do to their parents. Although, I have little to complain about when it comes to Mira (she gets good grades, doesn’t hang out with the wrong crowd and is pretty responsible), I look at her and wonder how I birthed someone so opposite of me. She’s a Cosby Show‘s Denise Huxtable, a radical with a quirky fashion sense who prides herself on being unique and obstinate. But at the end of the day, she’s still my daughter and I swore to love and support her from the day she was born. So, when she announced her desire to live a meat-free lifestyle, I sucked it up and went with it. One question remained in my mind. What do you do when your child becomes a vegetarian?
Do research and know what kind of vegetarian your child is.
Whenever you’re making a drastic change to your diet, you should always do your research first. It’s not a good idea to go into anything blindly. Since the internet has a wealth of information, try going to sites that specialize in vegetarian diets and take notes. The Vegetarian Resource Group and Vegetarian Times are both great sites.
Many people believe that vegetarians just don’t eat meat but that’s not true. There are actually many types of vegetarianism so you want to make sure you and your child are set on which one he or she is going to be. My daughter is not eating meat and fish but she still eats eggs and dairy so this would make her a Ovo-lacto vegetarian.
Also, it’s a good idea to purchase a vegetarian cookbook for recipes and ideas so you’re not scrambling to figure out what to make your child for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Make sure your child is getting enough nutrients.
This was one of the first mistakes I made. When Mira first became vegetarian, she started to lose a lot of energy and started sleeping too much. Luckily her aunt came to the rescue and bought her iron supplements and B-12 vitamins.
Although this did help Mira, I started to take a close look at what and how much she was eating. It wasn’t enough. Not only was she not getting enough calories, she also was not eating food that had an adequate amount of protein and other essential nutrients. I realized that I needed to step in and make sure Mira was eating properly. This meant forcing her to eat breakfast (which she likes to skip), lunch (which she barely eats at school), and dinner (which was also a huge challenge). But I had to make her eat something more substantial than salads and fries. It was difficult at first but like anything when it comes to your child, planning and routine are key to success.
Plan out meals that can easily be adjusted to accommodate your child.
Honestly, I don’t have the time or money to make two dinners every night so this is where meal planning became essential to adjusting to Mira’s new diet without losing my mind or killing my bank account. Every week, I like to map out my meals for the week; this makes grocery shopping much easier and I don’t waste precious time figuring out what I’m making for dinner every night. So what I had to do was take Mira’s vegetarianism into consideration when planning my meals.
First, I decided that I would do a vegetarian meal once a week for the entire family which was simple enough. Now, I just had to figure out how to get out of making two dinners the rest the week. It was tricky but I did find a few ways I could do it. I would make dishes that I could easily adjust, or put meat to the side. For instance, if I make spaghetti and meatballs, I can just add the latter to everyone’s plate but Mira’s. If I make chicken enchiladas another night, I’ll set aside two tortillas and only fill with cheese. I keep veggie burgers in my freezer so when we have hamburgers for dinner, she’ll get a veggie patty instead of a meat one. It’s still a work in progress but meal planning has been a HUGE help.
Inform family and friends about your child’s decision.
Mira made her vegetarian announcement right before the holidays. Awesome, I know. Since there were birthday parties and holiday gatherings to consider, I made sure I let family and friends know about my daughter’s vegetarianism. That way if they couldn’t accommodate her dietary needs, I could plan for back-up, meaning I brought something for Mira to eat.
The bottom line is that my daughter’s transition to vegetarianism was not as smooth as I would have liked it to be (and she would totally agree with this). Becoming a vegetarian is a huge deal for adults let alone children so it’s important to be both supportive and understanding if your child wants to embrace the vegetarian lifestyle. It also means bigger portions of beef for you!