A vegetarian mom explains why she’s raising her family with the same ideals.
She’s looking at me like an entire cheesecake just fell out of my ear. ‘You mean you don’t feed your children meat – at all?’
‘Yip,’ I say, scooping my carrot stick through the hummus.
‘What about chicken?’ she persists.
‘Nope.’ Why do they always give the adults crudités at kiddies parties while the rascals get all the good stuff?
By now a small crowd of women has gathered, all pretending to pay attention to the goings-on on the jungle gym. The leader of the pack goes in for the kill: ‘But is that healthy?’
I smile. My 2-year-old is swinging from the top of the climbing frame, singing Barney at the top of his lungs. His lush yellow curls glint defiantly in the sunlight. He releases his grip, drops swiftly to the ground, and runs, laughing, towards the slide.
‘Does he look pale and sickly to you?’
I am vegetarian for a range of reasons. Laying aside the tired (though unfailingly logical) arguments like ‘I wouldn’t eat my dog…’, there are some compelling motivations to scrap the steak:
Factory farming is cruel, and I want to teach my children compassion for living creatures. In fact, many people who have no theoretical problem with the consumption of animals take a stand against this barbaric industry.
I also want to raise children who care for the environment. Since the livestock industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the transport sector, vegetarianism is the single biggest step we can take towards reducing global warming, and preserving the planet for our children, and theirs.
And if the land and water used by the cattle industry were available to grow crops for human consumption, we could alleviate world hunger.
These are all values that I want to teach my children. The fact that a vegetarian diet is often cheaper and healthier is a distinct bonus too.
Do kids get all their nutritional needs from a vegetarian diet?
Mine do. I wish I could say that I am Supermommy and my kids angels who diligently eat whatever I lovingly serve them. It’s not true. Broccoli, alas, is notoriously unpopular, and I’ve had the odd spoonful of chickpeas thrown at me. But in general they eat a range of foods including plenty of protein from peas, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds (often in convenient paste form like peanut butter), as well as some free-range eggs and milk products.
As parents we have a responsibility to ensure that our children receive all the essential elements their growing bodies need, but that doesn’t necessitate eating animals or harming them in any way. Studies have shown that a vegetarian diet can provide all of the nutrients that a child needs to be healthy – there’s wisdom in the age-old expression ‘full of beans’! Claims that humans require meat as part of a balanced diet are, well, bull.
Can you force your child to be vegetarian?
No. And neither should you. As with all matters, parents lead their children in the direction they believe is right, and provide them with the knowledge with which to make informed choices.
When children grow into independent individuals they will have to make their own decisions. Until then, as parents we do have a certain amount of control. For now, Mom and Dad simply say ‘no’.
There’s a veg under every bed
It’s astonishing how many perfect strangers take my family’s dietary decisions so personally. No other issue – breastfeeding, potty training, religion, sport or politics – generates such heated discussion.
I’m not saying meat is a four letter word (well…). But my kids are vegetarian. They are healthy. And they are happy.
Would you raise your child without meat?
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.