'Keep your meaty mouth shut!'
'Please don’t tell me what my child should eat,' says this mom of a little vegetarian.
Sometimes they are polite, as if they are doing me a favour. Sometimes they are patronizing, like ag shame I just don’t know any better. Sometimes they’re even aggressive, like I’m lucky they’re not calling Childline right this very minute!

They’re all telling me that my children should be eating meat.

It drives me bananas when meat-eaters assume that a vegetarian diet is unhealthy, especially because it's very often the other way around.

Meat or two veg?

In fact, the worst part is that many of these advocates of carnivorous catering are nutritionally uninformed philistines whose spawn are great adverts for fat camp.

It grills me to see overweight, greasy little people tucking into their sausages while their parents glare at me for denying my children the benefits of ground up eyeballs, testicles and sawdust. Ditto for that luminous pink polony and those animal-shaped 'nuggets' crafted from God-knows-what.

But I don’t deign to tell them how to feed their kids.

Meat may offer some nutritionally useful elements like protein and iron and a few vitamins (depending on the animal) but all of these and more can be found in plant-based foods as well.

Vegetarian = virtuous?

Parents have a duty to ensure that their children get all their nutritional requirements. Vegetarian parents (or parents of vegetarians) are usually more conscious of the delicate balance – possibly because they constantly have to defend themselves against the flack from the Biltong Brigade.

Sure, a vegetarian child eating an unbalanced diet is at risk of deficiencies and health issues – as much as the poor carni kids referred to above.

But a little one raised on fruits, veggies, proteins and whole grains will usually turn out alright (even if they do devour the odd bag of Nik Naks at parties). Refusing the biltong, you could argue, is unpatriotic – but not unhealthy.

Parents in unhealthy houses shouldn’t throw stones

One of our greatest challenges as parents is getting our children to eat a balanced diet. It’s an uphill battle. The abundance of kiddy vitamins on the shelves (not aimed at vegetarians, for the record) speaks to a global problem of getting those darn nutrients into them.

So by all means, once your sprog is the poster child for nutrition – when he eats his lean, unprocessed meat, along with his sprouts and broccoli and steamed spinach; when he has shunned every form of additive, preservative, colourant and flavourant; when he eagerly slurps down wheatgrass shots and always says please and thank you – then feel free to tell me how to feed my child.

Until then, sit quietly and eat your lunch. And we’ll eat ours.

How do you raise your child? Meat-lover, veggie-fanatic or a bit of both? Share with us below.

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