One day my children asked me if they could try chicken. They’ve been vegetarian all their lives. I said “absolutely, try chicken. But first we must go to a farm where you can kill the one you wish to eat.” They have never asked that question again. Now that they realize something must die for them to eat meat, they’re totally content being vegetarians. It’s their choice. My job as their mom is to provide the knowledge and keep their food options attractive, well balanced and tasty.
Vegetarian children are becoming more common as more families adapt alternative lifestyles. Raising healthy, vegetarian children doesn’t require a Ph.D. in nutrition. It does, however, require an understanding of how to translate children’s special nutritional needs into tonight’s dinner. The well-being of my kids (in spirit, body and mind) is my priority and life mission.
Being a vegetarian in a non-vegetarian society can be challenging. It means I must raise my children differently than the majority of other families. What do other kids say or do about it? How do their friend’s parents see it? It is all up to how I present the philosophy that we so deeply believe in. When friends are visiting us or my kids are in their friend’s homes, they find all sorts of things that all kids love to eat, like waffles, toast, cereal and bagels.
My kids go to public school. When I ask them what it’s like being vegetarian around meat-eaters at school, they say they never have any problems. They’ve never been teased and don’t feel like they’re any different. They say they’re never even questioned about it. Being vegetarian is just part of who they are and they’re accepted for it. My daughter’s middle school (LaVilla) now offers vegetarian options on the lunch plan and she’s meeting more vegetarians in her classes. But since the lunch plan doesn’t offer a well-rounded vegetarian diet, I still fix a lunch for both my children. My son’s OK with that because he doesn’t have to stand in line. It’s just a natural way of life for them. And again, because it’s their choice. They simply don’t see themselves as different at all and fit in everywhere they go.
Like all kids, they have their favorite things. If I’d let them, here’s what they’d eat every night: pizza, tofu omelets, macaroni and cheese, corn, raw carrots, celery, black beans, red beans, pierogi, pasta and vegan fake meats. For school lunches, I make sandwiches with tofu and other soy products readily available now in supermarkets. They like fake bacon strips, veggie patties and the family favorite: vegan franks.
Here’s an oxymoron. My son doesn’t like to see vegetables on his plate and he’s vegetarian! So I have to get creative. For example he’ll eat tomatoes only in sauces and ketchup. He likes squash soups (blended) and veggie patties, as long as they don’t look like vegetables. I have lots of secrets for blending vegetables into my son’s meals so he doesn’t see vegetables. My daughter will eat almost all kinds of vegetables, raw in salads, cooked, etc. She’s very flexible. Her favorite sandwich is lettuce, raw spinach, tomato and tofu.
How do they feel living in a non-vegetarian society? My son, Louis, feels shame for what people do to animals. My daughter, Tara, feels very sad for the animals. They’re proud to be part of a growing segment of society that doesn’t eat animals.