My kid is transitioning

BROCCOLI

Stalks in the emerald forest.

My kid is becoming a vegetarian. She is 9 1/2 years old, about the same age I was when I stopped eating meat.

My reasons for becoming a vegetarian were pretty simple. At a very young age I hid meat under my highchair, or else left it on the floor. I didn’t like the taste. Later we lived next to my uncle, who had a farm. All the animals they raised were slaughtered and I watched this. It is hard to see an animal die, no matter how humane, and then eat it. I’m not a vegetarian to make a point, or save a life, or free some chickens from a tiny poultry box existence. I am a vegetarian for visual and gustation reasons.

I don’t mind if other people eat meat. But I won’t eat food cooked with meat.

My daughter is fussy about what she eats in general. The only kind of cheese she will eat is Parmesan. She is not fond of melted cheese: she will eat pizza, but not a grilled cheese sandwich. She is making a more concrete association with an animal and the meat we buy in the grocery store. Pork means a pig and beef means a cow. I am adamant I will not sway her decision either way, so I blindly encourage her to eat good quality meats, “It tastes good,” I say, “and it’s good for you.”

During grocery shopping we stop at the deli to buy meat slices for the kids’ lunches. I know that luncheon meats probably pack the highest punch of nitrates per gram than any other meat, but right now it’s a sandwich filler. And it’s protein. We get salami and pepperoni. Then the kids spot the rotisserie chicken being baked.

“Look at those chickens over there. Poor little chickens.” My daughter says.ย  My mom has chickens and every summer the kids are poultry homesteaders where they feed and water the chickens, collect eggs, and generally spend every minute living in the chicken coop.

“What?” says my son. “What’s happening?” Suddenly he is alarmed, and worried. My daughter is making clucking noises. “Are they hurting them?”

I try to “common sense” the situation for him. “They are already dead. Nothing is hurting them. They have been cooked and are ready to take home to eat. Chicken tastes good.”

Something comes over him and he starts to tear up. I reassure him that the animals had a good life and that we are thankful to have them to eat. They taste good and fill us up with goodness. He is frustrated by all this.

“Let’s get out of here. I don’t want any pepperoni now either.”

Stone baked Hawaiian pizza

I think my daughter is changing her mind because she is creating an ick factor for herself. She will eat salami, but not when it touches any butter (like on a sandwich). But she won’t eat ham (hello, same animal) unless it comes on a pizza from a pizza shop. We can’t make a Hawaiian pizza at home that she will eat. I think it’s the overdose of salt that keeps her eating luncheon meats, but the rules to what she eats are so arbitrary it’s hard to keep up.

What her diet lacks is protein, yet as a vegetarian it is hard to get a quick-fix of protein. With particular and conflicting food choices (what works today won’t work tomorrow) it is a trying situation at times. Given that she is the older sibling my son is more likely to follow her lead. But her love of broccoli and brussel sprouts are food choices I am glad my son mimics.

Turkey flavored and stuffed roast, frozen 1.5 lbs

This looks weirder to me than the real thing. If you don’t eat turkey, why would you eat simulated turkey flavour?

I’m all for letting my kids experiment with food and taste and making their own decisions.ย I don’t worry so much about her not eating meat. But she needs to eat a balanced diet. When she doesn’t eat her blood sugar drops and she is emotional, moody, and irrational. Then she refuses to eat anything because she doesn’t feel well.

I know this feeling from my own experience. She will not starve; but to be happier and healthier she may need to learn to eat more lentils. Or tofurkey.

(Photo credit: whologwhy), ย (Photo credit: cookipediachef), (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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24 thoughts on “My kid is transitioning

  1. My daughter never liked meat and once she found out the word “vegetarian”, she claimed it as one of her own labels. We’ve really had to work on getting her to eat more green veggies and were excited when spinach and green beans were added to her list of likes. She is actually a macaroni-and-cheese-atarian in denial. I can relate to you on this post. Kids are really good at being specific about their likes and dislikes!

    • Yes, kids ARE really good at being specific about their likes and dislikes. And if it was consistent I could handle that. What gets me is that she eats completely different at a friend’s or out for dinner than she can tolerate at home.
      I know we can’t all eat everything or like everything but it’s so much more critical when they are growing and developing to make sure they are getting what their bodies (and minds) need.
      A mac and cheese-atarian in denial. I love it. My kids won’t eat it at all.

  2. I turned vegetarian in my teens, and my mom is a nutritionist. One of the things she would do was constantly have a supply of fast protein sources, but it probably helped that I wasn’t too picky. We had tofu-dogs and tempeh and the tofu lunch meats and these chicken cutlet things from the health food store, they were really insanely good.
    There are some fast protein things that can be super good for vegetarians- having strips of tempeh sauteed lightly in olive oil works great for me (I only eat meat rarely, I get all anemic or something without it) or having a lentil bean mixture with chips or something like that. If she has some stuff she likes, like the fake deli meats, those are good for fast protein but only if she likes them.
    You sound like you have such a great relationship to your kids and a great ability to not instill things on them that you aren’t sure are the best at the moment, like at the store, and that is so cool to see!

    • Hi Jennifer,
      I just want my kids to have lots of exposure to things, but it gets pretty limited when I don’t cook meat myself at home.
      I like the fermeted tofu options (tempeh) is great, but I find some of the tofu weiners, slices, etc are a bit processed. That being said, I ate them like a rabid dog when I was a teen. Now I have gluten intolerance and all those faux meats have wheat in them.
      There are days when my daughter will eat half a pkg of tofu bologna and I know that she’s lacking protein.
      Bean dips, humus, etc are a great idea! Thanks!

      • totally! Also, you can make some pretty awesome veggie burgers without any gluten. They are actually really fun to make when you have lots of random veggies in the fridge. I forget the exact recipe options, but it might be worth looking them up- you could use Chia Seeds as one option for having something to hold them together, or red lentils, and eggs (if they still eat those). It’s basically black beans (or any beans) and veggies galore and some egg or something to congeal it, and they end up being awesome and fast because you can freeze them and then just heat ’em up! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Definitely. There are so many amazing recipes out there. I found a pre-packaged mix for quinoa burgers. I make up the whole batch and then keep them on hand in the fridge for a bite-sized snack. I need to see if my daughter would eat those. I could always cover them in ketchup if need be. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Thank you! I think constantly introducing foods to the kids will help them get what they need. I know that in my own diet I eat what I need to, because it makes me feel better. But kids are pickier eaters and can’t just eat something because it is “good” for them. They need to be able to palate the taste as well.
        Thanks for your vote of confidence. I sure appreciate it!

  3. Both my kids are in their 30’s and have been vegan for the last 15 years. My son and his wife are raising vegan kids. I tried it for six months but it didn’t work for me.
    I appreciate your approach vs. the militant stance of chastising anyone who even thinks about eating meat or animal products.
    That was sad reading about your son and the roasted chickens…
    Random comment I know; must be time to go home ๐Ÿ™‚
    Red

    • I am impressed that your son is raising his whole family vegan. I must admit, at times, it would be easier than having to make different meals for myself than what the kids can eat. I think it really has to work with your constitution. It’s like any kind of ‘diet’ or lifestyle – it has to have some benefit, not just what the claims are on TV.
      I’m almost done work. Time to start thinking about what to make for dinner.
      T.

  4. I did a quick Google search (you probably have too) – nuts and seeds (but also high in fat), beans of all varieties, and whole grains, especially quinoa, are all good sources, and easy to flavor to a child’s tastes. To me, tofu, etc are so bland that whatever you add outweighs the benefits – and “tofurkey” just feels so fake and contrived, like it’s trying too hard.

    • It made me laugh to read you say “tofurkey” feels so fake and contrived. It’s a funny kind of food. Seems like food you’d take to space that you could just reconstitute with water.
      I think the key is giving lots of choices for my kid. I do eat quinoa and she sometimes likes it. But kids are kids and what works today won’t work tomorrow. If only it was just an easy fix. Food is so necessary and yet can be so challenging.
      Thanks for your suggestions too.

  5. Awww. They sound like such sweet children. I don’t have kids of my own but i do love my nieces like they are (my own). Am facing the exact opposite scenario. One of them absolutely detests vege and would rather go without a meal than eat any.

    • Kids are like they. They are very specific as to what they don’t like. Neither of my kids have a favourite meal, so it’s hard to know what to make sometimes.
      But, they all grow up and then make their own choices. We can just keep offering different options along the way.

  6. I oftewish I was veg but find it hard when no one it he house is. I’m thinking that means cooking two separate meals. When I’m out I often get the veg option but that’s really just a token gesture I think.
    I suck!!!

    • I have that very problem — no one in my house is veg so I am often making two different meals. Well, that, and the fact that I am allergic and sensitive to a lot of things.
      I find it hilarious that you eat veg when you go out. Token gesture!

  7. My cousin’s kids have been vegetarians since they were preteens. My granddaughters only eat specific foods. They have particular likes and dislikes. It is hard to get them to eat a balanced diet, to get protein and vegetables and grain in the right amounts. Good luck. Keep offering good options and she will make good choices.

    • It’s true that continuing to offer a lot of options will be the way to go. I know kids in general are particular. My daughter does actually have some pretty good eating habits (green veggies are one of her favorites) but overall its the balance of nutrients that is tricky to maintain!

      • It was hard to let her choose to eat vegetarian most of the time…mostly because I did it for a few years and I wasn’t smart about it. Consequently, I was anemic and gained weight from eating too many processed carbs and cheese by the pound.

      • I think that’s a common consequence. Go veg, eat cheese, gain weight. You do have to be smart about it. Or run a lot. But running doesn’t help with your nutrition.

  8. I was once a vegetarian for 3 years. Protein was very hard for me so I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for a young child. I resorted to a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Probably not the best idea. Tofurky is delicious!!! At the Whole Foods here they have a tofu that is already marinated in a variety of flavors and cooked. You only have to warm it up if you want. I think it’s super yummy. Maybe she would like that? Good luck and I think it’s great that you are letting her experiment with what works for her. We all have to find our way somehow. Happy Saturday!!

    • I have mixed feeling about faux tofu products, and I eat a lot of them. They can be so processed, that its less natural than eating meat.
      My daughter doesn’t like eating nuts, so it’s the quick protein that’s the trickiest. At least she is pretty good with lentils.

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