9 Things That Might Happen If You Raise Your Child Vegetarian
As parents modify their own meals for health, ethical or cultural reasons, it’s become totally common for kids to adopt a vegetarian diet, too. (Some public schools are even getting in on the action, serving veg-only lunches to their students.) Ready to take the plunge? Here’s what to expect when your kid goes veggie.
People Might Give Your Kid Meat When You Aren’t Around
Be warned: Grandparents, babysitters and friends love to break the rules and might try to give your child special “treats.” Giving a vegetarian kid a hot dog with chili is the equivalent of taking her out for ice cream. So be ready for your toddler to tell you all about the time your sister gave her bacon. And sausage. And a turkey leg.
He Might Eat Only Fries When You Travel
Feeding a child healthy food on a road trip is hard. But traveling with a mini vegetarian is almost impossible. The first time you stop at a fast-food restaurant in Ohio and ask for the kids’ meal without the burger, you’ll realize the only thing your kid can eat there is fries. But don’t worry, he won’t complain. (And you’ll remember to pack sliced fruit and veggies next time.)
You Might Have to Cook...and Cook...and Cook...
He might be tiny, but feeding a veggie kid can become a full-time job. Planning one balanced meal for a vegetarian (that isn’t always peanut butter and jelly) can be exhausting. And guess what? He needs three of them. Every day. A pot of quinoa and spinach has as much protein as a turkey sandwich, but it’s also a labor of love.
You’ll Have to Answer Lots of Questions
Telling fellow parents that your kid is meat-free definitely raises a lot of eyebrows. “She looks so big for a vegetarian!” (Yep, vegetarian children grow like normal humans.) “Is it OK if I give her a cookie?” (Uh, does the cookie have chicken in it?) “But what does she eat for dinner?” (Food.) People will be curious and maybe a little judgmental, but pretty soon you’ll be able to answer these questions faster than you can whip up a black bean veggie burger.
You Might Have a Cheaper Grocery Bill
Chickpeas and ground turkey are both packed with protein, but meat is pretty much always more expensive (and has a shorter shelf life) than legumes. Piling your cart with veggies, beans and nuts instead can save you a ton, especially if you usually opt for organic or free-range chicken and beef.
Your Kid Might Not Like the Taste of Meat
For many children, meat is an acquired taste. If you raise your kid a vegetarian, she might never like the taste of a hamburger—which can be tricky if you ever want to introduce meat on special occasions. So if you want her to try Grandpappy’s famous meatloaf on Christmas Day, he’d better have a tofu version handy.
You Might Feed Your Child Too Much Junk Food
Veggies, beans, eggs and nuts are a staple of a veg diet, but so are Goldfish. When you’re busy and he’s picky, it can be hard to get the right foods onto your child’s plate. Resist the urge to rely on mac and cheese five nights a week—or at least make sure it’s loaded with spinach and tomato.
Your Child Might Be Less Picky
In your quest to make sure your kid gets enough iron, there’s a good chance you’ll expose him to a wider variety of foods than the average meat-eater. No matter what, he’ll want to eat mostly bread (that’s a given, right?), but he also might love hummus, too.
Vegetarian Might Be Confused with Vegan
Being a vegetarian means different things for every family and it can be super confusing. You have lacto-ovo vegetarian (eats dairy and eggs), lacto-vegetarian (eats dairy, no eggs), ovo-vegetarian (eats eggs, no dairy), pescatarian (eats fish) and vegan (no dairy, no eggs). Tired yet? There’s a reason that the “vegetarian” option in restaurants is sometimes just a plate of unseasoned veggies and rice. Pack a cheese stick just in case.