Can Vegetarian Kids & Meat-Eating Parents Co-Exist?

Catherine Crawford

When I was a kid, I used to pretend that I loved animals, and I even kept a special fund with my best friend with the sole aim of buying a pony. But the truth is, I didn’t even really like our cat that much (sorry Squeaky).

For a long time I thought that my oldest child was just pretending too. She’s been bugging me for a pet from the moment she could speak. After six years of steadfast devotion (and relentless pestering), I can no longer pretend that her animal-loving feelings are put on. I got her a parakeet (messy, loud Marvin), I’ll probably get her a turtle for Christmas (have mercy on me), and I’m pretty certain there’s a dog in my future (crap!).

I’ve come to terms with all of this, but I’m having a really hard time with my little zoologist’s determination to go vegetarian. She acts utterly stricken at the thought of eating meat. Can these feelings be real?

For a long time I just shut her down whenever she mentioned that she didn’t want to eat animals because she loves them too much: “Honey, all little kids need lots of protein, and it’s important to have meat in your diet so you can get enough and grow up. This is what I am serving. End of discussion.”

This worked for a while, but as she grows, so does her stubbornness. The most recent battle came a few days before a trip to Disneyland. My girl sat in front of her plate of untouched grilled chicken in a standoff, and she wasn’t going to budge. Finally, I told her that if she didn’t eat what the rest of the family was eating, then I couldn’t possibly take her on vacation with us. It would be too hard on me to cater to her special menu while on the road. That night, her love of It’s a Small World was more powerful, and she choked down her dinner.

I won, I guess, but I’m feeling surprisingly conflicted.
I REALLY don’t want to complicate my life more by furnishing a vegetarian menu (in addition to the rest of the family's vittles) morning, noon, and night, but I also don’t want to torture my daughter, a kid who tries to catch any bugs that mistakenly wander into our house so that she can put them outside before I stomp on them.

While doing a little research, I came across this video and accompanying explanation. It made me feel worse:


Ruby's mom writes:

I find so many closed minded parents try to tell me that I must have taught my daughter to be a vegetarian, that there is NO way she could have thought of this on her own. Or better yet lets be totalitarians instead of parents and just force them to follow our will instead of having minds of their own.

I'm hoping for a better future so I hope there are more parents out there encouraging their children to make some choices for themselves and not just bend to the will or passions of their parents. Sure it's nice to pass on traditions but if your kid gets physically ill at the idea of eating that traditional roasted turkey then lets pick our battles and let them NOT eat meat.

Man! Way to make me feel guilty.

I’m still undecided if I’ll indulge my little girl. This is what I’ll have to keep an eye on in her diet IF she’s allowed to go veg:

  • Energy/Calories -- Turns out, a vegetarian diet can dip down in the calories, which my kid definitely needs to accommodate her spaz outs.
  • Vitamin B12 -- Children should take supplements or eat foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 like fortified soy milk and some meat substitutes. Hmmm. Not sure how those will go over.
  • Vitamin D -- It’s not hard to get, as long as she’ll eat eggs, drink vitamin D fortified milk, and hang out in the sun. No problemo.
  • Iron -- Although certain fruits and vegetables contain iron, the absorption rate is much lower than that of meat, chicken, and fish. We’re certainly going to have to step up the iron foods.
  • Calcium -- It’s not all about milk (thank God, as my daughter will only tolerate it in cereal or doused with chocolate these days), calcium abounds in many vegetables like broccoli, sweet potatoes, and those leafy greens.  
  • Protein -- Of course, this is my big paranoia. She’ll be eating a lot of peanut butter and legumes, that’s for sure. 
  • Zinc -- Last but not least two of the best sources of zinc are meat and yogurt. So, she’ll get a lot of yogurt and perhaps a Zinc supplement. 

Wish me luck!

Do you have vegetarians in a meat-eating household?


Image via woodlywonderworks /Flickr

Read More