What to Do If Your Kid Decides to Go Vegetarian
When a child asks about becoming vegetarian or vegan, it’s often because they’ve realized that animals they care for, like pigs and cows, are being killed so that we can eat them. Most children have cats and dogs they consider members of the family, and after they become aware of the animal cruelty caused by the meat industry, they don’t want to eat meat. Your child obviously understands that all animals are worthy of kindness and consideration, so let me start by saying congrats on raising a compassionate, thoughtful young person.
Younger generations are far more likely to be vegetarian—according to The New York Times, “An estimated 12 percent of millennials say they are ‘faithful vegetarians,’ compared with 4 percent of Gen X’ers and 1 percent of baby boomers.”
Of course, it’s normal to have some concerns about changes in your child’s diet, particularly if you are unfamiliar with veg foods (especially kid-friendly ones!) and proper nutrition. Fortunately, there’s no need to worry—the American Dietetic Association says, “Properly planned vegan diets are healthy, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of many diseases.”
So here are a few tips for helping your child make the switch with minimal fuss:
• Find a few easy-to-make recipes.
If you’re like most parents, you’re probably concerned that your child’s new diet will mean extra time in the kitchen. Luckily, there are tons of easy-to-make recipes that are ready in no time! You can modify your family’s favorite recipes by making a few simple swaps. Also be sure to keep some easy snacks around the house, like microwave burritos, granola bars, canned lentil soup, and nuts.
• Try some animal-free products.
From sausages and chicken nuggets to yogurt and ice cream, many of your family’s favorite foods are available in a vegan variety. So try out a bunch to find your favorites. These products are not only easy to prepare but usually far more healthful than their animal-based counterparts. Plus, they can be used the same way!
• Plan ahead.
While the number of veg options at restaurants continues to grow, you might still find yourself at a restaurant that has (seemingly) no options for your child. Be sure to check for a vegetarian menu (you can modify it), get creative with sides, or just ask the server, “What can you make that’s vegetarian or vegan?” Most chefs will be happy to whip up something special.
• Get your child involved in meal prep and cooking.
Since you probably don’t want to prepare a whole separate meal for your child, it’s a good idea to teach them how to cook or prepare some meals if they are old enough. And of course, they can chow down on the side dishes the whole family is having—things like pasta, potatoes, vegetables, rice and beans, and so on.
• Try some healthy new foods.
Use this as an opportunity to eat healthier as a family. If you’re unfamiliar with the wide array of healthful beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds (that are packed with essential nutrients), be sure to try some new recipes with these plant-based powerhouses to find a few dishes you and your child can both enjoy.
• Speak with a professional.
While it’s certainly important to do your own research and familiarize yourself with your child’s nutritional needs, be sure to speak with a medical professional who is well-informed about veg diets to address concerns and ask any additional questions that you have. This will help you determine the best sources of protein, calcium, iron, and other important nutrients.
Want more? Click here to order a FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide—we’ll send you delicious recipes, easy meal ideas, and tips on making the switch!