Your family may eat meat almost every single day. So, as a regular carnivore, you may not understand why your child has suddenly decided to become a vegetarian. Here are some tips on how to deal when your kid refuses to eat your meat lasagna.
Find Out Why
When your child refuses your meat-filled meal and declares he or she is now a vegetarian, the first thing you need to do is ask a simple question, “why?” Make sure their motivations are sensible, that they are not becoming vegetarian just because they are craving attention or feeding their picky eating habit. If your kid’s response sounds legitimate, like “I don’t want to eat harmless animals,” then go with it.
You Can’t Change Them
There’s nothing you can do to change their mind once they’re set on the vegetarian path, especially if they’re a pre-teen or teen. At this point, they are old enough to be conscious about animal rights and make their own decisions when it comes to eating meat. Don’t blame their new vegetarian friend for influencing them, and try to persuade them out of their newfound thinking. And, whatever you do, DO NOT force them to eat meat. They will be miserable and will resent you for it. Instead of placing blame, trying to change their minds, or force feeding them the meal you slaved over, try to understand it from their perspective. From birth, you have instilled in them the knowledge of right and wrong as well as taught them how the world works. So why are you surprised when they finally realize that the chicken on their plate used to be alive and clucking? They are developing their own sense of self and becoming independent free-thinkers, just like you taught them to. In fact, you should feel proud that you raised such a morally conscious kid.
Don’t Panic – Get Informed
Don’t panic. Instead, get informed. The more you know, the easier it will be to accommodate a vegetarian child. Talk to a vegetarian you know, talk to parents of vegetarians, talk to your kid’s pediatrician, and search the web for vegetarian websites and recipes. Realize that vegetarians can get all of the necessary vitamins with a carefully planned diet, just like meat-eaters. If your kid wants to stop eating red meat, chicken and fish (the technical term for this type of vegetarian is “oct-lacto vegetarian”), they can still get plenty of protein from eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, legumes and nuts. If your child wants to go all the way vegan – no meat, eggs or dairy products – then they can still get protein from beans, legumes, nuts and soy products like tofu. Vegetarians can be deficient in nutrients besides protein, like Vitamin B-12, magnesium, zinc, and iron. But, the good news is that these nutrients can be found in other places besides meat, like dairy products, fortified cereals, lentils, garbanzo beans, spinach, almonds and peas. Research substitutes for meat that will fill your child up, make them happy and still give them the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Look Out for Your Child’s Health
Keep a look out for red flags that suggest your child is not tolerating their vegetarian diet well. Make sure your child is not eating too many refined carbs, like bagels, pasta and cookies, which undercuts a nutritious diet. Also make sure to go for regular doctor’s check ups and keep an eye on your child’s health. If your kid is experiencing headaches, stomachaches and more frequent colds, then a vegetarian diet may not be providing him or her with enough nutrients.
It Doesn’t Have to Be a Lifestyle Change for the Whole Family
You don’t have to completely change the way you cook for the rest of your family. Just be aware that one kid has special needs when it comes to his or her diet, so make sure there is enough on the dinner table to satisfy your kid. Instead of putting pasta mixed in with meat sauce on the table, put them in two separate bowls and let your vegetarian kid take as much pasta as he or she needs, along with the nutritious salad at the table.