Whether to raise your kids vegetarian is a personal decision, but luckily, most experts now agree that a vegetarian diet for kids can be just as healthy as a traditional one. Having raised three healthy vegetarian children, I can say that it’s easy to raise vegetarian kids in today’s society. Here’s why you should consider raising kids vegetarian.
Pros for raising vegetarian kids
Following a vegetarian diet reinforces eco and health-conscious dining decisions for your kids.
This is true of following any green or health-based diet. My kids know that eating vegetarian is a deliberate choice, and we all choose our foods with more care because of it. We talk about where our food comes from, how certain foods will help our body, and why we need a balanced diet.
Vegetarian diets teach kids about living green.
Any way you slice it, a vegetarian diet is good for the planet. We use our vegetarian lifestyle to talk about the way food is grown in our country, and how food production has changed. When my kids opt for a Big Mac, (yes, they get to make their own choices, within reason) at least they understand why it’s a poor decision both for their health and for the environment. Many kids don’t understand where their food comes from, and raising a vegetarian child can begin that conversation. And one trip to a fast food restaurant will show you that you will be hard-pressed to find recycling bins anywhere; everything ends up in the landfill.
Following a vegetarian diet forces parents to provide more balanced meals.
At least this has been my experience! Raising veggie kids hasn’t only taught them about healthy eating…it’s educated me as well. Because it’s harder (but certainly possible) to create balanced meals, I’ve learned to be more conscious of serving enough protein and veggies to my kids. I’ve also learned to eat better myself in the process.
Vegetarian protein options are everywhere.
When I first started raising vegetarian kids over a decade ago, it was hard to find soy-based protein products other than tofu. Now, while my kids like tofu stir-fried or baked, they can supplement this food with veggie ‘chicken’ nuggets, patties, burgers, and more.
What about Vegan?
Vegan diets can help fight childhood obesity.
Raising kids vegan is significantly more challenging than raising kids vegetarian, but the natural omission of fatty dairy foods can significantly reduce the likelihood of childhood obesity, as long as you avoid overcompensating with carbohydrates such as pasta and bread. On the flip side, if you’re raising vegetarian kids, be careful not to over-do dairy products such as cheese and milk. I’ve had a veggie kid who wanted only breads, cheese, milk, and yogurt at every meal… which won’t work for a balanced diet!
Plan for setbacks
It’s always a struggle to eat healthy and make the right kinds of choices when traveling. So often, you will find yourself with limited restaurant options. This is true when going to parties and visiting friends and family for dinner as well. Our biggest hangups have been when traveling so we do our best to plan in advance.
Start off slowly when raising vegetarian kids
Have you asked yourself, “Should I raise my child vegetarian?” Perhaps a good way to start is by having one meal a week that is all vegetarian. From there, you can increase it to one meal every few days and then one meal a day. It’s important to understand why you want to have a vegetarian diet for your kids. It will definitely take some planning and some work to get into the mindset and to be sure they are getting all the nutrients — vitamins and minerals — that growing bodies need.