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When Your Child Decides to Become a Vegetarian

Feb 04, 2015
Melissa Hincha-Ownby

 When Your Child Decides to Become a Vegetarian

“Mom, I want to be a vegetarian.” This is what my 11 year-old daughter told me on Christmas morning last year. The statement didn’t come as a surprise; she’d been mentioning the possibility of becoming a vegetarian off and on for a few months now, but the timing did catch me off guard. So my daughter’s Christmas lunch consisted of a bunch of starchy vegetables, since I hadn’t planned ahead for a vegetarian-friendly replacement for our traditional ham.

Even though I’ve participated in vegetarian and vegan eating challenges, our family is not vegetarian. However, I felt it was important to honor my daughter’s wishes. She is 11 and understands nutrition basics and so my husband and I agreed to support her decision to become a vegetarian.

The first thing we did was teach her how to read food labels. For instance, she loves soup, but we found out that most soup is made out of a beef or chicken base. So, she now knows to either look for the word ‘vegetarian’ when choosing a soup, or check the labels.

Next on our list was handling her new dietary restrictions while eating out – both at school and at restaurants. She encountered a bit of resistance when she announced her vegetarianism to friends, with some telling her it wasn’t healthy. Thankfully she was confident in her decision and assured her classmates that she was making the right choice for her. She brings her lunch most days, but on the days that she doesn’t, the staff at the school have assured her that they always have vegetarian options available.

Eating out at a restaurant is easier, because she has an adult there to help her decipher menus. However, we use dining out as another teaching opportunity. Recently she wanted to order tortilla soup, so we asked her to read the description, which included chicken. She asked me if the restaurant could leave the chicken out, and we circled back to the fact that most soups are made out of a non-vegetarian broth. She asked the waitress if it was chicken or vegetarian broth and learned that even if she ordered it without chicken, the soup was still made from chicken stock. I loved watching her search for answers on her own.

I don’t know how long she’ll stay a vegetarian, it may be another month, a year or a lifetime, but I will continue to support her decision.

Has your child made a big decision about their diet? If so, how did your family handle the situation?

Photo courtesy of Melissa Hincha-Ownby.

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On Friday, February 27, 2015, Luke, blogger at Health Room wrote

Thanks for sharing! It's great to hear that you're so supportive of your daughter. If you were looking for a few ideas to help her maintain a healthy diet, I wrote a post last year on Mind Body Green that looks at getting more fruits and veggies into your child's diet. Feel free to check it out! Have a great day! Luke


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