In the summer of 2011, on our family’s annual camping trip, my then five year old daughter went vegetarian for the next year. It stemmed from the meager success of our fishing expedition one trout being part of our dinner the last night of our trip. You see, when we caught that little trout she was positive we would be taking it home as our pet and her little five year old heart broke when we ate it.
Determined to support her decision to keep animals as fury friends rather than food, I knew I had to do everything I could to support her.
I know one of the biggest concerns parents have about their child switching to a vegetarian lifestyle is meeting adequate nutritional needs, and I worried about it for about three-point-five seconds until I realized there are so many non-meat sources of proteins. Nuts, quinoa, beans, and lentils are all great for providing non-animal based protein.
Breakfast, lunch, and snacks are the easier part of your eating habits to adjust, but the quintessential American family meal is a bit more of a challenge to those of us deeply entrenched in the meat-centric way of life.
Though I sometimes still made meat with our dinners and simply served her the other dishes I’d prepared, the best change I made was serving fewer meat-oriented meals in general. Quick and easy dinners like bean and cheese burritos made with Amy’s Organic Refried Vegetarian Black Beans, vegetable stir fry with Mori-Nu Silken Tofu and San-J teriyaki sauce, and butternut squash macaroni and cheese with Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta Shells were easy to incorporate into our weekly menu. Though my daughter isn’t vegetarian anymore (her choice, not mine), we have kept this approach to family meals and are healthier for it.
If your son or daughter has recently decided to go vegetarian, the most important thing you can do is be respectful. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT freak out. It may be a phase or it may be a permanent way of life, but either way it’s an opportunity to show your child that you value their opinion, their beliefs, and maybe even to get your entire family on track for a healthier life.