Kids declare their independence in all sorts of ways. And one of those totally not destructive and kind of awesome ways is by becoming a vegetarian or vegan. Now, a lot of parents may freak at this declaration. They've heard stories from friends about kids going vegetarian or vegan to mask an eating disorder. Or other horror stories concerning the lack of nutrients in a plant-based diet. Well, the majority of these stories are full of bull.
Vegetarian Times reports that both the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of Pediatrics say kids can go vegetarian or vegan with no negative health effects.
So, what's a parent to do? Just remain calm and talk to your vegetarian kid about his new-found diet, and make certain your child maintains a well-planned, healthy diet. Here are a few, simple talking and action points to consider.
Talk to your vegetarian kid about her decision
There is quite literally, a ton of literature floating around the Internet about just how bad factory farming is and even more literature about how heavy meat diets aren't quite healthy or sustainable. So, chances are your kid has a good reason for going veg. And even your kid decided to go vegetarian just because he doesn't like the texture or taste of meat anymore (that was my reasoning when I was 16), his feelings are valid. Listen to your child and try to be patient. The more comfortable your kid is discussing her food preferences, the more she will talk to you about her new, plant-based diet.
Have a conversation about ingredients, label reading, and whole foods
Kids need to understand that being a vegetarian isn't all about eating a ton of mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Becoming a vegan isn't all about eating nothing but raw foods. Your kid needs to be willing to learn about what foods are healthy and understand that his new diet, just like his old diet, needs to be balanced. And that means eating plenty of whole foods, plant and grain-based proteins, and more. Also: if your new vegetarian kid isn't used to reading labels, she needs to go to label reading school right now. She needs to learn about crumby additives (like carrageenan) and that things like beef stock, lard, and milk can pop up in the most unexpected of places.
This is such a good time to teach your kid how to cook. Cooking will help him understand how certain foods work together and how to season meals. (This way, when he goes to college, he isn't living off frozen vegetarian meals and soup cartons.) And even if you don't decide to go veggie like your kid, you will learn a few healthy cooking tips in the process. Going vegetarian or vegan definitely changes the way you view food and opens you up to different eating possibilities.
Do you have a vegetarian kid or a vegan child? How did the transition go in your house?
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