by Kate Sawtschuk
When people find out that my children are vegetarian, they often do a double take. I hear things like: Isn’t that really difficult? How do they get all the nutrients they need? Do they mind being different to other kids? What do they eat in social situations? Here is my list of what I think the best 5 things are about raising vegetarian kids.
No, being vegetarian does not automatically ensure a healthy diet (hello, Oreos!), but it is often a good step in that direction. A plant-based diet rules out many unhealthy animal products and has more chance of being higher in unprocessed and nutrient rich foods. OK, my kids won’t eat Brussel Sprouts like popcorn, but they will chug tofu down like it’s going out of fashion and “quinoa” was one of their first words (well maybe not that last bit, but you get my drift!).
It reminds them that it’s ok to be different
Many decisions we make as parents potentially make kids feel disconnected from the majority, and that’s not a bad thing. We all try to instil the values we believe in in our children. I’m happy for my kids to feel that they don’t have to do something just because everyone is and that it is ok to question the status quo, even if that singles you out.
It teaches them the joy of sharing food
Being vegetarian means that we generally take food we have made with us to parties, family gatherings, school functions etc. – if only to make sure that we have something to eat! My kids are proud to share around our vegetarian sausage rolls and baked goods minus the eggs and milk. It shows people how tasty (hopefully!) vegetarian food can be and has the bonus of being more inclusive to those with allergies to certain animal products.
It promotes compassion and responsibility
Children seem to have a natural affinity with animals – just think of how many children’s books feature animal characters! I think that being vegetarian encourages compassion and empathy not only for animals but for all living things including the environment. Knowing that we can make choices based on kindness and consideration of others is an extension of this. I want my kids to know that the decisions we make about what we eat and buy have an impact on the world and that one person can make a difference!
It makes you more adventurous with food
Kids (and adults!) can be pretty fussy eaters, but being vegetarian can give kids more exposure to “unusual” foods not commonly eaten within the standard “meat and three veg” model. Sure, my kids pull weird faces at my cooking sometimes, but they have certainly seen every grain, legume, pulse, vegetable or fruit on the face of the earth and have even tried some of them too!
Are you a vegetarian? What funny questions do you get asked?