You know those people you invite over for dinner only to immediately regret it because they have a million dietary restrictions and you can’t think of one flipping thing to make for them? Hi, that’s me.
I’ve been a vegetarian/vegan for close to 20 years now, which means no meat and very little dairy has passed my lips since my mom made a meatloaf cordon bleu around the fourth grade. Sorry, mom, but bacon, cheese, and hamburger meat? It was as scarring as it sounds.
My parents tried to get me to eat chicken for a while after that fateful meal, but it was a struggle. They eventually accepted I wasn’t going to eat meat – not then, not now, not ever. Today, I’m a mom to three kids, with another one on the way, and while they know mommy doesn’t eat meat, they do, and I want it that way.
To the parents out there who insist on a vegan lifestyle for their entire families, I can’t say I get it. What’s the point?
If my children grow up and decide that a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is for them, I’ll be happy to have the company. But for now, while they’re growing, I firmly believe they need the protein and iron meat and dairy provide. They should also try all kinds of foods before deciding to reject them, as I did. This is what I explain to them when they ask why mommy isn’t having meatballs on her spaghetti, or why I don’t want a bite of their chicken nuggets. I say that I’ve tried those things, and because I’m an adult, I can decide that I don’t care to eat them. I also tell them that I’ve learned over the years how to eat properly to ensure I’m getting all the vitamins and minerals I need to stay healthy. Because, no, my darlings, fruit snacks don’t count as a good source of protein.
To the parents out there who insist on a vegan lifestyle for their entire families, I can’t say I get it. What’s the point? I’d have to be a trained nutritionist to confidently shop for and prepare meals for kids of all ages that would check all the boxes of their changing dietary needs. It would be like a full-time job! Instead, I choose to let them eat like kids and explore their own tastes and philosophies toward eating. If my children want to try the tofu tenders I prepared for myself for dinner, great! If they’d prefer to stick with the pizza I let them make, I’m OK with that, too.
Feeling restricted by diets or eating ideologies shouldn’t happen in childhood. Not that I view my food preferences as restrictive per say, but drive across country and try to find vegan options that aren’t a pile of lettuce, and then you’ll understand what I mean. I can only imagine how restricted my children would feel if they couldn’t eat the cupcake at a friend’s birthday party because it wasn’t made with vegan icing, or they weren’t allowed to enjoy pizza at the soccer team meeting because it didn’t have almond cheese on it.
I just don’t think it’s necessary to impose my dietary lifestyle on others. And when it comes to my children, giving them the freedom to think about kid things and focus on a well-rounded, healthy approach to their meals and snacks will benefit them physically and mentally far more than an early introduction to veganism.