Raising a Vegetarian Baby

| 2 Comments

A guest post by Bambi Bishop – my husband’s college friend, and now, my friend too

Lucas on his 1st birthday!

Call us hipsters, but my husband and I take pride in feeding our bodies with the healthiest choices possible (within our means, of course) and this was something we wanted to instill in our children as early as possible. So we knew the topic of food would be one of the first things we had to discuss when we planned on having a baby. But there was really no discussion to be had. Lucas would be raised vegetarian.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t always been like this. I was raised on fish sticks, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and these things my mom called “pizza rolls” which were unmistakably more roll than pizza. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I really started to take what I ate into consideration. But I can’t blame my parents. They did what they had to do to put food on the table, even having to work two jobs, so frozen meals like these were just easier.

Steve, on the other hand, has been a vegetarian his whole life. Not only has he never eaten a scrap of meat, but he’s never even been tempted. Of course, when it comes to things like bacon, it’s probably better if you don’t know what you’re missing. In the beginning when we started dating, I gave up beef entirely and haven’t missed it since. I was pork-free for about six years when, you guessed it; bacon lured me back into its evil clutches. As far as poultry and fish were concerned, I knew I would never be able to give those up and Steve understood. He never forced me to stop eating meat; he only introduced me to a healthy alternative.

So while I am on board with the vegetarian route, I often wonder if it’s fair to Lucas. He’s not being given the option to decide for himself, like I was. On top of that, all sorts of other questions started to plague me. Will he be getting enough protein? Will he get made fun of by his peers? Will he resent us later? Will he feel the need to try meat behind our backs? They may be silly questions, but I think any concerned parent put in my position would do the same. I even went as far as checking out the school lunch menu online to see if and when he will be able to buy lunch at school. The answer? Never.

As time went on, I started answering my own questions. Protein is in a lot more food than I had originally thought and because of foods like peanut butter, hummus, yogurt, cheese, beans, tahini, Lucas is on his way to be as strong as an ox. The other issues will just have to be dealt with when the time comes. And perhaps in five to ten years, vegetarianism will be more accepted in schools.

But all of those questions aside, the hardest question for me to answer is: How can I “enforce” this lifestyle upon him when I, myself, don’t even follow it? This is one area where Steve and I have yet to agree. There will come a day when I am cooking myself a piece of salmon and he asks to try it. Do I say no? Do I go against my husband’s wishes and say sure, I’d rather you try it at home than behind our backs? I feel like this could turn into a really bad after school program!

I’ve come to the conclusion that we can’t force our son to be a vegetarian. Lucas already has a mind of his own and will do what he wants to do. I will let him try the salmon and let him decide for himself. All we, as his parents, can do is instill in him our beliefs and hope that he takes the good out of what we teach him. And maybe, just maybe, he will go one step further, taking it to the next level and on his way to greatness.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post, Bambi. I enjoyed reading. While I don’t have any children yet my bf and I have discussed often how we will handle the diets of our future family. I more so take the role of your husband in that I am the (potential/hypothetical) parent who would like for my children to be vegetarian. Although I was not raised vegetarian I have been a convert now for more 10 years with no desire to go back to chicken, pork, beef, or animal anything. My bf however is much like you. While he liberally ate what he wanted prior to us dating has taken a conscious effort, particularly in the last 2-3years, to eat healthier incorporating more choices with less and less meat. When I cook he happily enjoys whatever I prepare and he has even declared that he will have a mostly vegetarian/vegan diet when our households finally converge. While we have agreed to bring our family up vegetarian I also realize that at some point they’ll want to make their own decisions. However, I would also ask of them to respect the household and refrain from cooking or warehousing meat in the house (outside of special occasions and family gatherings when the fight of it all just isn’t worth it). Did you and your husband ever have this sort of “household rules” discussion? Several of my Southern friends and family members think this is a disaster waiting to happen. Also, you said that if your son asked for a piece of your salmon/chicken you would give it to him. How does your husband feel about this? I have often thought to take the side of education *and* personal choice. If a child of mine wanted to try meat it would be their choice, but I also think that their choice should be properly informed with them understaning where their “meal” came from. The truth would certainly be a lot (or too much) for children of a certain age thus it would naturally put a sort of age limit for kids to sample/eat meat. What do you thing about this approach and is it something you would ever consider for your family?
    Would love to hear thoughts from a family that’s already making it work 🙂

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story, Ri! To answer a few of your questions, yes. We have discussed “household rules” but I wouldn’t necessarily call them rules. Out of consideration to my husband, I never cook any meat for myself when he’s around. To be honest, the only time I eat meat is when we eat out at a restaurant or when there’s a really good sale on fresh fish. It’s not that he wouldn’t let me, I just think its pointless to make multiple meals, especially since I enjoy the vegetarian “meats” we buy.

      As far as how my husband feels about his trying meat, he’s opposed to me letting him try it. I told him if you don’t want Lucas to try it, he has to be the one to sit him down and explain why he shouldn’t want to. But only to some extent. Being a child, I don’t want my husband to scare him, just to educate him. One of the first things I am teaching Lucas is all of the animals, putting a face to their sound. Perhaps when he’s old enough to comprehend that the meat he’s tempted to try comes from these animals, he will be less inclined to try it.

      All in all, I only want the best for him. I hope, for all of our sakes, that he doesn’t want to. But kids are curious and I feel sooner or later, even if I didn’t eat it, he would want to try some sort of meat. Be it at a friend’s house, the school cafeteria, or our kitchen, and I would rather it be here so we can ask him how he felt about it.

      I wish you the best and hope it goes smoothly for you!

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