People become vegetarians for many reasons. Some of you do it for the environment. You think about the state of the environment and the carbon emissions of the food industries. You also think about the animals you love so much and how you couldn’t stand the thought of slaughtering them for food.
Health also is a huge reason why you become a vegetarian. You increase your intake of vitamins and minerals from plant-based foods. You also want to look and feel healthy so that your last visit to the aesthetic doctor doesn’t go to waste.
Your kids, on the other hand, become vegetarians for different reasons. More often than not, it’s because of your influence. But there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s important is that they understand what it means to be a vegetarian. It’s also important that they make the choice themselves—that they’re not doing it against their will. Here are some ways you can ensure that your kids are happy and healthy with a vegetarian diet.
Talk About Vegetarianism
The first thing you have to make sure is that your kids know what being a vegetarian means. It’s more than just eating fruits, vegetables, and nuts. People maintain this diet because of ethical, health, and even religious reasons. It would be great if your kids could understand the value of becoming a vegetarian.
Health is the most significant benefit that they must understand. Let them know that being a vegetarian lowers risks of heart diseases, prevents cancer, and enriches them with nutrients. It can be hard to help kids value their health. But it’s not impossible.
The next thing that you talk to them about is the environmental reasons. You can start by explaining food production’s contributions to the greenhouse gas effect. They’re probably familiar with this anyway, having discussed it in their science classes.
The Importance of Choice
Kids must understand that being a vegetarian is a choice. No one should have to be one against their will. It’s different when you, as a parent, tell your kids they shouldn’t eat too much candy before dinner or eat too many potato chips for recess. You’re doing those things because you want to watch their health.
But to stop eating meat at all is a different matter. It’s a big decision that no one should take lightly. So, before you decide to maintain a meat-free household, ask your kids first if they love eating plant-based foods.
Develop their Green Thumbs
If they decide to become a vegetarian, then the fun part begins. Allow them to see and understand where their food comes from. You can do so by planting fruits and vegetables in the backyard: Basil, tomatoes, lettuce, lemons—the works.
Gardening, then, could become a healthy habit that they develop. It gets them involved in making food, values it, and reaps the health benefits of it.
Get Them Involved in the Kitchen
Cooking is also a fun activity that you and your kids can bond over. They should know that being a vegetarian doesn’t mean they would just eat salad for all of their meals. They could have pasta dishes, burritos, and rice bowls. The possibilities are endless.
Ask for their help in planning your meals. They should know which foods are high on which nutrients. Calcium is found in dark leafy vegetables, beans, and some juices and cereals. Protein is found in tofu, beans, and nuts.
Take them to the farmers’ market as well. Let them meet some local farmers. Let them choose some fresh produce that they want to try. Who knows, they might join the avocado craze. The fruit will give them a good dose of healthy fat.
Have Some Fun with Familiar Foods
Let your kids know that being a vegetarian doesn’t mean they would never get to taste a burger or pizza anymore. Go to your local supermarket and find the plant-based meat alternatives in the frozen section. Your kids would gape in wonder at the fact that they could still eat a cheeseburger without feeling guilty about eating meat.
If they want sausage and eggs for breakfast, they can have a piece of a meat-free sausage. If they want chicken fingers for lunch, they could have some that are also meat-free.
Being vegetarians with your kids is not easy. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your kids are still getting the proper nutrients to make up for the loss of meat in their diets. They should be able to understand the value and benefits of being vegetarians. But the important thing is that they are happy to live a meat-free lifestyle and have fun.