Would you let your kid go veg (or vice-versa?)

Someone over in Great Debates mentioned that one good reason to become a vegetarian is to piss off your parents (sue me - I’m too lazy to go find a link). When I was a teenager, I knew a couple kids who went veg, and sure enough, it pissed off their parents, mainly their mother who was pressured to provide a vegetarian meal for the kid if she wanted him/her to eat at home.

I’ve also read news stories about very young kids (8 or 9 year olds) who decide they want to be vegetarians, and their parents went along with it.

Me? I say no way. The kid eats what the family eats, or he/she goes hungry. This has no bearing on whether or not vegetarianism is good or bad - it’s simply that if I have to go through the work of feeding a kid, he/she is not going to make drastic food choices that cause me to fix two separate meals all the time. Not liking certain foods is fine; not liking entire food groups is NOT.

The same question goes for veggy couples whose kid decides he/she wants to eat meat. Say you have a 15 year old son who is a jock, and somehow or other he got it in his head that he absolutely had to eat meat every night to build muscle. Would you do it for him?

Umm, vegetarian is hardly a “drastic food choice” (especially when compared to vegan).

It’s remarkably easy to make vegetarian meals an option; although I grew up in a vegetarian household, it has almost never been an issue when I’ve been elsewhere. On very few occasions has two separate meals been necessary.

Actually, I guess I should clarify: although my parents are both vegetarian (myself as well), neither of my step-parents are. There were no real problems on the issue (granted, we ate spaghetti and other quick-fixes as often as not; nobody felt up to making dinner after work).

I’m not a vegetarian, but I would certainly support a decision on my child’s part to become one. I mean, really, what kind of message would I be sending otherwise?

“Mom, I’ve thought a lot about it and I want to be a vegetarian. I really feel that it’s cruel and unnecessary to kill animals for food.”

“Oh, no you don’t. I’m not spending a few extra minutes in the kitchen so you can follow your principles!”

Actually, I’d be pleased. Vegetarians are generally healthier. It would be good for the whole family to have meatless options available regularly. And, of course, everbody would be helping with the chores anyway.

However, I would require that she educate herself about good vegetarian food choices. It’s certainly quite possible to be a poorly nourished vegetarian.

The same thing would go for the son who wanted to eat meat. He would have to show me that he could provide evidence that he really needed it. And if I were vegetarian, he would have to buy and cook the meat for himself.

I think battles over food are one of the quickest paths to poor eating habits. Children need to have some control over their bodies and giving them a reasonable amount of choice about food is a healthy way of achieving it.

Suffice to say that for me, cooking an entirely meat free meal (ie, no chicken or beef stock, no bacon grease, no anchovies or fish sauce) every night, would be a “drastic food choice.” I’m not debating whether it’s right or wrong, healthy or not, but there are vast swaths of people out there, the bulk of my family included who do not consider it a meal without meat. lol - my father does not consider Spaghetti with Marinara sauce a meal, unless it has meatballs in it! I sometimes think that this gets lost on people who live in the more veggy centric areas of the country.

And before everyone jumps on me - let’s stick to the OP! I know you can be perfectly healthy and happy as a vegetarian! I not only eat tofu, I like it! I drink soy milk! I’m more interested in the aspect of how far you’d go to cater to a child’s dietary wants.

Oh, I wasn’t jumping you on whether it’s healthy, blah blah blah.

I was just saying that it can be surprisingly easy to cook meals that allow both veggies and non-veggies to eat (keep the meatballs in bowl, let people put them on themselves).

As for the OP…well…were I to have a child, I have no problem with them eating meat, though it repulses me enough that I couldn’t bear to prepare it.

Though I would have a problem with eating meat “to bulk up,” as that’s probably not the best way to go about that (or healthiest, at least).

"Keep the meatballs in bowl, let people put them on themselves . . . "

—Ooooh, no. When the kids start putting meatballs on themselves, it’s off to their rooms with them!

I think you’re overestimating how much extra time it would be to provide a vegetarian option. Take the spaghetti as an example. The kids eats the same things everyone else does (spaghetti, salad, bread) but you put aside a little pot of marinara sauce before the meatballs go in. Heck, you can even make him/her wash the pot if you want.

There could also be a little stash of quick veggie options available (e.g., canned soups or chili, frozen veggie dinners bought on sale, etc.) that the child could opt for if you’re having something like pot roast.

Another solution would be to have him or her prepare and freeze veggies soups or stews or pasta sauces on a weekend.

Things that would not be tolerated:

  1. Criticizing other people’s choices. (This would go for grandpa, too, at least in my home.)

  2. Demanding extreme measures, such as buying another set of pans or throwing away leather shoes. She/he can wait until they wear out.

  3. Drastically unhealthy eating of any variety, vegetarian or carnivorous.

::spots thread title::

:wanders in to see if “vice versa” means you letting your veggies choose to be consumed by children, you letting your vegetables consume children, your children allowing you to go veg, or something else entirely::

::ducks flying vegetables::


That’s kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it?

Sure, a kid ought to eat what’s on the menu, up to a
point. If junior doesn’t like broccoli, tough tittie.

Forcing someone to eat meat is another thing entirely–
Particularly if the choice to exclude meat is based on
a moral or ethical adjustment. If a child empathizes with
animals, do you really want to force them to eat them when
there are easy alternatives? How do you think that would
be liable to influence your relationship as s/he matures?

People have long memories. I know one woman who is 51
years old who still relates with revulsion having
to resort to a concealed plastic bag at the dinner table
to dispose of unwanted flesh.

What would you do if you were compelled to eat something
that you felt was horribly wrong. Say, human meat.
An extreme example, but psychologically in the ball-park
for ethical vegetarians. You’d probably purge on the sly,
wouldn’t you? Plenty of kids who don’t want to digest meat
do exactly that. You’d probably regard the people that
forced you to do it as monsters, too.

I have another vegetarian friend who hasn’t eaten a
single meal at his parent’s home in over ten years, because
he remembers seeing his mother surreptitiously serve someone
she knew was vegetarian rice cooked in chicken stock, saying
“what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” He became
vegetarian afterwards, but doesn’t trust her enough to
eat anything from her kitchen. Home for the holidays?
Forget it.

Trust me. For me, this is a big deal. It’s not the big stuff that’s hard - it’s the small stuff. Putting the meatballs in a separate bowl is easy; not putting anchovies in the marinara as a base ingredient is not. Lots of my little tricks that, in my opinion, really make the difference between a run-of-the-mill dish and a really terrific dish involve meat (or stock, or fish sauce, you get the idea.)

I know this from experience. I’ve got lots of friends who are veg, and even a roommate. It was hard to cook for them. I felt like I was having to do stuff for them that diminished the overall appeal of the dish. Imagine using Velveeta instead of the aged cheddar sitting next to it in the fridge - that’s the best analogy I can think of. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not saying that ALL vegetarian dishes are like Velveeta! I’m just saying that a fair amount of my current recipes would have to be changed for the worse to accomodate a vegetarian. I’d probably come up with alternatives if I were sufficiently motivated, but in the case where one family member decides they don’t want meat, and everyone else does, I probably wouldn’t want to make the effort.

hehee… this could also easily be turned around. How hard would it be for you all to just saute up a little pork chop on the side for your jock kid? It’s easy! Only takes 5 minutes, and the kid could even wash the pan! lol!

And cher3 I’m with you on your list. It makes a lot of sense, and yeah, I’d have trouble with Grandpa, too.

Why not take the opportunity to let junior learn how to cook as well? Tell the child that you support the decision, but the extra work it will require means he/she will be expected to help with the meal preparation. Win-win. If they aren’t devoted enough to actually ehlp make this a reality, I see no reason you should specially cater to it. You’re not a restaurant.

Which is not to say it should be harsh. In fact, let the kid revel in their new food-preparation skills AND their new lifestyle. Have one night a week be Veggie Night where they get to prepare the meal for the whole family, to show off their skills and show the meat eaters how tasty vegetarianism can be.

Unfortunately this is a sort of family bonding type idea and may interfere with the piss off your parents goal.

I think you have to look at it from the perspective Larry Mudd raised. Let’s assume that the kid really does have an ethical aversion to consuming animals. How does your desire to “perfect” a pot of marinara sauce stack up against that? (And I’m a foodie, too, so I don’t put the question lightly.) I just think I would be sending entirely the wrong message to my child. Sure it would take practice to change the preparation steps or find some new ways to make old dishes (e.g., mushroom stock instead of beef or whatever.) But it’s your kid, fer pete’s sake. Soon enough he/she will be off at college faced with any number of ethical dilemmas. I really would not want my child to think I placed my risotto recipe higher on the list than his/her moral choices.

As for the pork chop, no, I wouldn’t compromise my moral principles for his food tastes, either.

I know how it feels to work on a recipe and create beautiful food. I know myself that I have a lot of ego wrapped up in meals that I cook, sometimes, and it hurts to have them go seemingly unappreciated. I have to bite my tongue sometimes when my daughter or son rejects something I spent time on or particularly like (and they are only 4 and 2, respectivley.) But I do. Food fights get ugly really fast.

I think my solution if I cooked the way you do would be to make the child feel the weight of his/her choice. That would mean choosing and helping to prepare vegetarian alternatives. It would mean being cheerfully content with a cheese sandwich or a bowl of soup when grandpa comes over and wants the famous meatballs marinara. Rasing a polite vegetarian would be a service to the community and well worth the effort.

I would let my kid go veg, following Legomancer and Cher’s rules:

  1. Kid would have to eat a healty and balanced vegetarian diet, do the research, and assist with the cooking and cleanup.

  2. I tend to eat a lot of veggie-based dishes anyway, and doubt that my future household would be all about meat and starch. Therefore my kids will grow up eating both meat and vegetarian dishes, less of a problem if one of them decides to go all the way.

  3. No criticizing what other people at the table are eating, no faking sick sounds, no lectures about the evils of meat.

  4. No complaining about what veggie dishes are made.

I may become a vegetarian myself if my kid wanted to. I eat meat now (in fact I had a sweet steak last night), but it is not that important to me to eat meat. I have gone quite a while without eating it. It might be good to support you kids decision, and if they are doing it just to piss you off they will most likely start eating meat again and you will be right back were you started.

The long-standing tradition in my family, and one I will carry on when I have kids of my own, is if you don’t like what’s served, you can fix your own dinner. Of course, that only works with children old enough to do that. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect a 6 year old to do that.

As far as the “ethical choice” goes, forgive me, but I don’t believe an 8 year old is capable of an “ethical choice.” Some teenagers may be, but they fall in the above category (if you don’t like what I serve, make yourself something else.) cher3, let’s say your 8 year old goes to summer camp, and comes back with the idea that meat is an essential part of his diet. Lil’ Joe is adamant about this, and you suspect it has something to do with the fact that he really, really liked the taste of those BBQ ribs, hot dogs, and burgers they filled him up with, but he’s insisting that it’s a health choice, that his teachers at school showed him the food pyramid and meat is essential for him to grow up and be big and strong. He wants more meat, and he’s going to make your life hell unless you provide it! Are you going to do it, or are you going to say “That’s a choice you get to make when you grow up, but for now, you eat what everyone else in this family eats.”?

What’s so hard about that? That’s exactly what I do for my husband who still eats meat. If we dine at a restaurant I have the meat from my entree served on the side then take it home with us and I use it to incorporate it into his next meal. If I’m fixing a meal of say a baked potato or rice and a vegetable or beans, I throw a slab of steak or chicken on the grill for my husband too, it doesn’t take any more time than it does to cook the rest of the food. He eats salad, I don’t. Do I secretly resent him because I have to spend an extra 3 minutes making a salad, JUST FOR HIM?!?! I mean do you love your kid or what? Is it too much bother to feed him if you’re not feeding yourself as well?

What if your kid’s doctor told you “Your child has dangerously high cholestorol and you need to severely limit his intake of animal products, if not eliminate them entirely?” Would you just roll your eyes and resent him forever for being such an inconvenience? Tell him he better start teaching his blood to process meat better?

I think you’re being way too hung up on your idea of food perfection. Food is what you eat to make your body run, that’s pretty much it. It’s good a variety of different ways. Sometimes even without anchovies!

This is a totally different situation. The situation I describe is a choice made by a child which requires the parent to expend additional time and energy three times a day in order to feed him/her. The situation you describe is a medical necessity. Sorry, but they ain’t the same.

To be honest, when I wrote the OP, I was envisioning a fairly busy household - either a stay at home parent with several kids & a house to maintain, or two working parents and a couple kids. One in which preparing extra “special” food on a regular basis would be an inconvenience. Heck, me and Mr. Athena both work 40+ hour weeks, I do much of the cooking, and if he were asking me to make special stuff for him every night you damn well better know that I wouldn’t want to do it! Once a while, fine. Preparing his favorite meals that I might not necessarily like on occasion, fine. Making two separate meals every night? No #!#@# way! At least not while I’m working full time.

On the other hand, if I had the luxury of working part time, or staying at home with one relatively easy child, I’d probably be much more open to preparing special meals.

Yup, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree, voguevixen. What a horribly dull and small world it would be if I subscribed to that belief! Eating fine food and drinking fine wines/beers/liquors are one of the primary pleasures in life, IMO.

I certainly wouldn’t expect that my 6-year-old is mature enough to make choices that will affect the rest of his or her life, but I do think they are beginning to think about the consequences of their actions and that this should be encouraged. My 4-year-old has already asked me whether the chicken I was preparing was a mommy chicken and whether it hurts animals when they are killed for food. (She’s also recently decided her favorite food is steak, for what it’s worth.) So “ethical choice” may sound high falutin for a child that young, but they have to start somewhere.

As for Little Joe, well, no, he can’t force me to prepare meat for him. I would probably explain my beliefs to him and tell him that he was free to eat meat at school or at friends’ houses if he chose. And when he was old enough, he could make it for himself at home. That is actually the solution I’ve seen used in homes where one parent is veggie and the other is not. (And I would also politely explain the food pyramid to him, including his misunderstanding of the role of meat in his diet.)

My son’s never been a big meat eater and his father is definately a meat and potatoes man. The kid has not declared, “I’ve an aversion to meat and I’m not going to eat it.” That said, when I prepare a meal, if he’s home when I start preparing, I ask him. Do you want a piece of steak/chicken/whatever? If he decided he wanted to go veg I would not be upset. I would add more veggies to the menu, but I would not stop cooking meat for his dad.

I don’t think people (adults especially) should allow food choices to become power struggles. If a teen wants to assert themselves by stipulating some dietary guidelines, in my opinion thats a much healthier thing to do than decide to assert themselves by indulging in a drug lifestyle. I think there is a lot to be said for picking your battles. Also I think making food a battle may in some cases lead to eating disorders, then you have a far more serious issue on your hands than carni/veggie/vegan.

I’m not impressed by the argument that it’s alot of trouble to make a veggie dish. Granted meat may be a major factor in all your favorite main courses, but it sounds a tiny bit selfish, egotistical and controlling to say that you wouldn’t prepare a veggie dish or two also. I agree that involving children in meal preparation is important. In fact that’s a given whether or not they eat meat. As is being well mannered and settling for something easy, or carrying fruit their own snack when it would be terribly inconvenient or awkward to prepare something separate.