Growing up in the Midwest meant there were three basic components to every meal: meat, potatoes, and bread. When I was 12-years-old and told my mom that I wanted to become a vegetarian, I'm pretty sure she thought I was joking. I wasn't. I gave up red meat, then poultry, and finally seafood. And, thankfully, she was amazingly supportive. So when I had kids of my own, I didn't consider feeding them meat; a choice that according to some people is pretty radical. The truth is, I'm not sorry I'm raising vegetarian kids. Not a single bit.
While I don't think it's at all a big deal that my children are vegetarians, we still live in the "meat and potatoes" Midwest. And if you saw the looks on people's faces or heard their questions when they learned that we don't eat meat, you would totally think our food choices are, in fact, a very big deal.
People: "But, what do they eat?"
Me: "Pretty much everything that's not meat"
People: "But, what about protein?"
Me: "There's lots of plant-based protein sources. We also eat eggs and dairy."
People: "But, what about your son? Boys need meat to grow."
Honestly, I am not sure why people think it's any of their business how my partner and I feed our family. I guess, sometimes, these people are legitimately concerned for my kids' wellbeing, but my kids are healthy and thriving, so their concern is totally unnecessary. For the most part, though, I think their intrusive questioning is entirely cultural. American food culture generally prizes large portions of meat and carbs, with tiny sides of veggies and fruits. And even though I think our diet is probably healthier than the average American's, I would never say anything about it. That's more than I can say about every meat eater I know, who gives me a piece of their mind when they learn that we are vegetarians.
So yeah, I am not at all sorry I'm raising my kids to be vegetarians, for so many reasons, including the following:
Because I Shouldn't Have To Apologize For My Parenting Choices
I shouldn't have to apologize for my parenting choices that work for my family. Full stop. Unless I am harming my children — which I am not — you don't get to judge me for my choices. In return, I promise to not judge you. Well, not out loud, anyway.
Because I'm A Vegetarian
I love being a vegetarian, and I don't feel like I am missing out at all. I didn't really like meat when I ate it, and I hate the idea of killing an animal to eat when I don't have to. On the plus side, it's often less expensive than eating meat, both when eating out and when buying ingredients. While I am privileged to have the time and resources to cook at home, a bag of beans is way cheaper than a pound of ground beef.
Now, I am not saying that I think everyone should be a vegetarian, but I definitely have the right to raise my kids with our own food culture and family traditions. For us, that's vegetarian.
Because It's A Healthy Choice
For the most part, eating vegetarian is pretty darn healthy. If you cook at home, the choices are virtually endless, and the result is my kids growing up with plates full of veggies and fruit, along with their protein and carbs. Now, I am not saying that they wouldn't choose mac 'n cheese over salad, or that mealtime isn't one of the worsts part of parenting sometimes, but they eat a wide variety of foods and I'm proud of that.
Because My Kids Choose To Be Vegetarian
Now that my older kids are able to make choices about what they eat, they choose to be vegetarian. Now, some people might say that I have "indoctrinated" them into my lifestyle, but remember that I decided to be a vegetarian after growing up in a home where there was meat at every meal. I honestly think everyone should have a right to choose whether or not to eat meat. And for now, my kids want to be vegetarians and I think that's great. If they change their minds, I am OK with that, too.
Because It's Better For The Planet
While most of us think about reducing our carbon footprint by driving less or buying fuel efficient vehicles, how we eat can actually impact the environment, too. According to the University of Michigan, food production causes 83 percent of emissions, versus the 11 percent from transportation. Of those emissions, meat production is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases. Now I am not saying that everyone should be a vegetarian or vegan, but I certainly believe that our family being vegetarian not only works for us, but helps us do our part to reduce our carbon footprint.
Because I'm Not Trying To Convert Them
If you ask me about my diet or for recipe ideas I will gladly answer, but I am not trying to convert anyone. I would appreciate it if people would stop literally trying to feed my kids meat (yes, people do this), or commenting about our diet, though. You do you and let us do us. If you keep your eyes on your own plate, and your comments to yourself, and I promise to do the same.
Because It's Not A Big Deal
I don't understand why people care about my kids choosing not to eat meat. So many people think that I am depriving them, or even neglecting them, and I'm stuck defending my decision over and over and over again. It's so frustrating, especially when I know that our diet is healthy, and my kids honestly wouldn't eat meat if I served it.
Because My Kids Are Thriving
Literally the only people I discuss my kids' diet with are my kids, my partner, and our doctor. Our doctor regularly checks the kids to make sure they are getting enough of the right nutrients. They aren't anemic, don't have any vitamin deficiencies, and are growing like proverbial weeds; none of which comes as a surprise to me, because they eat a ton of beans, veggies, eggs, dairy, fruits, and grains. I know that they are healthy, because they are thriving, and that's all that really matters in the end.
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