By Kathleen Mitchell-Askar, senior contributing editor to Attached Family magazine
When my friend, a mother of one, found out her nine-year-old daughter wanted to become a vegetarian, she didn’t know what to do. She and her husband had never considered a meal complete without chicken, beef or fish, so her initial worry was whether her daughter would be healthy. The worry was quickly replaced with wonderment at the person her daughter was becoming.
Parents of adolescents and teens may find that their child’s growing awareness of the world and their part in it may lead them to choose vegetarianism. Some parents may worry that their child’s choice is a reflection of some mistake they have made, but parents should instead be proud that they have raised an empathetic child.
For my friend’s daughter, the shift occurred on a family trip to Mexico, while walking through an open market. When her daughter saw the meat hanging in the butcher’s stall, she decided then and there she would never eat meat again. She has been a vegetarian for two years and remains committed.
For parents who were raised on the idea that meat is essential to health for its vitamins, nutrients and protein, vegetarianism may seem like a nutritionally inferior way to eat. On the contrary, a vegetarian diet is often lower in fat, cholesterol and calories, and higher in fiber than a diet that includes meat. Eliminating meat, however, is not a sure path to health. A vegetarian who eats large amounts of potato chips, cookies and cheese will, of course, not reap the same benefits as one who focuses on wholesome, plant-based foods. Dr. William Sears encourages parents to ensure their vegetarian child does receive proper amounts of calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B-12, nutrients found in high concentrations in the meat and dairy the child may choose not to eat. Continue reading