From Burgers to Black Beans: How to Wrangle a Kid Gone Meatless
It can happen in the best of homes. You think you've done everything right as a parent -- good schools, restricted screen time, all-cotton underwear -- and then one day at dinner, your world explodes.
Your kid goes veggie. She stops eating meat. "I've decided on a plant-based diet," little Lindsey explains, turning her nose, knife and fork up at the beautiful burger on her plate. "How can you eat somebody's mother?"
Some version of this drama plays out every day in homes across America as more young people become aware of the face on the plate and how it relates to the planet they live on.
I hope we can blame schools, but however it happens, kids eating green is trending up, and meatloaf-loving parents need help, strategies, patience and sometimes pharmaceuticals.
Step one? Don't panic. There are experts to advise you, and one of them is Lisa Barley of Vegetarian Times, a great resource for 100 things to do with chickpeas.
"Your child's new diet doesn't have to make your life more difficult," she explains in calming, reasonable tones. There are ways to be supportive, less stressed. Here are some of them, along with my own embellishments:
DON'T WORRY. Your kids health won't suffer if they're following a well-planned veggie diet, say the authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. They can get all the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy and strong, but it requires some study.
LISTEN UP. Ask your kids to share the reasons they're giving up meat, Lisa suggests. Keep an open mind. If they've gone on YouTube and seen the horrible things that happen to cows and chickens in the name of factory farming, take a look yourself. Sit down over a plate of edamame and talk it over. More important than talking is listening to your child -- listening without judging. "Think of it as an opportunity to get to know their values and worldview," Barley writes.
ASSIGN HOMEWORK. Lisa wants you to get your kids involved in whatever eating changes they want to make. Have your newbie vegetarian "make a list of nutritious snacks and meals and draft a shopping list, " she says in a state of mind some parents will regard as delusional.
Another strategy: Go over the vegetarian food pyramid together so all involved can see what a well-balanced diet looks like. In case your vegetarian food pyramid has gone missing, you can always find it again at http://www.vegetariannutrition.org/6icvn/food-pyramid.pdf.