I am raising both my children as vegetarians. I am a vegetarian, I’m the primary grocery buyer and cook in my family. In addition to vegetarianism being an ethical choice for me, it is also a practical one for my family.
When you raise your children as vegetarians you get a lot of questions. Are they getting enough protein? Of Course! Do they only eat tofu? No! Are you forcing your beliefs on your kids? Maybe- but aren’t you in some ways?
But instead of focusing on combating the myths and lack of understanding about vegetarianism, I wanted to write about some of the things I love about raising my children as vegetarians.
Four Things I Love About Raising My Children Vegetarian
- The Opportunity to Talk About Differences: Raising your kids as vegetarians means having numerous conversations about differences from a very early age. It means fielding questions about why we eat some things and others do not. It means teaching them to talk about these differences respectfully and openly. It means giving them the language to talk about their differences that helps them to feel empowered and proud.
- Fostering Compassion: Much of my decision to become vegetarian is about ethics and animal rights. I have loved finding age-appropriate ways to talk to my children about cultivating compassion for animals and about animal rights. Since my children are still quite young, we talk about how smart animals are, about the relationship’s animals have with each other and with people, and about what we can do to protect them. It has meant fostering turkeys on Thanksgiving and taking my kids to drop off supplies at our local animal shelter.
- Trying New Foods Together: When I became a vegetarian, I was amazed by how freeing rather than restricting it felt. I tried new cuisines and cooked with ingredients I’d never used before. Seeing this excitement through my children’s eyes has been amazing. We are so lucky in D.C that our food scene mirrors the diverse makeup of our city. Taking my kids to restaurants to try food from different cultures and going to markets to pick out ingredients to cook together is one of the many ways we enjoy this city together.
- They are learning to speak up for themselves: In little ways, being vegetarian has helped my older child to practice speaking up for herself. As a Kindergartener, she has had to ask teachers at schools or parents at parties whether a food has meat in it. It is a small but important way for her to practice self-advocacy and to internalize that it’s OK for her to ask for what she needs.
Raising my kids as vegetarians as not always easy and I expect we will encounter different challenges as they get older. But for now, it’s a meaningful and joyous experience that we love sharing about with others.
If you are interested in talking to your kids about vegetarianism, there are some great books available for littles. I highly recommend V is for Vegan: The ABCs of Being Kind and That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things. The Veg Society of DC also has meet-ups and activities that are geared towards families. If you are looking for kid-approved recipes both Weelicious and Super Healthy Kids has great vegetarian and vegan recipes. And check out this post about 6 most frequently asked questions about being a vegetarian.