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To raise my child as a vegetarian?

(224 Posts)
rstuk Mon 06-May-13 09:25:04

Both myself and DH are vegetarians and we would like our children to be vegetarians too for both health and ethical reasons, however I'm a bit unsure because all of the websites i've checked have conflicting opinions on whether or not this is good for a small child (digestion issues etc) and our parents (non/ex-vegetarians) think we're 'depriving' the child
Help anyone? i'm completely lost

SquirrelNuts Thu 09-May-13 15:47:19

I've been a vegetarian since I was 4, I'm pretty healthy, I've had 2 healthy DCs. My DCs eat what I cook in doors, DS occasionally tries some of DPs meaty food and eats meat when they give it at nursery. I certainly wont be cooking him any though (not that I'd no how to anyway!) I do give my DCs vitamins when I remember I think i'd give them even if we were meat eaters

GreyWhites Thu 09-May-13 15:40:13

This is such an interesting thread! I am so happy to hear of veggies managing to raise healthy children. I must admit I am very skeptical about the idea of a vegetarian and especially a vegan diet for kids, based on my own anecdotal experiences. (Friends who were brought up veggie and who are, for want of a better expression, developmentally stunted, the perennially unhealthy vegan friends, etc).

My own concern with a vegetarian diet is down to maintaining a diet which is relatively low in saturated fat. I found when on a veggie diet that cheese seemed to feature far more than I would have liked. If you then factor in concerns about the safety of protein sources such as tofu, it can get tricky.

iclaudius Thu 09-May-13 11:22:49

If we're talking like this...
I've been a vegetarian exactly 30 years am now 45. When I took my son for his first day at university I was mistaken for his friend and later students said to him 'you are the one with the young mum!'
Last week a friend texted me that her dd had said I looked younger than her ( the mum) in fact I'm four years older !!
I am only anaemic in pregnancy when I gestate huge boys and have never had health issues. I do not eat pulses etc nor piles of protein . I do love carbs but my bmi is 20
I never take supplements
People are ott about this
I just avoid meat and meat products it's simple

OscarIsABookworm Thu 09-May-13 10:38:20

Sorry typos on phone

OscarIsABookworm Thu 09-May-13 10:27:11

Willow Really? Sounds like bullshit to me. If your veggie friend really has rotting teeth. bad hair and nail etc then I would think there is something else going on and she is ill. You should take her to the doctors.

Since going vegan, so many people have said how great I look, my hair is thicker, nail stronger and there is nothing wrong with my teeth.

I guess you can eat a crap diet if you are a meat eater, veggie or vegan. The meat eaters I know generally eat quite poor diets compared to me, and processed foods feature quite a bit in their diets.

QuacksForDoughnuts Thu 09-May-13 10:01:41

Willow, I am a 30-something vegan who gets ID'd for alcohol on a regular basis. I have been told I look less exhausted than my immediate colleagues at the end of a five-week stint where I was working two or three times as many hours as them. First year students mistake me for a classmate rather than their tutor when they first meet me, so I have to dress really formally for work and wear a staff ID to avoid this. A colleague thought I was taking the piss when I told him how old I was on my birthday. I get a bit unfit over the winter when not doing much manual labour, but give me a couple of months of decent weather and I'll shake that off. I take a B complex as an insurance policy, but so do many meat-eaters. I get anemic around periods, but again so do many meat-eaters I know who bleed heavily - in fact I think the person who recommended my current favourite iron supplement might have been a meat-eater. I get bouts of depression, but you've guessed it, so do a wide range of my friends including those who eat meat. I also have a tendency to go nuclear on people who suggest that depression, be it mine or that of someone who lives on Mucky D's and microwave pizza, is a nutritional issue - that can have an effect but not a major one if your brain is determined to hate you. My skincare routine and products are no better than those of other women my age whose bathroom business I'm acquainted with, so the whole looking young thing isn't down to that. I would take extra supplements if I got pregnant and give my baby B12 from the start, again as insurance, but I had vitamins pushed down my throat from an early age when I was, guess what, eating meat several times a week from weaning. So the vegan thing only makes a difference in that it pushes me to think harder about these things.

Ok, this is purely anecdotal, but so are the cases you describe!

exexpat Thu 09-May-13 09:42:52

I've never met any vegans who sound like Willow's friend - does she have other health issues? I've been vegetarian nearly 30 years, don't take supplements, and look pretty healthy, though I say it myself. The vegan couple next door (also my age, with four vegetarian children) look the picture of health.

TheSlug Thu 09-May-13 09:18:29

Willow why on earth do you imagine that your friend's teeth have anything to do with her being vegetarian?

cyberfairy Wed 08-May-13 22:07:18

Agree with Plinkyplonks I ate crap as a student along with all other students-my crap was cheesy chips instead of kebabs. Once I became a bit older, started to be healthy and make good healthy food, other friends of the meat or veggie eating variety also did the same or else carried on eating crap...my child made me strict in looking up balanced healthy protein rich veggie meals rather than falling back on bags of --factory farmed--meat from the supermarket.

plinkyplonks Wed 08-May-13 21:52:48

Agreed that it is important to go into vegetarianism/veganism informed. However, just because someone is vegan/vegetarian/meat eater doesn't mean they will necessary have a balanced/unhealthy diet.

As for protein, I'm surprised you think vegetarian meals are low in protein. I have no problem meeting my protein targets for the day. Lot's of lovely pulses and soya! http://www.care2.com/greenliving/vegetarian-protein-sources.html

cyberfairy Wed 08-May-13 21:52:21

Willowisp a pointless anecdote from you so one from me- I have been strictly veggie from 10 and at 34 get IDed and am asked my skincare routine (depite it only consisting of water)
A crap dinner is a crap dinner- most vegetarians make more of an effort to give a balanced healthy dinner as they work out proteins etc - a lot of meat eaters just shove sausages on a plate.

Willowisp Wed 08-May-13 20:48:06

Might be worth actually nutritionally analyzing you & your kids diets before stating they are getting the required amount of protein (which you need to grow strong - not tall - strong) & iron & look at the amount of carbs you & they eat.

I had quite a shock at how difficult this is - think for my height & weight I need at least 55g protein a day. The average vegetarian meal packs less than 10 g. Not filling, not nutritious.

The only vegans I know look ill - terrible hair, skin & look older than they are. My strictly veggie friend has rotting teeth, prematurely lined skin & terrible hair. Her finger nails split, as do the sides of her mouth. Other veggie friends are always watching their weight because they are always hungry because carbs just distrupt your blood sugar.

Yes, of course 'everybody knows someone', but go into any diets being informed.

FWIW the inuits eat mainly meat supplemented with berries. Their diet is high in omega oils & they do well on it. Year long studies on 2 men eating meat exclusively for a year showed NO vitamin deficiencies.

My vegetarian diet has seen me anemic, vitamin B12, folate & vitamin D deficient.

Bring on the liver & the bone soup.

MostlyLovingLurchers Wed 08-May-13 18:16:53

you might not need to 'resort' to supplements, but long term deficiencies will cause problems as the years go on.

An unbalanced diet may result in deficiencies, but this is true of a poor meat-based diet as well as a poor vegetarian one. Have a look at this:

ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/502S.full

Willowisp Wed 08-May-13 17:30:48

you might not need to 'resort' to supplements, but long term deficiencies will cause problems as the years go on.

I'm all for animals - I just think eating grass fed, well reared, organic & free range meat is better than for health than than trying to balance plant protein.

Of course, the 'thing' with a vegetarian diet, apart from the cheese/crisp & pizza eater further up the thread, is most will make a conscious decision to eat a diet full of fresh food, won't drink too much (not so much choice in vegetarian & vegan wine) & probably won't eat refined sugar via biscuits/mlk chocolate.

Talking about extended breastfeeding LovelyLurchers - My DC's asked recently if a vegan baby could be breast-fed. I said definitely yes ! That was kind of the point - that the milk was for the mother's own babies !

MostlyLovingLurchers Wed 08-May-13 09:36:18

Having ended up with a vegan baby by default (he would always have been vegetarian but then he also had a dairy allergy), i have never had to resort to supplements. What i have done though is opt for extended breastfeeding and aim to continue to natural term. He now also has oatmilk which (so shoot me) is fortified. I also saw a paediatric dietician to put my mind at rest that he was getting everything he needed - he was.

Once in France i'd ordered a salad, and it turned up covered with tuna, despite my explaining no meat or fish - they said they couldnt possibly just serve me a garnish as a meal! I lost a lot of weight on that trip.

ZebraOwl Tue 07-May-13 22:39:18

As plenty of other people have said, children raised on a healthy vegetarian diet will be grand. Like children raised on a healthy omnivorous diet. I'd think the sensible thing to do would be to provide them with a vegetarian diet & if, as they get older, they want to try eating fish &/or meant, let them do so. Same way omnivorous parents should allow their children to choose to become vegetarian.

My brother became pescetarian at the age of 4 when he asked if the chicken you eat is the same thing as chickens at the farm or if it just happened to be called the same thing. On hearing it wasn't just a coincidence he decided he'd not be eating meat anymore. Sadly, the one occasion he did so it made him very ill: early on in his time at Junior School he was forced to eat a beefburger by the evil bully of a dinner lady. Probably it was partly the distress that made him sick, but still... I wasn't allowed to turn vegetarian until I was 13 due to concerns about my dairy allergy meaning I would Eat Nothing. At 13 I decided I was just going to not eat the stuff any more & no one was going to try forcing me to.

With vegetarian children you'll have to be prepared for other people to hoik their judgeypants up and/or Just Not Understand. Several times as a teenager adults tried to force me to eat fish. I should probably have considered a career as a highly specialised magician using the skills I developed to make the poor fishy corpses disappear without my having to eat them. Then there was the awfulness of my French Exchange family thinking I ate fish because a pescetarian girl called herself vegetarian so her mother thought I'd be fine with fish for tea when a group of us went to her house when the French students were here. Couldn't stand to make a fuss, but then had to endure a week in France avoiding fish. The night my exchange student's brother brought his new fiancée round I managed that horrible combination of swoony-sick when they had lobster. Just the noise of the shell cracking made me feel so unwell my exchange student's mother sent me off to bed because I looked terribly ill. Bleurghle.

There are an awful lot of myths kicking about with regards to vegetarianism, but plenty of people have helpfully been along to this thread to bust them. As others have advised, look to the Vegetarian &/or Vegan Societ(y/ies) for advice & support & make use of the tonnes of recipes there are available out there.

fluffypillow Tue 07-May-13 22:02:19

I'm veggie, DH meat eater. My children ;

DS1 : kept him veggie until 2, then he started to eat meat. Age 12 told us he wanted to be veggie, and has been strict veggie for 3 years now.

DS2 ; kept him veggie until 2, then he started to eat meat. Still eats meat, and I think always will do.

DD ; 2yrs old. she is veggie, and will probably remain so for a long while as she has shown no interest in meat at all.

Each to their own I say. just go with your instincts as a parent, and always listen to your childs point of view. When they are old enough to make a decision either way, repect it and accept it. Then you can't go wrong. Good luck.

spiderlight Tue 07-May-13 21:56:40

I'm reminded of the lovely scene in the Royle Family where Nanna is told a guest is vegetarian and responds with great sympathy, as if it were some terrible affliction, and then asks 'Could she have some wafer-thin ham?'

rambososcar Tue 07-May-13 21:51:03

grin @ aurynne.

OscarIsABookworm Tue 07-May-13 21:48:54

I don't it's disgusting stuff.

aurynne Tue 07-May-13 21:46:30

Thanks Oscar. Actually, I eat tofu too :P.

OscarIsABookworm Tue 07-May-13 21:45:13

In aurynne's profile she says she is Spanish living in NZ.

We have actually come across some restaurants in Spain that consider ham vegetarian confused

Just for the record what most people (certainly everyone I know) consider vegan/vegetarian is..

VEGETARIAN:
Vegetarian is a blanket term used to describe a person who does not consume meat, poultry, fish, or seafood.

VEGAN:
Vegans do not consume any animal products or by-products.

aurynne Tue 07-May-13 21:44:47

I understand, and sometimes the language I use hen debating can be incendiary, as seen by the responses I get. This happens in any language I discuss in, so I have assumed it is my fault. It actually annoys me, because people get offended and stop discussing the really interesting stuff, damn!

VinegarDrinker Tue 07-May-13 21:44:09

I would see "using sources of food which are rich in these nutrients" as a positive thing vegans/vegan parents are doing to improve their health rather than the negative or failure you seem to be implying it is confused

Of course if we are talking food miles, there is a lot to be considered in terms of soya, quinoa etc but vegans are hardly the only ones eating air freighted food!

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