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reassurance needed about bringing up children as vegetarian

(25 Posts)
stegasaurus Sat 04-Dec-10 11:20:51

I am 18weeks pregnant with DC1. DH is vegetarian and I'm not, but we only really eat vegetarian food at home because I can't be bothered with cooking 2 meals. I sometimes eat meat/ fish when we eat out/ go to parents for dinner/ I have dinner at work/ microwave meals that I have occasionally when finishing work at 9pm, so I don't really miss it. I get the best bits of being vegetarian without never being able to have a roast dinner/ bacon sandwich/ nice piece of fish again.
He wants to bring up our child as vegetarian, and really I can't think of a good reason not to. I don't know how to cook many meat-based meals, and it seems odd to always cook different meals for my children . Please reassure that it won't be too difficult to wean a child on to a healthy vegetarian diet. I expect that as the child gets older he/ she will end up trying some meat when out at friends' houses/ parties etc, and I don't know if our parents who will be doing childcare will adhere to vegetarianism. Is there any reason we shouldn't do this?

cupofcoffee Sat 04-Dec-10 22:44:15

I don't think there is reason not to wean your child on a vegetarian diet.

You can provide a healthy diet for a child without meat. One thing to bear in mind though is that quorn/low fat meat substitutes are not recommended for babies and young children because they need a higher fat intake than adults do and these things can fill them up before they get enough calories. Of course there are plenty of vegetarian meals that do not use these anyway.

How strongly does your dh feel about the issue?
I could see a potential problem in the future if he feels very strongly that the children should remain vegetarian and you eat meat in front of them while out and they ask to try it too.

BelligerentGhoul Sat 04-Dec-10 22:54:14

It's absolutely fine.

DD1 was weaned as a veggie and was totally veggie until aged five, then started eating a bit of meat when she began school and was invited out to birthday parties, then became totally veggie again. She's healthy and fine - I did read that children who are weaned as veggie tend to be taller and slimmer than average and she certainly is!

AnnieLobeseder Sat 04-Dec-10 22:57:38

DD1 was vegetarian (she had fish at nursery) until she was 4, then she decided to eat meat on her own. DD2 is still (mostly) vegetarian. Both are healthy, comfortably above average weight and height and rarely ill.

Meat is not necessary for good health in children. A balanced diet with lots of fresh food is, whether or not meat is included.

Baked beans are the way forward!

BelligerentGhoul Sat 04-Dec-10 22:59:48

Noooooooo to baked beans...

I can't stand them and neither can my dds!

DD1 seems to live on fruit and vege, lentils, chickpeas, bread and marmite.

ppeatfruit Sun 05-Dec-10 09:43:00

If you think how large and strong gorillas are and then realise that they eat only fruit ,leaves and a few insects then it's obvious how nutritious veggies are.

ppeatfruit Sun 05-Dec-10 09:48:24

In fact compared to a lot of obese processed food eating humans both veggie and omnivore it seems it's the freshness of the food that matters more for health.

overmydeadbody Sun 05-Dec-10 09:54:12

It is absolutely fine to wean your child on vegetarian food.

Perfectly healthy, don't feel you have to cook.

The only thing you have to remember to do (which I am sure you will as you are not vegetarian) is to give your child free choice to eat meat if they want to, i.e don't bring them up as a vegetarian, just feed them vegetarian food at home. It's quite easy to accomodate a child's occasional desire for meat without cooking seperate meals (things like ham for sandwiches, fish fingers etc.)

We moslty eat vegetarian food, and when DS was being weaned he did not like meat. He is a healthy strapping yourg boy now and started liking meat at about 4yrs old. We don't eat meat more than about once a week.

overmydeadbody Sun 05-Dec-10 09:56:24

No child should be forced to be vegetarian, once they are old enough (i.e can talk) to decide for themselves what they want to eat. Children should be able to make the decision themselves.

Dexterrocks Sun 05-Dec-10 10:06:20

Both my dcs are vegetarian and always have been. I discussed the choice at length with my hv and she felt it was a healthier diet than most meat eating families.
Both children have a choice and choose not to eat meat. My dh is not a vegetarian but only eats tuna or pepperoni pizza in the house (very very occasionally) and otherwise leaves his meat eating for meals out.
The children understand that this is his choice and that they have theirs.
There are lots and lots of recipe books for feeding vegetarian children. In general I just cook what I would cook for ourselves with just a few additions.
I add more cheese to my ds meals to increase the fat he eats. I also kept him on full fat milk for longer.
I make sure they both eat lots of iron rich foods as it is slightly harder for children to eat enough meat free food to keep their iron levels up.
Family, friends and teachers have commented on the fact they are more open to trying different foods and that they really enjoy their fruit and veg.
I have learned to make veggie sausage rolls and to use quorn ham for sandwiches when they have parties and the party guests don't even notice the difference.
The school canteen makes sure there is a vegetarian option on the menu every day. There was quite a demand from meat eating families that the school reduce the meat content of the school meals anyway which worked in my favour. Even meat eating children shouldn't really be eating meat every day.

piratecatClaus Sun 05-Dec-10 10:10:58

I have brought dd up as a veggie.

I have always allowed her to have what she wants outside the home though, ie at birthday parties, the odd sausage roll.

Yet tbh, with my dd she is a terrible eater and now eats a very limited diet, which is probably comparable to a fussy meat eaters diet. eg hates veg, fruit, an form of meat subsitute, meat itself.

I have become more relaxed since she was about 3 over what she actually wanted to try. She is fit and healthy. She has always eaten fish fingers and used to love tuna.

BelligerentGhoul Sun 05-Dec-10 16:25:50

I disagree OMDB.

The age of birth to five is when we can have the most influence over our children's behaviours, diets etc. Any veggie parent has the right to wean their child as veggie. What they don't then have the right to do is to insist on said child staying veggie once the child reaches school age, if the child then wishes to eat meat.

eviscerateyourmemory Sun 05-Dec-10 16:38:19


You could just as easily say that no child should be forced to eat meat, but should be able to make the choice about whether they want to eat meat or not when they are older.

There is nothing unhealthy about a properly balanced vegetarian diet.

fivecandles Sun 05-Dec-10 16:38:57

I am and my dds are and always have been from birth. Dh isn't and never has been. We almost always eat the same things at home but there will be times when dh has real sausages while we have veggie ones etc. I would rather dh wasn't veggie but I know this is a battle I'll never win so no point having it. BTW you've never seen such strong, healthy lasses as mine.

fivecandles Sun 05-Dec-10 16:44:10

My children are not 'forced' to be veggie any more than the majority of children are 'forced' to be meat eaters. That's a ridiculous argument. As with any other aspect of our parenting we set examples ourselves and provide the information needed for our children to make their own choices when they are able to.

Since a meat based diet is both less healthy and less environmentally friendly than a vegeterian one without even getting into animal welfare issues, you could very easily argue that bringing your children up as vegeterian is a more responsible choice.

BelligerentGhoul Sun 05-Dec-10 16:50:14

Ah - I think I misunderstood you, OMDB, on reading your post again. I think you were saying what I said!

ChippingIn Sun 05-Dec-10 17:20:38

Stegs - have a look at the three children on this page

They have been raised vegan grin

There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't do it and lots of reasons you should.

It is nonsense when people say you can't make that decision for your child - of course you can. As a parent you gather information and make decisions for your children all the time. Anyone who says they should be able to choose and you should feed them meat until they choose needs to have a think about that theory! We don't choose to let them drink alcohol/play out in the snow naked/smoke/stay home from school - the list of things we makes decisions on for them is endless - you just have to do what you think is right.

As for the grandparents - this is your decision, if you don't feel you can trust them to abide by your decisions then they are not the right childcare option. Would you feel the same if they 'chose' whether to do what you wanted re car seats/feeding them before you are ready to wean/smoking around them etc?

As you can see - lots of people bring their children up vegetarian and they are very healthy & happy.

[PS that website I linked to used to be brilliant, I haven't been on it in ages and it's a lot different now - more advertising and less traffic - but there is still a lot of very good info on it].

AnnieLobeseder Sun 05-Dec-10 19:10:11

overmydeadbody - so you force your child to eat meat intead? What a silly argument! Of course we decide what our children should eat when they're tiny! It's hardly 'forcing' a diet on them.

Dexterrocks Sun 05-Dec-10 19:18:49

Surely making the decision not to feed them meat is taking the forcing out of the equation. They can eat it when they are older and arent going to resent the fact they were fed veggie foods.
I very much resent the fact I was conned into eating meat as a child before I knew any better. I feel I wasn't given a choice.

stegasaurus Sun 05-Dec-10 21:53:19

Thank you. I think I knew that bringing up the baby as a vegetarian was a reasonable thing to do, but just wanted reassurance, especially as the conversation DH and I had about it somehow turned into a big argument. He did seem to suggest that if a child was weaned onto a vegetarian diet it would be ill if it tried eating meat, but some of your experiences contradict that, which means they will have a choice when older.

exexpat Sun 05-Dec-10 22:11:07

I think there is a kind of urban myth that you need a special enzyme to digest meat, which long-term vegetarians don't have and they would therefore become ill if they ate meat - this may be what your DH was thinking of, but as far as I know there is absolutely no scientific basis for this. I think the only food you need a special enzyme to digest is milk, which is why some people (the majority in some non-dairy-eating countries) are lactose intolerant.

I've been vegetarian for more than 25 years and I expect if someone forced me to eat meat I would feel sick, but that would be psychological not physical. I know there are some long-term veggies who suddenly crave meat in pregnancy, and I have never heard of them not being able to eat meat when they wanted.

FWIW, my two DCs (12 and 8) are mainly vegetarian (they eat some fish) and are very healthy, full of energy and tall for their ages (they have both been over 95th centile for height all their lives). They've never eaten meat and have never asked to, but I wouldn't stop them if they wanted to try it - though I wouldn't cook it for them either.

ChippingIn Sun 05-Dec-10 22:11:57

Steg I expect your DH is really pleased that you are now happy to do this. I couldn't be with someone who wasn't happy with our children being weaned/brought up vegetarian. Of course what they do when they are old enough to choose for themselves is up to them!

SmallerClanger Sun 05-Dec-10 22:43:41

Both DP and I are vegetarian and weaned our DDs on a veggie diet. We won't cook meat, and our friends & family make us veggie meals when we visit. The 6 year old tries fish fingers now and again when we go out or friends are eating it, but she hasn't asked for a while. 8 year old is very against meat, but that is also her own decision at the moment. They are both happy & healthy and I've not worried about their diet.

eviscerateyourmemory Sun 05-Dec-10 23:32:49

I have heard that people who are vegetarian can be sick if they eat meat, but due to the hormones/additives in the meat? I'm not sure if there is any great evidence for that or not - I know people who say that they have been ill in after eating meat, or have had to wean themselves back onto meat slowly after being vegetarian.

My children are vegatarian, and are aware that they can eat meat if they wish, though they have not yet chosen to do so.

ppeatfruit Mon 06-Dec-10 09:50:58

IMO & E Yr blood type has a lot to do with how well you digest meat O' types crave it and do better on it while A' types shouldn't eat any red meat (the ones that do risk heart attacks etc.)

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