Health & Fitness

Don't make food a conflict for a vegetarian child

Lifestyle and LeisureHealthCookingMayo Clinic

If you're raising a child in a vegetarian household, power struggles and awkward social issues are bound to crop up.

Vegetarian parents may produce offspring who are curious about meat but worried that they will get in trouble with their folks if they eat it. That can be a stressful situation for a little kid, says Jennifer Nelson, director of clinical dietetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"You need to be able to support your child in situations where he is going over to Tommy's house and Tommy's family is not vegetarian," Nelson says. "Are you going to tell the child he can't go to Tommy's house, or are you going to raise your child to deal with that so that he doesn't feel like he's trapped between two world war events?"

You should offer age-appropriate explanations for why they don't eat meat, Nelson and other experts suggest. Then give children reassurance and strategies for making food choices when they're not with you.

"The last thing you want your [child] to do is go into the world and feel distressed that 'I have to be just like Mommy and Daddy, and I'm not seeing anything here I can eat,' " Nelson says. "Early on, you do not want to set your child up for failure."

As they get older, children tend to try whatever they're told not to do, just to see how their parents will react, says Meredith Renda, a pediatrician at Doctor's Pediatrics in Wilton, Conn. Resentment can build up if foods are forbidden completely. School-age children in particular can become anxious when anything about them is different from their peers, including what they eat for lunch.

"There is a lot of stress in the unknown about how other kids are going to react," Renda says. "Food is a huge area where peers fit in together and bond."

Deciding whether to raise their children as vegetarians is a sensitive issue that only parents can make. If it's something parents feel strongly enough about to insist on, they're going to have to explain to their children why it's so important to them, Renda says. Then prepare to make compromises -- such as allowing kids to eat meat at friends' houses or restaurants or packing snacks and lunches that look like chicken nuggets or hot dogs but are actually made from soy or wheat gluten.

health@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Lifestyle and LeisureHealthCookingMayo Clinic
  • Vegetarian kids

    Parents of non-meat-eating children need to make sure the youngsters eat a balanced diet. Studies show that, properly done, such eating is fine, and can provide benefits.

  • Ayurvedic medicine: History, basics, treatments and caveats
    Ayurvedic medicine: History, basics, treatments and caveats

    If you're of a certain age in the U.S., Deepak Chopra may have been your introduction to Ayurvedic medicine. The author of "Perfect Health" and Ayurvedic practitioner to the stars was ubiquitous on talk shows and newsstands in the 1990s.

  • Gym Rat: JK Zen Fitness, welcoming and rewarding
    Gym Rat: JK Zen Fitness, welcoming and rewarding

    My Pilates teacher jokes in class that we shouldn't feel tired; after all, we're mostly lying down. But Pilates is hard, and I find that his jokes help me smile and take my mind off my straining abs. That's one way of saying that the atmosphere of a class truly matters.

  • New machines aim to be a runner's hurt blocker
    New machines aim to be a runner's hurt blocker

    The only thing more astounding than the number of runners nowadays — 541,000 finished a marathon last year, and 2 million ran a half-marathon — is the number of running injuries. The guesstimates never change: Every year, half of all runners get hurt enough that they must stop running —...

  • SkinCeuticals' sunscreen is for your eyes only
    SkinCeuticals' sunscreen is for your eyes only

    SkinCeuticals' Physical Eye UV Defense, which has a mineral and wax base and is liquid-resistant, was designed to protect the eyelids and skin around the eyes from the harmful effects of the sun.

  • Andy Serkis keeps fit for his shape-shifting roles
    Andy Serkis keeps fit for his shape-shifting roles

    Andy Serkis is known for bringing Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings" and the gorilla from "King Kong" to life using motion-capture technology. He also plays Caesar in the just-released "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," and what many don't realize is that the technology doesn't make Serkis'...

Comments
Loading