I just sent this list off to a woman in a far off land who is trying to become a vegetarian. Her greatest hurdles are under four feet tall. She has a two year old and a five year old who are not as enthusiastic about the dietary change-up. Here is my advice to her and anyone else out there trying to pull the bad karma out from under their family’s feet.
1) Don’t be so hard on yourself or your kids. It is a process and like all things in life, you will eventually get there.
2) I would first assess the situation by taking stock of the foods your children already like to eat which are in fact vegetarian. Perhaps some of these things make regular appearances at meal time in your household: cheese pizza, grilled cheese sandwich, pasta with tomato sauce, cheese lasagna, breakfast cereal, potatoes (mashed/french fries/au gratin), corn on the cob, salads, vegetable noodle soups, bean dishes, fresh fruits and raw fresh veggies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc. Maybe these examples are totally American and culturally irrelevant, but I think you get my point. Your kids probably already have their favorite vegetarian foods all picked out and they don’t even know they are vegetarian foods!
3) Don’t worry about nutrition. Often when people become vegetarian they freak out about “complete proteins” and getting enough vitamins and gas and all sorts of things. I wouldn’t worry about these things unless someone in your family comes down with rickets or is really stinking up the place. People tend to crave what their bodies need. What I am saying is, if you kids want to eat potato chips for a week, I promise, eventually they will want something fresh and nutritious. Not that you should just let them loose in a candy shop, but I personally don’t think you have to be so vigilant about their eating as long as the overall picture is one of health.
4) If they are into hot dogs and hamburgers and cold cuts you can try subbing the soy based stuff they sell in vegetarian food sections or health food stores but don’t be disappointed if your kids don’t like them. Personally I don’t think they taste or feel like meat and also the stuff doesn’t tend to be very healthy. While natural, the ingredients are over processed.
5) All children’s magazines give this advice for picky eaters: let them help you cook. It is true that if kids help you in the kitchen, they are more interested in at least trying new foods.
6) Look through cookbooks or vegetarian magazines with your kids and see if any pictures interest them. This may be a good way to pick something your kid will eat.
7) Kids are very into doing what other kids are doing. If you are serious about becoming a vegetarian, you may want to look into joining some kind of vegetarian play group or checking out what kind of children’s activities are offered by local yoga groups. Just get your kids around other vegetarian kids and automatically they will be interested in eating what the other kids are eating.
8) I don’t know what your stance is on tv, but I would try to avoid it like the plague. Basically, you need to deprogram your kids from the meat culture and tv is a big brainwash. Out of sight, out of mind kind of thing. If they are seeing their favorite meat foods advertised by smiling kids all the time, you may feel that force working against you.
9) Your five year old is old enough to have a philosophical discussion about becoming a vegetarian. Kids are usually nice people. I am sure the five year old would be mortified to hear about animal slaughter and the meat industry. You can even draw a comparison between eating livestock and eating a family pet. Yuck-o.
10) And if all else fails, I am never against bribery.
Okay. Ten points makes a pretty decent list.
And if you need a soundtrack for this post:
Changes (This song has nothing to do with vegetarianism, but hey… Sabbath.)