If your child decided to become a vegetarian, would you be a) Shocked? b) Thrilled? c) Supportive? d) Horrified?

Five months ago, our 12-year-old daughter Celia decided that she didn’t want to eat animals of any kind anymore, including chicken and fish. This is Celia’s second time swearing off meat, but this time she seems much more committed to her decision and, unlike last year, she isn’t at all tempted to eat meat.

We are clearly not alone in having a family member who doesn’t eat meat.  While nationwide, only about 3 percent of kids are vegetarian, according to a study by the Vegetarian Resource Group, it seems like we all know kids who follow some form of a vegetarian diet.  A recent Six O’Clock Scramble poll showed that nearly half of subscribers have family members who don’t eat some type of meat.  Nationwide, somewhere between 4 and 10 percent of Americans consider themselves vegetarian.

Andrew and I are proud of Celia and we want to support her as she tries to develop her own set of values.  We are not big meat eaters — we only eat meat and fish once or twice a week, so the transition has been pretty smooth.  When I do serve meat, I also make sure to serve something healthy that Celia can eat, such as beans, carrots and hummus, tofu, or yogurt, and we all enjoy the same side dishes.  I also keep a couple of frozen vegetarian entrees on hand (her favorites are frozen burritos and pesto tortellini) for nights when we have meat or go to someone’s house who is serving meat.

We’ve talked to Celia about how to ensure she maintains a healthy and balanced diet. She’s agreed that she needs to be even more adventurous with foods and eat more nuts so she gets enough protein, vitamins, and variety in her diet.  One positive change I’ve noticed is that she is eating more fruits and vegetables than ever.

These meatless tacos are a terrific way to get healthy beans into your family’s diet without sacrificing flavor.  Both Celia and Solomon (our meat loving boy) can easily eat two or three of these in one sitting – they enjoy the challenge of building their own tacos and trying to stuff them in their mouths before they crumble.

If you are raising a vegetarian child, here are some excellent resources and articles:

Raising Vegetarian Kids? Here Are Some Pointers from NPR.

Vegetarian Diets for Children: Right from the Start from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The Veg Kitchen with Nava Atlas.

Do you have any advice or questions about raising a vegetarian child? Please share in the comments below.

Recipe: Crispy Vegetable Tacos

  • Prep Time: 5 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 15 min(s)
  • Total Time: 20 min(s)
  • Servings: 6

A quick and easy recipe for vegetable tacos.

Ingredients

    • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
    • 1 tomato, diced
    • 1 ½ cups corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned
    • 29 - 30 oz. canned black eyed peas, or use pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1/4 cup salsa
    • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
    • 12 taco shells (or use warm corn or flour tortillas)
    • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    • 2 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped

Instructions

    • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 5 minutes.
    • When the onions begin to brown, add the tomatoes and corn kernels and sauté them for about 2 more minutes. (At this point you may want to keep some of the corn and beans separate for picky eaters.) Add the beans, salsa and cilantro (optional) and stir until heated through.
    • Heat the taco shells on a baking sheet in the oven for about 5 minutes. (Set the timer because they burn easily.) Assemble the tacos at the table, starting with the bean mixture, then adding the cheese, lettuce and extra salsa, if desired.

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  • Rachel

    Well, an easier question to answer is how my husband would feel. He is a beef cattle, chicken, and meat goat farmer. He would be more than horrified if his children were to turn vegetarian. I’m torn. I would be horrified if they viewed the issue too simply, as it is quite a complex issue. I could support their choice if I felt that they could justify it. Having said that, I’m still cooking meat. So they better learn to cook too!

  • Nathalie Turgeon

    My 13 yo daughter did the same. I supported her 100%. It was not as hard as I imagined since I simply replaced her meat, chicken, and fish portion with Yves products. We eat lots of vegetables, fruits, salads so it wasn’t a big change. There is vegetarian cold for school lunches. After 2 months, she did not want to have any but she felt like eating meat. Told her to listen to her body that probably needed some nutriments she wasn’t getting. I would support her choice if we were to do it again.

  • Aviva Goldfarb

    Rachel, I could see how that decision could create a lot more controversy or emotionally charged discussions in your house. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  • EileenQ

    I am in the same position with my eight year old son. He has been a committed vegetarian for about a year. My seven year old son is a happy carnivore though, like your family, we eat meat/fish about once each week. We have had the same discussion with him about balance, variety and nutrition. I always have beans on hand for a last minute bean burrito and at least once each week I make a new vegetarian item I think everyone will like…not always a success, but I try!

  • HolyMoly!

    Our son decided when he was about 4 or 5 years old to stop eating meat and has never done so since. Not once. He said that he loved living and figured animals love living, too. We are all meat eaters — and my husband’s family are ALL about meat. It was quite an adjustment for that family more so than ours. He is now a six-foot tall 12 year old and abundantly healthy, eats all kinds of vegetables and cheeses. He’s open to any kind of food as long as it never drew a breath.

  • http://www.michelescafe.blogspot.com Michele

    My daughter decided to eat vegetarian when she was about 13 or 14. We had long heated discussions because for a while she wasn’t eating much. She’s got a very discriminating Palate and often changes her taste depending on how something is prepared. She’s not allergic to anything but found the vegetarian diet rlieved her of certain feminine discomfort. Now she’s 19 and eats a mostly vegetarian diet . She’ll eat seafood or roasted poultry. In six years we’ve researched and samples a lot of vegetarian dishes. There’s a lot out there now than when I was a picky eater as a kid and even more so in the past 10 yrs. We love going through recipes and trying food out! Mexican, Asian, Italian, and now Spanish and Indian Cuisines. Recently I found an African dish called Lamb Tagine in “How to Cook delicious Dishes perfect for teen cooks” There were vegetarian versions for A lot of the recipes and ton of picture and tips. Fun book to add to our cooking library. This was my other dd who’s 13 now, favorite recipe book.

  • Aisling

    Prompted by compassion for animals, I stopped eating meat when I was 8. Today I’m 35 and raising my own healthy, happy vegetarian daughter, who’s almost 4. I’ve always been healthy (no amemia or anything). My first stay in a hospital only came in my 30s, after giving birth to my baby girl. My husband is not a vegetarian, but has been very supportive. I see more folks I know turning to a plant-based diet, and that makes me happy.

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