When changing your children’s diet parents are bound to come across some obstacles. One of these for parents of school age children is the school lunch. Children that are changing to a vegetarian diet are bound to face some peer pressure from their friends who find it either weird or strange to be a vegetarian. It is important for parents to sit down with their children and explain what the benefits of being a vegetarian diet are.
Packing a lunch, with input of the child, can help avoid any slips away from a vegetarian diet. Parents can make sandwiches with hummus with tomatoes or avocado. Peanut butter sandwiches and pretzels are an easy alternative to lunchmeat. Parents can send a hearty vegetable soup or stew in a thermos as well as leftover pasta with a vegetarian spaghetti sauce. For something on the side send raw vegetables with a vegetarian dip, whole grain muffins, soy based yogurt, or fresh fruit.
Having Friends Over
One challenge that parents of vegetarian children will face is what to do when their friends come over to play, birthday party, or other event. However, do not fret parents; there are many options
available from which to choose that will make you, your children, and their friends happy. Vegetarian hamburgers are widely available at all supermarkets and you can include everyone by allowing them the opportunity to choose their own condiments, whether that is just ketchup and mustard or avocado, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. Additionally, vegetarian hotdogs are also widely available at your local supermarket and unless you know that it is vegetarian, the taste is just about indistinguishable from the meat variety. Pizza is another good standby to choose, just make sure that the toppings are vegetarian instead of meat. If your child is having friends over during the warmer months, fruit smoothies are a refreshing treat that not only fun but also healthy.
Just because your part of the greater family is vegetarian does not mean that the rest of your family is or is knowledgeable about the vegetarian lifestyle. To help your child stay on the right track, do not beat around the bush with family members and with parents of your child’s friends. Being upfront with them will ensure that they know where you stand and there will not be any misunderstandings when it comes to your child visiting friends and family. To help make things easier when your vegetarian child visits friends and family send along a dish with them to avoid putting any undue burden on anyone. If you have good relationships with family and your child’s friends give them a list of what foods a vegetarian can eat, just try not to be too pushy with it so nobody gets hurt feelings or feel as if you are telling them what to do.
With most households now either having to have both parents work or headed up by a single parent time is of the essence, so it is important to plan ahead. Get some cookbooks that have recipes for quick, nutritious meals. You can have a cook day, include your children, and make several meals that you can freeze and use throughout the week. This is a great way to get your children involved in the vegetarian lifestyle and a great way to learn what they really like and what they would rather not eat. Incorporate leftovers into other dishes to avoid being monotonous and add variety. In addition, try to keep a good supply of fresh fruit available for snacks.
Advantages of being a Child Vegetarian
Getting a jump start on a healthy lifestyle by becoming a vegetarian at an early age will benefit children as they grow into adulthood. With childhood obesity becoming more and more of a problem in society being a vegetarian will dramatically decrease the chances of that happening. Being a vegetarian early in life will also lessen the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, some forms of cancer, and lower chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke. In addition, in some studies vegetarian girls have been shown to start menstruating at a later age than girls who are omnivores, by starting their menarche at a later age studies have shown that it decreases the risk of breast cancer.
Along the health benefits of turning to a vegetarian diet at a young age, studies have shown that vegetarian diet may actually boost brain function. The brain is not weighed down with animal fats that are present in the average omnivore diet so it can function and develop at a faster rate.
Some studies have shown that children who are vegetarians have shown mental capacity up to a year above their actual age.