My Little Pescatarian | Seventh Generation
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My Little Pescatarian

7 comments
Author: Alexandra Pecci

"Animals are my friends. I don’t want to eat my friends anymore."

 

Such was the moral epiphany of my three-year-old daughter, Chloe. I was impressed by her reasoning, but wondered: Should I let my three year old become a vegetarian? I don’t let her decide her own bedtime or whether she has to brush her teeth. Now I was about to let her make a huge decision about her diet.

 

I wanted to respect her feelings, but my knee-jerk reaction was worry. Will my vibrant little girl wither away into a malnourished, energy-sapped shadow of her former self? So I did what every 21st century mom does: I hit the Internet, and discovered that with careful attention and planning, a healthy vegetarian diet is possible for kids. And according to Mayo Clinic and other sources, a carefully managed meat-free diet can actually be beneficial, since they're generally lower in cholesterol and saturated fat and higher in fiber. Parents considering this kind of diet for their kids should also talk with their pediatricians, who might recommend nutritional supplements.

 

Every vegetarian diet is different; Chloe's still eating eggs, cheese, milk, and even fish, which apparently her friends aren't (eating fish but not other meat makes her a "pescetarian"). Eating dairy products ensures that Chloe gets adequate amounts of calcium, protein, and vitamins D and B12 in her diet. But for Chloe, my biggest worry was iron, since the top iron-rich foods are meat products like liver. So I made sure to stock up on non-animal sources of iron, like beans, spinach, nuts and seeds, enriched pasta, chia seeds, and broccoli.

 

Although a lot of faux-meat products, like imitation chicken nuggets or soy hotdogs, are tasty, they're often loaded with sodium, so I've been trying to limit those foods. And the fact that Chloe still loves to eat fish is a big nutritional boon. Her favorite is salmon, which is packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Chloe had been an informal vegetarian for years, regularly turning her nose up at cheeseburgers, steak, and the pureed chicken that I tried to feed her as a baby (I don't blame her for that one). Instead, she's always preferred veggies, pasta, rice, fruit, and beans. The makings of a vegetarian diet were already in place. Actually calling her a vegetarian simply made me more alert to making sure she was getting enough protein, iron, and other nutrients. Here are some snacks I discovered for Chloe.

 

Protein and iron-packed meal and snack ideas for the vegetarian tot:

  • Apple slices dipped in peanut butter
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Yogurt sprinkled with chia seeds
  • Enriched egg noodles with broccoli
  • Make-your-own pizzas with spinach, cheese, and whole-wheat English muffins
  • Rice and beans served with baked tortilla chips (let them use the chip as a spoon!)
  • Rice, bean, and cheese quesadillas
  • Hummus and dippers like carrot sticks and pita bread
  • Edamame

 

Are you raising a vegetarian (or pescetarian) child? How do you meet their nutritional needs?

 

Photo: bbmarie

7
Comments

Control picture
Control
03/10/13
I don't have children, but I am vegan, and I always find it disappointing and frustrating to hear of parents worried about their children becoming vegetarian or vegan. Most of the time it comes simply from being uninformed, which I understand. Society has brainwashed us for so long into believing that we need meat, dairy and eggs for proper nutrition. But with some simple research, which is now widely available, it is proven that a vegan diet is fully sufficient and healthful in all stages of life, as well as pregnancy. I don't understand why any parent would not want to encourage and nurture their child's innate compassion toward other creatures. I don't understand why they would ever question or have to consider for a moment "allowing" their child to not eat animals. We never allowed them the choice TO eat animals, it was forced upon most all of us from birth. We are all indoctrinated into the practice because it's never questioned. I hope for the day when the table is turned, where we do not force this upon our children, but rather empower them to make an informed decision on their own. If any child were left to their own free will on the matter, were provided full disclosure and information on where animal products come from, they would never choose to begin eating animals. I hope for the day when the desensitisation of our children and culture flips, and instead of hiding what is happening and closing our eyes, we open ourselves to the truth and nurture the compassion and innocence that we are born with.
kimmiewatts picture
kimmiewatts
03/08/13
I'm a long-time, healthy vegetarian raising my two-and-a-half year old vegetarian as well. In fact, we've made the transition to vegan over the past few weeks. We're all active and healthy. I'm even pregnant with #2 right now and feel incredible. The key is in eating real, healthy foods and cooking them from scratch. There are so many wonderful vegan meals and snacks out there. We don't get bored and we definitely never go hungry! My blog may provide some recipe inspiration: http://souliciouslife.com/veggie-delights/
amuhlou picture
amuhlou
03/06/13
The author wasn't worried about whether a vegetarian diet is healthy, she was worried about whether it provides enough nutrients for a growing child.
zalia67 picture
zalia67
03/05/13
I think you need to get further educated on nutrition and then you can support your child. I completely disagree in the comment that dairy is good to get those nutrients. Dairy is by far one of the worst sources to get nutrition. By far one of the worst sources for absorbable calcium. You may want to look at Calcium again. The SAD (standard american diet) is far too high in protein which will cause health issues. It is very good that your child wants to eat this way, but its your responsibility to ensure you are educated on nutrition properly to guide her through her years to come - and can cook too! There are alot of malnourished vegetarians out there eating processed foods.
MorganV picture
MorganV
03/02/13
I've always wondered why pescetarians are considered to be a type of vegetarian. (Then again, I've known people who routinely eat poultry and call themselves vegetarians.) Fish are also animals, and eating them is consuming their flesh. Why that's different from a cow escapes me.
JT4784 picture
JT4784
03/01/13
I find it hard to believe in this day and age that any educated person would think a veg diet would lead to wasting away. There are many healthy people out there who were raised veg, never eaten a dead animal, and they didn't have the benefit of all the options we have today. It's so easy now! I hope you'll do more research on alternatives to dairy as well. A quick and simple dish is to cook whole wheat couscous, very quick, can even just soak in hot water rather than be heated on the stove or in the micro. Add any veggies or leftovers you have on hand, or dried fruits. You can make a little or a lot, and it will fill her up.
amanda77kr picture
amanda77kr
02/15/13
It's always baffling to me when people question how a vegetarian diet can be healthy. Kind of like asking how can water quench thirst. But if people are used to a traditional American diet then it can be tricky I guess. And just thinking about all the delicious options that are available has made me hungry so I'm going to go enjoy a nice burrito with beans and rice!