When my first child was born, I had been a vegetarian for about 15 years, and to be honest it never occurred to me that she would not be the same.
Well, maybe for about 5 seconds. Her dad is a carnivore, but out of the two of us I am by far the healthiest. I have the constitution of a cabbage-fed ox and am rarely ill. So since I wanted my child to be as healthy as possible, it seemed the natural way to go.
Plus I have no idea about how to cook meat, and was worried that if I tried I might smite the whole family with food poisoning.
Nine years on, add another child into the mix, and they are the picture of veggie reared health. Here are the things we've learnt along the way.
- You don't have to decide straight away. Your baby will exist on milk for the first six months, so you have plenty of time to decide whether you want them to be vegetarian or not.
- It helps if you live in a veggie-friendly environment. We live in bohemian Brighton, where all the schools have veggie options for school dinners and the meaties are the weirdy ones.
- Love that packed lunch Your child care centre may not be able to provide decent veggie food, so get used to packing little Tupperware boxes full of carrot sticks.
- You don't have to justify being a vegetarian family. If anyone questions your choice, just point to your glowing offspring.
- Your children might need to learn a bit of veggie manners. Make sure they know that it's not polite to shout Yuck Yuck Yuck when they're visiting a friend who's putting a chicken in the oven.
- Explain to your child in simple terms why you're vegetarian. You don't need to give them an abattoir tour, just answer any questions they might have.
- Watch out for too much high fibre food, as this is not always what children need. You'll just have to say no when they beg for an extra portion of brussels sprouts.
- Life will be a lot easier if you chill out a bit. (This applies to everything, not just veggieness). Chances are that at some point your child will eat sweets with gelatine, or a rogue chicken nugget. Not everyone who feeds them will fully understand the how/what/why of their vegetarianism.
- Don't assume that a veggie child is necessarily a healthy one They could still be getting by on cheese sandwiches and margherita pizzas. Give them a mixed diet with different choices every day.
- At some point you will have to give your children a choice. Now that my children are older I have told them that they are welcome to have meat if they want to. But they don't. Result!
The people I really don't understand are the veggie mums who give their kids meat – and there seem to be a lot of them about. Is this you? Why do you do that? I'm really curious.