In part 2 of The Vegetarian Family Series, we’ll discuss dealing with criticism and lack of support from can sometimes (or, oftentimes) come from your meat-eating family members and friends.
I stopped eating meat completely after high school, and I attempted to not eat meat as a child, mostly by declining what was prepared by my mother at mealtimes. But, children are often told to eat what is put in front of them and recited all the common statements about starving children around the world, be lucky you have food at all, your parents worked hard to put that food on the table and you’re going to eat it, etc., by their parents. So, I know all-too-well about the opposition that a vegetarian lifestyle can bring from family members, from a child’s point of view and an adult’s point of view.
As a child, I had extreme concerns over the treatment of animals and my body has always had a very strong resistance towards eating meat, even though I didn’t have any comprehension about all the health aspects just yet. As an adult, my plant-based lifestyle is an equal combination of health, animal and environmental concerns. I stand strong and calm in my conviction to not eat meat, fish, etc., and it should be every persons right to choose a healthy plant-based lifestyle without fear of constant criticism, lack of support and even attempted obstruction from family and friends.
Supporting Children and Teenagers
First off, if you have a child who is naturally gravitating towards a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, please support their wishes in any way that you can. They haven’t declared themselves a thief or murderer to you, so don’t attempt to “correct” their way of thinking because there is nothing to correct. Have a discussion about their desire to not eat meat, fish, dairy, etc., and commit to working together to learn how to make nutritious vegetarian or vegan meals that will support both their lifestyle and health. Do not worry that your child will not be getting enough protein because ALL living foods have protein, and there is an abundance of healthy vegetarian and vegan protein sources to choose from. Because children and teenagers have rapid growing phases during their younger years, just be sure to supplement their vegetarian or vegan diet with a quality B12 supplement. And, keep watch that your child or teenager is not replacing meat with junk food. Additionally, educate yourself and family members with online resources and books that help guide and support a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
As for meal preparation, if you have younger children in your household that wish to be vegetarians meals can easily be prepared sans meat for their portion. In part 1 of The Vegetarian Family Series, I cover how to convert your family’s favorite meals into their meatless versions, which makes meal prep easy and stress-free. There is no need for the making of multiple menus. And, remember not to fret about nutrition. There is a plethora of vegetarian and vegan athletes who are in superior physical and health condition, debunking the marketing attempts by the meat and dairy industry that the body needs meat and milk for health. (actually, it’s quite the opposite) If your vegetarian child is a teenager, encourage and participate with them in learning how to prepare healthy and fun vegetarian dishes. This will not only support their vegetarian lifestyle wishes, it will also thwart potential mealtime clashes and help teach them how to cook.
Supporting Spouses and Other Adult Family Members
When family members declare their intent to start a new exercise program or job venture, they are unfortunately all-too-often met with so-called well meaning criticism and subtle and not-so-subtle attempts from family and friends to sabotage their efforts. This holds true for adults converting to a healthier dietary lifestyle, especially when it is a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Realize that ALL criticism and displays of sabotage stem from the sender’s own identified or unidentified reasons, and either way it doesn’t matter. It’s their stuff. Stay true to your intentions of a healthier lifestyle and let that criticism roll off your back. Trust me, it does become effortless, especially when you see yourself getting healthier and leaner right before your eyes, and right before your critic’s eyes, for that matter.
If you are a guest at someone else’s house for dinner or a party, offer to bring a vegetarian or vegan dish. Avoid getting into a debate with nay-sayers, and restrict those Q&A sessions about animal rights and vegetarianism to genuinely interested individuals. Eating out is easy for vegetarians, but vegans do need to be more vigilant and ask about any hidden ingredients in dishes before ordering. Watch food documentaries with your family such as “Food Matters”; “Forks Over Knives”; “Vegucated”; “Supersize Me”; “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”; and “Hungry for Change” to educate yourself and them about commercial food production. Trust me, all of these documentaries are very eye-opening.
Support yourself and your veggie eating family members in all ways that you can, for nature-made food really is our body’s best form of “medicine”!
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews