Vegetarian

Yes, We Are Raising Our Kids As Vegetarians

How it All Began

I have been a vegetarian now going on 25 years. The story goes like this: I was a stubborn and passionate little girl and my parents would sit us down at the dinner table and insist that we ate everything on our plate. Around the same time, at 12 years old, I was taking my first “health” class in school. During this class we learned about vegetarianism and what it meant (eating no animal meat/fish). These two incidents struck a cord with me on a couple of different levels: 1. I hated being told what to do and 2. I LOVED animals of all kinds and had never realized before this moment that vegetarianism was even an option.

One day while yet again being stubborn and passionate…and being told what to do, I announced to my mom that I was not going to eat everything on my plate ever again. That was the day that I officially became a vegetarian. The weeks turned into months, and months into years…my mom, as a nurse, took me to dietitians and physicians to try to convince me that this was a bad idea (there were far less people doing this 25 years ago!), yet my mind was made up and there was no going back. As I grew older, I began to see SO many more reasons why vegetarianism was the right personal choice for me. I read many many books and articles about the cattle/dairy/chicken/farm/slaughter industries and wrote countless reports on these subjects throughout my youth. I researched the animal-for-food industry’s effects on the environment, the rain forest and the human body.

The Deal Breaker

In college, my major was Anthropology (the study of culture) and Sociology (the scientific study of society). During this time, I started to ask questions about our society/other societies and WHY we eat what we eat…why do they eat guinea pigs in Ecuador? Why are cows sacred in India and not here? Why do we eat cow and not dogs? What REALLY makes one species more important/worthy of love/respect than another? What or more importantly WHO makes us believe that some species feel less pain or are less significant than others? These are all great questions that I love pondering and wish more people stopped to think about as well.

Generally, I try not to be one of those “hippy/preacher” types of people. I believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs about everything…religion, food, love, whatever- so I don’t often get into the specifics of why I feel the way I do. Living in Nebraska, a.k.a.”The Beef State,” many conversations on this topic end up with the other person trying to convince me that I’m wrong or simply asking me ridiculous questions such as, “Well, if you were starving on an island, would you eat meat then?” Usually I tell them, “Sure, and I’d start with you” HA HA!

My husband is NOT a vegetarian, but he’s close. I don’t cook, prepare or touch meat, so he knows if he wants this he’s on his own. Since it’s hard to prepare meals for only one person, he doesn’t do this very often and now that we have kids, it only causes them confusion, “Why can’t we eat what daddy is eating?!” Before we had kids, I was very clear that I wanted to raise them as vegetarians and if he wasn’t on board, this was a deal-breaker. This is something that I’m very passionate about for all of the reasons above. Vegetarianism is a core value that I have, one that is unchanging and unshakable. As parents, we want to pass our values and beliefs onto our children and this is no exception.

Then Came the Girls

When I first became pregnant, I did worry at first that my baby wouldn’t be as healthy or wouldn’t get the appropriate nutrients, but that is so far from reality. I was very lucky with easy pregnancies (until birth- more on that another time!) and kept up my vegetarianism the entire time with both babies (and no cravings for meat!). The question I get asked the most is, “are you getting enough protein?” The answer is that in the U.S. and other developed countries, most of us are privileged enough to get more than enough protein– twice as much as we need in fact. In our home, we eat a lot of quinoa, peanut butter, beans and soy (tofu and TVP). Two of the girls’ favorite snacks are edamame and hummus (not together haha!). Bottom line, is that our girls are getting more than enough protein. They are growing well, are incredibly physically strong, are smart as a whip and so far, are rarely sick. We get asked all of the time how we get them to eat so well and eat so many vegetables, as I’m well aware that most toddlers don’t do this. While luck may have something to do with it, the answer is pretty simple: it’s all they’ve ever known! 

As I know and respect that everyone has their own beliefs and I hope this can be extended towards me as well, I do have to consider that this choice may not be the one that my children make as they get older. While I like to think that I would be supportive, I would probably be pretty disappointed if they chose not to continue our vegetarian lifestyle. At ages 1 and 2, we concentrate on treating all living things with compassion and teaching the girls that even the smallest lives matter. We’ve had discussions about ants, spiders and of course treating our 2 dogs with kindness (no tail pulling!). When Lana sees an ant now, I usually hear, “he’s going home to his mommy and daddy right mama?!” Yes baby, he is.

XOXO

Shalene

 P.S. Check out those adorable rompers! Hand-made by my SIL Andrea Breci!