A young girl eating fruit

Family Health

How My Daughter’s Vegetarian Diet Is Adding To My Plate

May 18, 2018

My daughter has declared herself a vegetarian. For her tender heart can no longer bear the thought of consuming earthly creatures. By definition, I suppose she’s lacto-vegetarian or semi-vegetarian. Either way, with poultry, meat and fish off the table, this new accord adds more to my plate.

... this vegetarian situation presented a good opportunity to revisit and discuss nutrition overall.

I’m a meat eater; always have been, save for a week in '88 when I sampled vegetarian and socialist values with a dash of teenage arrogance. While an entirely meatless diet isn’t for me, I get it. I respect my eight-year-old’s moral position, and understand that her choice is a common expression of autonomy. In fact, her decision is probably more so the latter, and that’s OK. As long as my picky eater maintains a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, I’m happy. Herein lies the challenge.

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According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, “a well-balanced vegetarian diet as a health lifestyle choice is an acceptable option to provide for the needs of growth and development in the young.” I agree, and given a daughter with an adventurous palate and willingness to eat the rainbow, I’d accomplish this easily with a blend of plant-derived proteins, cruciferous veggies, nut butters and the like. But a diet of fresh fruit, waffles and pizza is more to her liking. While not atrocious, there’s certainly a case for more nutrients like protein, B12, iron and zinc, as recommended by the CPS.

Between our own tastes and intolerances, my husband and I had fallen into a mashed potato and cucumber rut.

Though to be honest, my daughter’s diet wasn’t remarkably balanced when meat was on the menu. Her meals were largely grain-based with just some animal products. Whether or not baked drumsticks and half-eaten fish sticks have provided the essential nutrients she’s needed, I don’t even know. So really, this vegetarian situation presented a good opportunity to revisit and discuss nutrition overall.

I explained to my daughter (and husband) the importance of protein, and that in place of meat she’d need to be open to other sources like tofu or yogurt. Met with a hard no from my daughter, my husband tried another approach. He negotiated two meat dinners per week, vegetarian otherwise, to which she agreed (confirming my suspicion that this wasn’t entirely moral-based).

Next, I explained that vegetarianism wasn’t only about omitting meat, but actually eating more vegetables and other foods — beets, green beans, plantains, quinoa, sunflower seeds, etc. That’s when I heard myself out loud and realized my fault. Between our own tastes and intolerances, my husband and I had fallen into a mashed potato and cucumber rut. Greater variety would certainly behove us all.

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As a result, I’ve stepped up my efforts to work more fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals into our family meals. For example, I’ve stocked up on flax, chia and hemp seeds which get sprinkled onto breakfast waffles. And with each trip to the grocery store, I aim to switch up our produce. This week I’ll bake kale chips. Next week, maybe roast squash or sweet potato. My thinking is that we can eat the rainbow, but don’t have to eat it all at once.

I’ve also checked out some new snack ideas, bean and lentil recipes and other ways to ensure a healthy well-balanced diet — not just for my daughter but for all three of us.

In just a short while, our meals have become more colourful, flavourful and satisfying. Whether or not it sticks, I suppose I must thank my nature-loving child. For this semi-vegetarianism that I thought might throw me for a loop, has prompted some very healthy food for thought.

Article Author Debbie King
Debbie King

Read more from Debbie here.

Debbie King (aka SUPAFITMAMA) is a Toronto-based masters athlete, influencer, freelance writer, wife and mother of one. At age 42, she is training toward her goal of becoming a 2020 World Masters Athletics track and field champion. In her work as a writer and influencer, Debbie creates powerful content and connections in female fitness, sport, wellness and culture. Body positivity, inclusion and representation are strong themes throughout. As a regular contributor for CBC Parents, she explores a range of healthy living topics for individuals and Canadian families. Follow her journey at supafitmama.com and on Instagram and Twitter.

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