News out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) say vegetarianism is taking hold in American kids. Based on surveys in a study of alternative medicine from 2007, the CDC estimates one in two hundred kids are opting out on meat.
The information comes from interviews with nine thousand parents and other adults speaking on behalf of kids. Breaking down the ages of the kids the study dealt with, teens – who usually have more control over their diet – are considered even more likely to be vegetarian. The CDC says the one in two hundred number can be multiplied by four to six if you’re talking specifically about teens.
As a complete vegetarian since I was a junior in high school (with attempts to go vegetarian before that, foiled by my parents, of course), I’m not really surprised to see the spike as kids get older. As a vegetarian parent, married to a meat-eater, I initially struggled with the decision of whether or not to let my child eat meat. But watching other parents deal with picky eaters, I worried that it would be more difficult to ensure she was getting enough of the “good stuff” if we limited her diet to non-meat products. My concern for her overall nutrition won out – she eats meat . . . and veggie burgers. My hope is that one day she’ll opt to follow my ways, and by then it will be easier to convince her of the importance of getting the proper nutrients (and she’ll be put on the same regimen of vitamins that I take to keep my body in check).
But I realize I’m still in the minority as a parent. The majority of parents I encounter who are not already in a fully vegetarian household have told me unequivocally that they want their kids to eat meat. My own parents still think I’m nuts. So I’m speaking from experience when I say it’s a tough road for a lot of kids – they want to cut out meat, but their parents, their friends and their school lunch program make it tough.
It’s only as a teenager, that becoming a vegetarian becomes a true option for these kids – because parents who eat meat often pooh pooh their choices when they’re younger. They (we) are often written off as picky eaters, with parents forcing kids to eat meat simply because that’s the way everyone else does things.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If anything, if these kids are truly trying vegetarianism because they want to embrace a fad, having their parents embrace it with them (at least having their parents support their choices – what they eat themselves be darned) might make them go back the other way. For the rest of these kids, learning good nutrition needs to start in the home, and that means having parents who become educated about how vegetarians remain a nutritious and balanced diet.
Image: The Age