Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Your kid's a what-a-tarian?

My daughter recently had her 9-month Well Baby check-up. Where those 9 months went so fast, I have no idea. But I'm happy to say she's right on target with her growth and meeting her milestones. Her motor skills are developing nicely and she is at a very healthy weight. I had those common parent questions for her pediatrician. When do we start brushing teeth? How many BMs should she be having a day? When do we introduce the sippy cup? How much should we be feeding her? The doctor patiently and thoroughly answered all of my questions. And then we talked about Layla's diet.

I'm a vegetarian and have been one for 17 years now. I was not raised a vegetarian, however. Ironically, I was the queen of meat for a very long time. No hamburger was ever safe around me! But when I became a teenager I decided to try my hand at vegetarianism. Initially it was for the challenge, but when I researched how animals were treated in the processing of meat and the effect it has on our bodies and the environment, my resolve to put off meat was strengthened. No more hamburgers for me, not the beef kind at least. Over half a lifetime later, I'm now a mom and it is my preference that my daughter also abstain from meat. Now, I know someone in our family is going to offer the girl a chicken bone or something, and while I'm not totally fine with that I don't think I'm inclined to freak out about it either. But as far as everyday living is concerned, I do want my daughter's diet to be vegetarian. With all the hormones they pump into food these days, I'm really not trying to buy my child's first training bra when she's 5 years old! My husband is a meat-eater and is concerned about Layla's protein intake. Honestly, I am, too. Like I said, I wasn't raised vegetarian so I don't know what it's like to feed a small child vegetarian food when they are already notoriously finicky at that age. Getting them to eat balanced meals is difficult enough without dietary restrictions.

I looked to her pediatrician for advice on the subject. Firstly, I'd hoped she'd validate my wishes for Layla's diet and allay the fears of other family members concerned about proper nutrition. Secondly, I needed some direction on what foods to introduce and when. She was so reassuring and totally supportive of this choice. She said that we already consume too much animal protein as it is and gave serving suggestions, like cooking beans a little longer than normal so that the skins are softened and easier for Layla to chew. She said soy was okay, but to introduce it over a period of a couple of days to make sure Layla isn't allergic. Nuts are a no-go until she's a year old, and after that we can give her soy, almond, or rice milk. I feel really blessed to have such a supportive pediatrician for Layla.

I know there are people all over the world who raise vegetarian children. But it's not entirely easy when everyone -- and I mean EVERYONE -- around you eats meat and feeds it to their kids. I imagine we'll have to endure questions about how we feed her and if we're giving her all that she needs. But she's perfectly healthy and incredibly smart, so I'm expecting that her development will speak for itself.


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Yakini said...

Denise, we were raised vegetarian (me and my 3 sisters), and throughout our entire childhood/growing up, the only "meat" we ate was seafood. Like yourself, my parents (esp. my father) were extremely conscious of what we put into our mouths. My dad read voraciously about these matters, and it was important to him that we have the healthiest diet possible. So we didnt eat meats, limited processed foods, no sugar/salt/additives, everything was whole grain--brown rice, whole weat flour/bread, carob instead of chocolate, tofu, etc. We ate a lot of beans (different kinds, every night usually) and veggies in general, and this is how we got the protein we needed.

For the most part (extended) family respected our parents wishes, and it was never really an issue growing up. We were happy kids, and our parents found ways to give us "sweets" and other yummy things (from the natural food store) that satiated our natural kids' sweet tooth.

I'm so grateful for this healthy start so early, because i really do think it has a lot to do with why i rarely get sick, and also why i was able to remain so slim for so long (well, prior to childbirth, that is). I wish I could say I still eat healthy today, but alas i fell off when eventually left up to my own devices. :-)

Anyway, there are many, many long-term as well as short-term benefits to raising a child vegetarian. I know that you are aware of them, so i dont have to go into it. :-) But i think its GREAT what you're doing, and you're very fortunate to have a pediatrican who suports it as well!

Hilary said...

My neighbors are raising their two children -- ages 5 and 3 -- vegetarian. Well, the family is pescatarian (fish eaters). She told me how on the rare occasions that they went to McDonald's, she ordered a "cheeseburger, no meat, thank-you!" -- now my girls walk around saying "cheeseburger, no meat, thank-you!" Funny stuff. I'm glad your doctor is supportive of your choice. You're doing an amazing job with Layla!

Melissa said...

I found your lovely blog through "Best Green Blogs" on Twitter.

Your daughter is beautiful!! I just had to comment on the picture of you both! Now, off to read your posts!

Daisy said...

Good for you in taking positive steps for your daughter! Do you make your own baby food? I found it was much cheaper (and very easy) to make my own when my kids were babies. Nowadays, I'd probably grow the veggies myself, too. It didn't work so well in our tiny duplex back then. :)

Felisha said...

I came across you blog for the first time today and I really enjoyed it. Keep up the good work, I look forward to visiting for more great insight into the green world.

Lynn said...

My daughter is raising her two girls (mostly) vegetarian and they are just fine. I know there are people all over the world with very healthy kids who have only eaten veggies. If we ALL did, we wouldn't have the childhood obesity epidemic, right? So hang in there.

Also, I wondered if you would email me because I wanted to ask you if you would be interested in participating with our radio show. It's LynnATcelebrategreen.net


Erin said...

Hi Denise,

I'm the Community Manager for Ruba (www.ruba.com), a relatively new travel guides and tour reviews site that launched in 2009. While our main focus is on travel, all of us at Ruba are big environmentalists and like to encourage others to be conscientious in their travels - which brings us to why I am reaching out to you.

I'd like to ask you for your thoughts on a blogger challenge we've recently launched to help offset the negative environmental impacts of travel by planting trees for badges placed on blogs. We're calling it the "Ponzi Tree Scheme" because we actually plant a tree not only for each badge placed on a bloggers' blog, but ALSO for each reader who sees that badge, clicks on it, and installs one on their own blog or site! Bloggers can watch their "returns" grow right there on their badge - it automatically updates based on the number of other bloggers who have come along after and planted their own trees. We'd love for you to check it out at: http://www.ruba.com/contest/ponzi and let us know what you think! If there's any way that you could put a badge up on your blog or in a blog post, we would of course be incredibly thankful.

If you have any questions about Ruba, the Ponzi Tree Scheme, or any other ways we could potentially work together, I would love to connect with you on it! Looking forward to hearing from you.


Erin Kiskis
Community Manager, Ruba
erin (at) ruba.com

Tiff said...

Hey Denise... small amounts of soy should be ok, but if you are worried about her getting into a training bra too early, look up the link between soy and phytoestrogens. Soy contains a natural phytoestrogen (yes, plant chemical that mimics female sex hormone), and while a natural source of soy like edamame doesn't have dangerous level, when soy protein begins to be processed (tofu, protein patties, etc), it's impossible to gauge the phytoestrogen level in every product, depending on how the soy source was handled, processed, etc. I would suggest not relying solely on soy to boost your baby's protein. Many green leafies, mushrooms, beans, etc have a lot of those essential amino acids she needs, too. Good luck!