Well friends, it's happened again.
With Thanksgiving all up in my grill last week (I get sort of gangster when I get riled up) I've found yet another aspect of modern day child rearing and living that's just not acceptable to me.
I can't tell you how many posts, blogs and comments I've seen over the last four days from a "worried" mother about how to get her two, three, 12-year-old child to eat meat (particularly turkey). From chopping it up super tiny, mincing it and bribing the child with toys, candies and ice cream, I could not be more disheartened by the lengths people will go to in an attempt to trick their child into eating meat.
I get it people, you're worried. You're worried that because your four year old doesn't eat something that can bleed, he or she won't get enough protein, will be malnourished and then die. You're worried because here in America, the only (seemingly) acceptable way to get protein is either from a dead animal or from a liquid supplement.
Let's talk about that five year old who pushes their plate away at the sight of chicken. Or your 8-year-old who is figuring out where exactly their food comes from and has no desire to ingest something with a face. Heck, let's just say that for whatever reason your child has jumped ship and refuses to eat meat. What are you to do?
Well, how about a little research?
There is nothing that discourages me more than indolent parenting. Reality check, when your child is concerned, ignorance is not always bliss.
Now don't misunderstand me here folks. I'm not here to argue about the safety or healthiness of raising a child on a meat and dairy diet; we've been doing it for thousands of years and I get the point, it works. So let's just throw that argument out the window because I've fully accepted and admitted several times that there's a responsible way to incorporate those things into a healthy diet (I just can't work it into the moral aspects of my life).
What I am here to raise a big ole fuss about, is completely active, get-your-hands-dirty parenting. Months ago I had a friend whose son showed little interest in eating meat. After asking her pediatrician what to do about this, the lackluster response was something along the lines of "Oh, give him PediaSure on the days he refuses to eat meat."
PediaSure, the liquid supplement? That's a pediatricians best answer? Perhaps I've missed the PediaSure bandwagon or maybe doctors have stock in it.
If you're a parent and that response is good enough for you, maybe you should revisit the food pyramid.
This is what I know.
My family doesn't eat meat. Ever. We don't use liquid supplements to achieve our daily intake of vitamins, minerals and proteins. We try to balance our diet with nutrients from vegetables, fruits, grains and every now and then we get wild and throw a legume in there. (What is a legume??)
My daughter doesn't drink PediaSure. Ever. She doesn't drink whole milk or even two percent. Sometimes she has soy milk, sometimes coconut milk, every now and then we throw in some almond, flaxseed, oat or hemp milk. And at 18 months old she is thriving. Boy, is she thriving.
How, you may ask? Since apparently the answer to growing a healthy child is be either tricking them into eating meat (through mashed potatoes laced with minced chicken) or by giving them PediaSure.
The answer is simple. It's the right combination of plant-based proteins, a family doctor who supports our vision of a vegan family, a clinical nutritionist who broke through the animal-biased protein barriers and a mother and father determined to raise a healthy girl the compassionate way.
I'm not asking you to go vegan. I'm not even asking you to eliminate all meat from your child's diet. I'm asking you to stop trying to trick your kids, stop funding the PediaSure campaign and start educating yourselves.
This isn't 50 years ago when being a vegetarian or vegan was a seriously scary, undeveloped and totally experimental thing. This is 2011.This is the day and age when soy, almond and coconut milks can coexist on the very same shelves as the "real" dairy stuff. This is the land where vegan cheeses appear in large grocery chains like Kroger and where restaurants offer vegan alternatives. This is the future, the time when vegetarians and vegans are no longer a myth, but walk among you, populate your work office, get coffee at your Starbucks and (gasp!) live on your street.
There are more than a handful of options when it comes to picky non-meat-eating children, from the tried and true peanut butter and jelly, to more exotic foods like lentils, tofu and tempeh, to protein-rich vegetables like beans, peas and spinach and to grains like barley, quinoa and oats.
Maybe you don't know what some of this is, maybe you're afraid to try new things.
But let me ask you this. If you're not willing to open your own mind up to new foods, tastes and nutrients, then why on Earth should your own child?
Even a hamburger is (at some point or another) a "new" food to every child.