My daughter went vegetarian. This puts a smile on my face seeing as I too share in the love of all things veg. Of course this does not put a smile on others faces. Nope instead I get the “bad mom” look. The questions and comments about protein, growing bones, healthy teeth, muscle development…
But yet I am still smiling because I know something they don’t! Of course when she first announced it we thought “okay this will last about 3 seconds” but now 2 years later I am amazed at these 3 non-food related side effects.
Food choice ultimately leads to independence. How? Well when you’re one in a group, of any size, that requires something different you have to have the ability to be independent. Walk away, or steer others, to get what you need. A choice, when made from an educated mindset, provides the strength to stand up and do your own thing.
When this conversation first took place it wasn’t just “mom I’m vegetarian now” me “okay dear”. Nope instead it was a family discussion. It gave us an opportunity to sit down and talk about what the body needs at different stages of growth.
Discussions are still happening. As the body and mind develop requirements change. Freedoms that come with entering the teen years means I’m not going to be there for every snack or meal time. We discuss making healthy choices when out with friends; when prepping snacks and meals. Many a discussion has been had about balancing nutrients. Sure these things I expected. What I didn’t expect is that it has bubbled over into other parts of life. My daughter now talks with me. We have healthy discussions about any and everything! We allowed her to make an educated decision about one small aspect of her life and now she is comfortable coming to us with everything else. In fact even her friends have come to me to help them through problems.
What this leads to is…
This one small decision 2 years ago has provided the biggest boost in confidence. Not many 13 year olds can stand up to their peers for their choices. What 13 year old boy isn’t going to tease a girl about being a veg head? So what does my girl do? Gets a t-shirt that says “kale is the new beef” and wears it proudly. Communicating how her decision affects herself and others provides a stable base for future choices. It provides the confidence to stand tall and believe in herself. If she wants she can lead intelligent conversations about why a vegetable based diet is the right choice for her. She has baffled many adults with her reasoning and understanding.
I’m not saying that going vegetarian is the cause of these 3 outcomes. All this happened because one choice helped us, as a family, open lines of communication. We took on the challenge to discuss, to educate and ultimately to give the freedom to make a life changing decision.
As a nutritionist I believe in teaching kids about healthy choices right from day one. As a mom I do not force my opinions on my children. Instead I like to provide a safe space for exploration and education so that they can make these choices on their own then stand up for what they believe. Of course I, like every mom out there, question my decisions, especially when I get a bunch of “looks”. Am I doing the right thing? Am I giving my children the right tools?
Today I can hold me head up and say “yeah”! This time I did it right….now to get through the teens….