Two and a half years ago, the Husband and I went fully vegetarian.  I try not to make my vegetarianism a ‘big deal’ on the blog because – to me – it’s simply the way I decide to eat.   Since it is relevant to the rest of the post, I’ll quickly sum up our motivations for going vegetarian:


I went vegetarian because I read the book Skinny Bitch (here’s my full review of this controversial book).  The section of Skinny Bitch that really, really hit home for me was the description of slaughterhouses.  Not all animals are raised in horrible conditions, and I  know there are many ‘good’ farmers out there, but I really do not believe there is a guaranteed way to humanly slaughter an animal.   There’s a line in Skinny Bitch that goes something like this: “When you eat an animal, you are eating pain and suffering.”  Super guilt-trippy (that’s kind of Skinny Bitch’s style) but… it made sense to me.  It rang true to me.  Another major motivator of my vegetarianism is the environmental cost of the meat industry (this New York Times article on that subject is extremely interesting). 


(Summer Bruschetta with Balsamic Reduction)

Now, I want to acknowledge something very important: I am really not a high-and-mighty vegetarian.  As of 2.5 years ago, I chowed down on multiple servings of meat every single day.  Meat tastes good.  Steak is freaking DELICIOUS.  I do not ‘look down’ on meat eaters (sadly, some vegetarians do this – some vegans even do it to vegetarians! – but I think this ‘my diet is better than yours’ mentality is completely counterproductive to the cause).  I do not believe that everyone should go vegetarian because food is intensely personally, and if vegetarianism is not your thing, that’s cool with me.   I do believe that everyone should, however, try to eat less meat.  As Americans, we eat far too much meat, and it is bad for the animals and the planet.  Our meat consumption is also exacerbating our nation’s health crisis (in terms of heart disease and cancer). 


A few months ago, I was listening to the radio and the announcer said, “Coming up next – wait until you hear which celebrity is inflicting a craaaazy diet on her toddler!”  After the commercial break, I was informed that the ‘crazy diet’ was actually vegetarianism.  The announcer was freaking out that the kid had never eaten meat.  That was my first clue that people were going to question our decision, too.  So I wasn’t surprised that, since announcing my pregnancy, one question that the Husband and I have gotten a lot is, “Are you going to raise your kid vegetarian?”  


The answer:  of course we are.  I really can’t imagine serving my child food that I choose not to eat.  I also cannot imagine spending my money to support the industry.  When the time comes to explain vegetarianism to our kids, I plan to simply point to the family dog and say, “Hamburgers come from cows.  Nuggets come from chickens.  Cows and chickens are animals, just like your doggie.  Our family chooses not to eat animals because we love them, even if they live on a farm and not in our house.”  Just the facts.


(Strawberry Fields Breakfast Quinoa)

The first follow-up question that people ask is, “But don’t kids NEED meat to grow?”  The answer:  absolutely not.  The American Dietetic Association (ADA) says that vegetarian (or vegan) diets are “healthful, nutritionally adequate, may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain disease,” including heart disease and cancer (source).  A vegetarian diet, according to the ADA, is appropriate at all lifestyles, including during pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence.   The ADA says there are particular nutrients that vegetarians need to be mindful of, including “protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12,” but a vegetarian diet – especially if it includes dairy and eggs – can easily meet all current recommendations for these nutrients through a balanced diet, fortified foods, or supplements. 


The next question that people ask me is: “But don’t you think your kids will feel weird?  Or hate you for making them vegetarian?”  And this is actually the only issue that concerns me.  I don’t want my children to feel like freaks at the lunch table for eating a hummus sandwich; only 3% of American youth between the ages of 8 – 18 are vegetarian (source).   Our friend Isaac was raised vegetarian and says he was often teased because of it.  I also don’t want my children to feel resentment towards vegetarianism because it was something mom and dad “made” them do.


That’s why we’re planning to approach our children’s vegetarianism in a surprising way… If my kid eats meat at a friend’s house, I won’t care.  If they want to try it when out at a restaurant, fine by me. I won’t serve them meat in the house, but that’s where my strictness will end.  I do not want to push any beliefs, whether it be about politics or religion or food, on my children.  I think it’s important to not create resentment or fear about certain foods, and like I said, I think food is highly personal, and we all have to draw our own conclusions about our diet.  That right extends to my toddler or tween or teen, too. 


(Butternut BBQ Personal Pizza)

When I was a teen, I went vegetarian for the first time.   I was so nervous that my mom would be mad at me, but instead, she supported my decision and bought me a vegetarian cookbook so I could learn to feed myself in a healthy way.  I’ll never forget how it felt to have my dietary beliefs supported by my family. 


As a vegetarian mom, I want to balance what I believe to be true and my child’s autonomy.  Navigating the difference between what our family believes in and what the majority of society endorses will certainly be a journey…. but at the very least, I plan to make it an extremely tasty experience for BabyHTP!


Other vegetarian posts:



Now it’s your turn to weigh in:  What food beliefs do you plan to introduce to your children?  Are you a vegetarian or vegan parent?  If so, what do you do when your child eats at a friend’s house?



  • Isabella December 12, 2011, 1:29 pm

    Well, its really none of my business whether you choose to eat vegetarian or your kids either.

    You likely would not like my opinion anyway because I strongly disagree with vegetarianism.

    • julia December 12, 2011, 1:33 pm

      @Isabella: do you disagree on a nutritional standpoint? or why?

      • Isabella December 13, 2011, 10:27 am

        Nutritional standpoint.

        Do your research and not just deeply flawed studies such as The China Study.

        • Ashley December 14, 2011, 10:12 am

          @Isabella: As a dietitian with years of education and in-depth knowledge on the current (and past) research I can assure you that the nutrition standpoint of the benefits of a vegetarian diet are accurate.

          This argument is one I hear often, which is quite annoying. It’s always just “Your research is wrong,” NOT “Here is research that argues my side of things.” Your opinion is not a valid argument, but unfortunately this is all anti-vegetarian diet proponents are able to use as ‘evidence’ because research backing up their opinion simply does not exist.

    • Kristina December 12, 2011, 3:17 pm

      @Isabella: I would also be interested in hearing your opinion on the matter. I think its important to hear different views.

    • Hank August 20, 2015, 12:36 pm

      Would love for you to respond to “Ashley” seeing that she is a Dietician who just refuted your baseless claim. We’re waiting…

  • Kara December 12, 2011, 1:31 pm

    So if you tell your kid that y’all don’t eat meat because you love animals (just like the family dogs) doesn’t that send a message that meat eaters are a little heartless?


    A steak loving toddler mom

    Also, I’m just kidding. There are no right things to tell a kid. But keep in mind they do repeat stuff and you’ll probably get a call from their school. 🙂

    • CaitlinHTP December 12, 2011, 1:32 pm

      @Kara: 🙂 I know you are just kidding Kara, but you’re right – I don’t want them to think that!!! How else could I phrase it so they don’t have that reaction?

      • Kara December 12, 2011, 1:36 pm

        @CaitlinHTP: First of all, kids don’t really question what you feed them until they are old enough to pay attention to other kid’s food (like preschool), so you have a while to figure this out.

        Secondly, I would just tell my kid “This is how our family eats.” at first. Wait for the ethical reasons until the kid is old enough to really understand and not have nightmares about hungry neighbors coming to eat their fat wiener dog in the night.

      • Kate December 12, 2011, 1:45 pm

        I believe you will raise your child to not be judgmental and to respect other people’s choices.
        So I would not worry too much about being honest and explaining the reason you don’t eat meat.

      • Sarah December 12, 2011, 2:00 pm

        @CaitlinHTP: I think if you try to explain to them from the get-go that every family eats differently and this is just your family’s choice, that it doesn’t make anyone better or worse.

        Also, I think vegetarianism is on the rise so maybe it won’t be as unusual by they time they are in school. Wishful thinking? 😀

        • Heather December 12, 2011, 2:27 pm

          @Sarah: I LOVE the way you put “every family eats differently” and think this is a great opportunity to discuss other differences in food cultures of families, too. Especially as children get older, when the focus can be about embracing cultural differences and traditions of friends and family members who do things and eat things differently than you may at home.

          • Tonya March 5, 2012, 11:06 am

            I, a vegan, also agree with the “every family eats differently” approach. Very non judgemental and allows him room for his own opinion. My son eats a mostly veg/vegan diet but also eats meat when he is at other places. You’d be surprised how leaving a door open for their own choices while setting a healthy example will influence their choices even if they do choose to eat meat.

      • Kath December 12, 2011, 5:48 pm

        @CaitlinHTP: I would just focus on the foods you do eat and not put a label on it. “Because we loooooove quinoa!”

        • JenATX December 13, 2011, 10:19 am

          @Kath: lol Kath! because tofu just tastes better!

    • Jackie @ MomJovi December 12, 2011, 1:42 pm

      @CaitlinHTP: @Kara: OK, I’m not trying to start a comment war because I love both your blog Kara and Caitlin’s too. But Kara, over the past few days, I keep thinking of your “No Santa” post and struggling to find a respectful way to disagree with it that doesn’t sound like an attack. Because, at the end of the day, whether it’s Santa or vegetarianism, every single parent has the absolute right to make these choices for their own family and no one else should get a say or judge.

      So when I saw your comment to Caitlin, it struck me that that’s my biggest issue with your No Santa policy — what YOUR child could tell MY preschooler, for example. Is your child (OK, not Faith, per se, but you get my point) going to tease my child for believing in something her mommy told her isn’t real? So isn’t that the same warning you’re giving Caitlin?

      Again, not an attack. Just an interesting parallel to a decision your family has made.

      • Kara December 12, 2011, 1:46 pm

        @Jackie @ MomJovi: Yeah, but I was just kidding in my blog post about actually telling my kid any of those things. (I should probably add a disclaimer, huh?)

        My actual plan is just tell the kid that Santa is a fictional character, just like Elmo, but some kids like to believe he’s real.

        (Note: I do know Santa was at one point a real person. Also, Elmo is really a large black man from Baltimore. Those two things don’t have any connection, but they are interesting)

        • Jackie @ MomJovi December 12, 2011, 1:49 pm

          @Kara: Ahhhh, I seriously missed that. Not to self: stop reading blogs quickly via my phone. It’s a great way to miss nuance. Thanks for clearing it up. Carry on, as you were. 🙂

          • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 1:51 pm

            @Jackie @ MomJovi: Off to read the Santa post!

          • Kara December 12, 2011, 1:52 pm

            @Jackie @ MomJovi: My reply to this post was more a horrible mental image of what would happen if you told a 4 year old that eating beef was just like eating the family dog. I had an image of hysterical tears every time she even saw someone eating a burger…

            Although, I am have a very dramatic child who deeply loves the dog, so perhaps other kids could handle it better. 🙂

        • Jackie @ MomJovi December 12, 2011, 2:11 pm

          @Kara: @Jackie @ MomJovi: And my reply to your reply is that I have a 3-year-old who is borderline OBSESSED/in love with Santa. And if anyone even hinted to her that he wasn’t real, it’d be devastating to her. But then again, he looks exactly like my father-in-law, so think it has something to do with it. And she also has a flair for the dramatics!

          • deva @ deva by definition December 12, 2011, 2:28 pm

            @Jackie @ MomJovi: I was the kid who was raised Jewish and would frequently get talked to – by friends’ parents – when I’d say simply, “I don’t believe in Santa, so he doesn’t come to my house.”

            I didn’t understand what was wrong with not believing in Santa, not realizing as a child that I was potentially shattering someone’s ideals.

  • Sarah S. December 12, 2011, 1:33 pm

    I think you have such a great attitude about this (actually, all of your posts on pregnancy have been pretty refreshing). We have two little boys (3 and 1) and while we’re not vegetarian, I do try to encourage eating more whole foods, It’s easy now because they have to eat what I make 🙂 But I just want them to see the connection between how what we eat affects how we feel. This is something that’s taken me almost 29 years to realize, but I just want them to grow up with an attitude of moderation is best. Of course they’re allowed treats but it’s not an all day, everyday thing. Their eating habits are just one of the the many things that we are just trying to do the best we can while we have them and hope for the best!

  • Michelle December 12, 2011, 1:34 pm

    Great post – the hubs and I are going to take your same stance, too, when our time comes. One question I have for you – have you received any pushback from your doctors at all? I live in the Midwest and I know that a lot of medical professionals I have encountered have looked at me strange being a triathlete and a vegetarian – lord knows how they will react when I am with child. Have you had any pushback from medical folks so far?

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 1:54 pm

      @Michelle: I am definitely going to seek out a pediatrician who is open to these things, among other holistic practices. I definitely don’t think I’ll be able to just throw open the yellow pages and randomly pick a ped who is accepting, unfortunately.

      • Michelle December 12, 2011, 2:12 pm

        @Caitlin: I hear ya – I look forward to hearing how your search goes with it. And I hope it is a smooth search at that!

      • Ashley // Our Little Apartment December 12, 2011, 3:12 pm

        @Caitlin: Justa note – no ped is going to be 100% in agreement with all your decisions! (And honestly, the fact that my 15-month-old is a vegetarian has NEVER come up at a doctor’s appointment…)

        My son’s first doctor pressured us to start formula (we didn’t. and changed doctors)- at which point I realized that doctors are just people with opinions…so I decided to not let them dictate EVERYTHING I do. You know? You will know your child and family best. 🙂

    • Sarah AJ December 12, 2011, 2:44 pm

      @Michelle: I’m in the midwest too and have been pleasantly surprised that not a single medical professional has blinked an eye about my kids being vegetarian — and we’ve seen a *lot* of specialists for my daughter, who has seizures and developmental delays.

  • Halley (Blunder Construction) December 12, 2011, 1:35 pm

    Nice discussion, I think your attitude is the best way to spread the message of veg’nism. Promote it but don’t force it on others(except within the walls of your home.) And yes, everyone should eat less meat in general.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat December 12, 2011, 1:35 pm

    Great topic Caitlin! I’m not vegetarian, but I do make a big effort to eat less meat than I used to. Brendan Brazier’s book Whole Foods to Thrive definitely helped me to make this decision. As for my future kids, I plan to raise them with the same eating style as me. If they decide to be vegetarian or vegan, I’ll fully support that. Oh, and regarding the question of other kids thinking that being vegetarian is weird, I don’t think that will be the case at all. Eventually I like to think that it will be so common that it’s not considered an “alternative diet” any more.

  • Molly @RDexposed December 12, 2011, 1:35 pm

    Thanks for plugging ADA into this post! I think you have a great approach to this issue. Isnt it odd what our country’s norms are and aren’t? It’s totally normal to form patties of dead animal but not patties of mashed beans?

  • Samantha December 12, 2011, 1:36 pm

    Hi Caitlin!
    This is exactly what I would like to do if I have children. I can’t imagine feeding my child something that I don’t eat (for moral and health reasons) but when they’re old enough they can make their own choices outside the house. I’ve had people say to me that it’s pushing my views on my kids, which boggled my mind because doesn’t every parent push their views on their kids all day every day? If I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted as a child it would have been cheese puffs and sugar cereal all day. Good luck! Your decision is made with all of the right information and out of love for your child, so ignore the haters!

  • Rachel December 12, 2011, 1:36 pm

    I really like that you are totally open to your kids trying meat if they want to at restaurants or at a friends house. That is very reasonable and open-minded, I think.

    As long as there isn’t any shame placed on the kids for eating meat (at your house) or not eating meat (somewhere else) then your kids will be fine.

  • Kristen @ The Concrete Runner December 12, 2011, 1:36 pm

    You took the words right out of my mouth! I am a vegetarian, but my husband is not. I’ve been asked many times whether or not I will be feeding my child meat. As a vegetarian, I don’t feel right eating it myself, so why would I feel OK giving it to my daughter? However, if my husband chooses to give her meat, that is fine by me. It was my choice to become a vegetarian, so I think she should be free to make that choice if she feels to do so.

  • julia December 12, 2011, 1:37 pm

    I care about eating less meat for environmental reasons, and eat vegetarian about 25% of the time.

    I’m not knowledgeable about how vegetarians make sure they are getting the nutrients you listed in your post. What do you do to make sure you are? Just by eating eggs/cheese are you safe?

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 1:56 pm

      @julia: This link is a good way to learn more!

    • Caley July 16, 2012, 12:17 pm

      I know this is over 6 months old at this point, but just wanted to say Julia, that I started out the same way.

      Obviously we are all aware of the animal rights issues to an extent but what did it for me was educating myself on the environmental impact of mass producing meat for consumption. I went vegetarian a few years ago for a couple of months, but quickly realized that the timing/my lifestyle/my preparedness/level of education on proper nutrition/etc. just weren’t right to be able to adopt it 100% of the time, so I modified to eating this way a few days a week. I cut back on the meat consumption and ate veggie meals 25-50% of the time (every week was different), and then found myself going 50-75% of the time in more recent years and months. I liked eating this way – I felt better, and knew my eating habits (although not perfect) were making less of an impact on the environment (as well as to animals) than they had been in the past.

      Education is so incredibly important. Over the years I have learned so much about food and nutrition (mostly thanks to blogs like this one that get me trying new recipes and learning what these ingredients are in the first place) that I am confident in my ability to get all the nutrition I need with a completely vegetarian diet. And I feel like I am eating more food and more variety now than I was while eating meat (because I often ended up in the same meal rut…) If you are eating a variety of food – whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, lots of colourful fruits and vegetables, maybe some b12 fortified cereal/juice a few times a week you will not have to worry about nutrition – I honestly believe you will be getting better nutrition than you have been. For me it was surprising to learn what the protein/calcium/etc. content is of spinach or kale and other veggies and plant-based foods, because in our society, we simply don’t know these things. What we know about nutrition is based on media and how we were raised. Our parents and grandparents beliefs are still holding strong when it comes to our culture’s eating habits – its changing for other social issues, I think it’s time we review and rethink issues as simple as food too. If anything just maintain an open attitude and learn (slowly) as you go. It will come.

      I made the decision to take the plunge about a month ago after learning more about the actual health advantages of a plant-based diet and the harms that meat and dairy products can cause. All you can do is educate yourself, see what the research and evidence out there is (in support for AND against this lifestyle), CRITICALLY review it and ask yourself how reliable the studies are/who is really funding it/etc. and make the best informed decision you can for yourself, based on your beliefs. Go with your heart – you will know what if right/wrong for you… The research and resources that I have come across have really been eye opening and I am currently transitioning to a vegan lifestyle (which has actually proven to be relatively easy since my hubby is dairy intolerant so we have had to adjust our eating habits based on that alone).

      Just keep reading & educating yourself about the issues, concerns, and proper nutrition and you will find it so easy. 😀

  • Lindsay December 12, 2011, 1:39 pm

    I love the way you are handling this! Do you read Peas and Thank You? She’s a veggie mom too. I actually think she is a vegan.

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 1:56 pm

      @Lindsay: Yup! Love her.

  • Carly (Swim, Run, Om) December 12, 2011, 1:41 pm

    I think the “we love all animals” approach could backfire, particularly because you’re not vegan and I’m assuming there are a few products around your house that incorporate leather. That being said, I’m not sure how I would explain it!

    Of course, you can always go the route of my mother … when I would ask why we were eating something, the answer was always along the lines of “Because that’s what’s on the plate, and if you don’t like it that’s too bad.” Ultimately you’re the adult and you don’t have to explain that you feel you’re making the right decision for your five-year-old. And also, in the lunchroom, if your kid wants chicken nuggets s/he will get the chicken nuggets!

  • Lindsay @ The Reluctant Runner December 12, 2011, 1:41 pm

    I like your plan for allowing your child to order meat at a restaurant if they choose to. That is really interesting. My husband and I were vegetarians for a year a few years so and fell off the wagon out of laziness, but we still don’t eat much meat–maybe twice a week max for chicken or fish, and a few times a year for red meat. We’ll feed our children however we’re eating when the time comes, and I especially would not feed my child commercially raised meat or milk on a regular basis because of the hormones.

  • Jamie December 12, 2011, 1:41 pm

    Awesome post.

    I went vegan about a year ago just to see if I could do it. It cleared up several perpetual health issues, and I don’t see any reason to go back. I’m still far away from having kids, and still deciding if vegetarian/veganism is important in a future spouse. As of now, I don’t care if others eat meat, but I will not purchase or prepare it for them. If they eat at my house, they will eat vegan unless they bring their own food- so far I haven’t had any complaints!
    If I go for a meal at someone else’s, I don’t expect to be accommodated. If I am, great! If not, I just don’t eat. Nobody in my family accepts my veganism. Whenever I get sick, they tell me it’s because of my diet and I should go eat a hamburger. I’m an adult and purchase my own food, so it’s no big deal, but my parents would not have supported it while I was under their roof, sadly.

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 1:58 pm

      @Jamie: I am so sorry that no one accepts your veganism 🙁 That makes me sad even though you’re okay with it!

  • Corrie Anne December 12, 2011, 1:42 pm

    I love that. I’m so happy when I see parents teaching their kids positive things about healthy lifestyles. I’m not personally a vegetarian, but I generally eat meat only once or twice a week. I would want to pass that on to my possible future children as well. But I like how you are open and wanting to learn more through the process. So refreshing.

  • Rachel December 12, 2011, 1:43 pm

    Such an important, controversial topic. Just like you’re planning to do, I was raised in a vegetarian house but I was allowed to eat meat outside the home. When I was eleven I gave up meat on my own, and never went back. Sure I got teased, but every child will be teased for something at some point in their lives. And knowing that *I* made the decision to go vegetarian, not my parents, kept me from feeling resentful.

  • Chloe (In Fine Feather) December 12, 2011, 1:43 pm

    My boyfriend is Indian and was raised as a vegetarian. He currently eats fish & poultry but has never had beef or pork & doesn’t intend on it. His entire family is very healthy & don’t ever feel like they “need” to eat meat.
    We’ve talked about how we want to raise our future children and one of the things he wants is to raise our kids in a beef-free home. We will probably raise them vegetarian too because I currently don’t eat meat and he is thinking about doing the same.
    People forget that a large majority of the world population doesn’t eat meat and their children are perfectly healthy (or healthier) because of it!

  • Sarah December 12, 2011, 1:45 pm

    Well, what bothers me is that if you were culturally vegetarian or religiously vegetarian (I had a Hindu friend that was veggie) you wouldn’t receive any grief for raising your kid vegetarian. I have another friend that was raised veggie by her Indian dad and American mom, and has stayed veggie as an adult. Even though for her family it was more of a “choice” rather than a cultural or religious convention, I would never question her reasons for staying veggie as an adult or choosing to raise her kids vegetarian. She’s also one of the most un-judgemental vegetarians I know, and I learned a lot about Indian cuisine from (delicious!) meals at her house. It was a lot for my raised-on-mac-n-cheese 16 year old brain to handle! 😉 Keep an open mind!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 1:59 pm

      @Sarah: Good point!!!

  • LMN December 12, 2011, 1:45 pm

    love this post. i do have a question though-about vegetarianism in general. you say the reason you don’t eat meat is b/c of terrible farming practices (my same reason, too!). if (in a dream world), all practices were safe, not horomone overloaded, nice to the cows, etc-would you eat meat again? i think i would…

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 1:59 pm

      @LMN: No – because like I said, I don’t think its possible to 100% guarantee humane slaughter.

      • LMN December 12, 2011, 4:03 pm


        good point! 🙂

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) December 12, 2011, 1:45 pm

    I am a vegetarian and my kids do eat meat. I do prepare it and serve it here. I made the choice to become vegetarian for the second time in my life almost 4 years ago (first time was in high school and my parents put an end to it). I am a chef, so preparing me is not something I’m against, but I just don’t feel like I can eat meat if I couldn’t begin to imagine killing the animal myself. We do eat a limited amount of meat in our household though so we can all eat together and close to the same meal most of the time. I love your take on it and I love that you aren’t strict about it. I feel like, as a parent, we teach our kids all about the options in life and when they are old enough to make their own decisions we have to learn to stand by them. No one is perfect and being able to make educated decisions as an adult will make all the difference in the world.

    By the way, how hateful people would make fun of Isaac for being vegetarian…explains a lot about how others raise there children. I would rather not be that kind of parent.

    Great topic Caitlin!

  • Heather December 12, 2011, 1:45 pm

    I really don’t think you need to be worried about your child feeling like a weirdo. First of all, lots of kids have diet restrictions or cultural influences that change the way they eat. Secondly, kids accept alot of things at face value. Until they go to school, and are therefore old enough to explain things to, they’re not going to notice a difference.

  • Cassie @ Back to Her Roots December 12, 2011, 1:46 pm

    My brother and sister-in-law are vegetarians and they have the same philosophy with my niece (who just turned 10). She eats what they eat when she’s at home or has a packed lunch, but she can eat whatever she wants when she’s at a friend’s house or grandparent’s house. I don’t even think she knows she’s a vegetarian most of the time. It’s just how she eats.

    On a slightly related front: I’d love to hear your thoughts on dietary “boxes” (or point me to a post you’ve written if you’ve already touched on this). I really don’t like labeling my diet. Because by the normal standards, I’m a good ole carnivore. But that puts me in the same box as the guy that eats corn dogs from the gas station for every meal. Similarly, that puts you in the same box as some vegetarian that lives on fake meat and french fries. I’m going all tangent here but basically: I hate dietary labels. I think they cause more problems than they solve. Because, after all, if you didn’t label your diet, would people even be questioning what you were going to feed your kid? Just a thought…

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:01 pm

      @Cassie @ Back to Her Roots: I’ve written about this before but now I can’t find the post. I actually LIKE putting myself in a vegetarian box because I think it makes it easy to stick to my goals and explain my viewpoints to other… but I can see why others don’t want to categorize themselves.

    • sara December 12, 2011, 2:56 pm

      @Cassie @ Back to Her Roots:

      I agree that babyHTP probably won’t even realize. I’ve been veg on and off. I currently eat small amounts. When my older son was 2, my husband deployed for several months and we both went veg. He never noticed! Almond/sun/peanut butter and fruit sandwiches are pretty normal in the school cafeteria as well as grilled cheese so I think it’s pretty easy to get around teasing. My son’s favorite lunch is vegs and pita with a side of hummus. Or I use a ww tortilla and spread almond butter and sliced strawberries and cut it like pinwheels.

      Good luck and do what you gotta do! No two moms parent the same way and that’s ok!

    • Stephanie C December 12, 2011, 3:10 pm

      @Cassie @ Back to Her Roots: This is such a good point! I feel bad telling people me and my husband are vegetarian because we eat meat occasionally (though no more than once a month), but it always seems so much easier because people get confused when they want to prepare something for you. (For instance, yes we eat meat but only humanely raised and how do you go tell someone to go buy you a certain type?)

  • Krissy December 12, 2011, 1:46 pm

    I love this post. I think you have a great approach in how you plan to feed your child and allow them to still make their own choices. I too read Skinny Bitch, and it really did a number on me. I went vegetarian after reading it (and I was the biggest meat eater ever so that was hard to do) for almost a year. Like literally had a ham sandwich for lunch, read the book, and then didn’t eat meat that night and for the next year! Then I got pregnant and all I wanted was meat so I gave to the cravings. Now I eat meat. And almost every single day. I try not to think about it, but I know I should. I still believe in everything I read. And I don’t think that makes me heartless. For me, I honestly just love it. And it is hard to keep up with. But I want to make a goal in the new year of really cutting back to a couple times a week. Good luck! You are a great mom already!

  • Emily December 12, 2011, 1:46 pm

    I think it’s funny when people are outraged about vegetarian parents ‘pushing’ their beliefs on their children, yet they don’t have a problem with parents ‘pushing’ a fast food culture on their children.

    • Kate December 12, 2011, 1:51 pm

      Amen Emily!
      Our world is too weird.

    • duffy December 13, 2011, 10:56 am

      @Emily: SO TRUE! Caitlin, be more worried about having a picky eater (only mac & cheese, Goldfish crackers) than about feeding your child vegetables.

  • Ellie December 12, 2011, 1:46 pm

    I was raised vegetarian in the 80s & 90s when it was much less common. I was never made to feel weird about it so I can’t imagine out will be a problem for your child now. I’m sure you will receive plenty of criticism for your decision but I doubt your child will experience much more that simple curiosity from his or her peers.

    I started eating meat as an adult because I personally feel healthier
    when i do. I only eat it a couple times a month and I’m very picky about what I do eat. My daughter has it as often as I do and she thrives on a mostly vegetarian diet. I’m sure your child will do great with no meat.

    • lorraine December 12, 2011, 2:40 pm

      I was also raised vegetarian in the 80s and 90s (I’m 27 now). I grew up in the south, where vegetarianism was definitely not common, and I frequently felt weird about it. It made socializing difficult and I was occasionally teased for it. Based on my own experience, I think the approach you’ve described is wonderful, Caitlin. My brother and I did not feel like we had the freedom to try meat at friends’ houses or in the lunchroom as young children, and were raised by a mother who was very judgmental about other people’s eating habits. While we were physically healthy, the experience was emotionally difficult at times.

      Ultimately, I’ve stayed vegetarian, but my brother started eating meat as soon as he felt free to do so. Today, we’re both healthy and happy with our diets. But my attitude about vegetarianism differs sharply from my mother’s. While I hope that people who are exposed to my cooking come to see that vegetarian food can be satisfying and flavorful, my hope is not to “convert” anyone or convince them that my lifestyle is morally and/or nutritionally superior. My hope is to live a lifestyle that I, and I alone, feel comfortable embracing. It would have been nice to grow up with this attitude, and it sounds like your child (or children) will. I don’t have children myself, so I’ll look forward to hearing how it goes if you choose to write about it!

  • suzie December 12, 2011, 1:47 pm

    So this is my first time commenting but as an ethical vegan, I just had to say that is WONDERFUL! just out of curiousity have you ever thought about veganism? I know its more extreme but the same way we eat meat hurts animals, eating dairy hurts them just as much since by supporting the dairy industry we are also supporting the meat and poultry industry. just wondered if you had thought about it?

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:02 pm

      @suzie: I agree with you re: the dairy industry but honestly… I just don’t want to do it. I know some vegans would say that makes me a selfish vegetarian but I cannot imagine not eating eggs and dairy. I always buy organic etc. in hopes that it is lessening the environment impact of those food products, but at the end of the day – I just don’t want to give those things up.

      • Mel December 12, 2011, 4:12 pm

        This is exactly how I feel. I have been a veggie for several years now and I have cut out dairy and eggs and cheese before, but I don’t like to eat a ton of soy so it was difficult to get enough protein, plus I just really like greek yogurt and eggs. I don’t like “fake” cheeses, fake meats, etc and I would just rather eat real, organic cheese, real eggs, and real dairy instead of soy yogurt. I do limit these to just one serving of dairy or eggs a day though. To each their own! I believe every small action counts.

  • Jessica December 12, 2011, 1:48 pm

    Have you read/heard anything about kids not being able to digest meat if they don’t eat it? Like if you never feed your child meat and then at 8 years old they decide to have a hotdog at a friends party will it make them sick?

    I’ve heard people tell me this when I’ve discussed going vegetarian, and I just can’t figure out if it’s true or not. I’d love to hear your input on the matter.

    • Cait December 12, 2011, 1:53 pm

      @Jessica: I don’t think this is really true. I was a vegetarian for 12 years and then switched back to eating meat and I felt fine after eating meat for the first time in all those years. I think though it depends on the type of meat you eat – if the first meat the kid eats is a hot dog full of sodium and nitrates t wouldn’t surprise me if he felt sick , but if you choose organic lean beef or chicken or whatever, I’m guessing you would be fine.

      • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:03 pm

        @Cait: When I stopped being a vegetarian for the first time, I was totally okay with eating chicken and fish, but I ate pot roast at my friend’s house and had the WORST HEARTBURN EVER for hours afterwards. I have never experienced anything like that. However, I started to eat a bit more red meat and was fine. So I do think it can be hard on your body to digest but it’s not necessarily impossible.

        • lorraine December 12, 2011, 2:43 pm

          @Caitlin: Agreed! I just wrote this in my comment above, but my younger brother ate meat for the first time around age 10 or 11. He was able to tolerate it just fine, and he is still a meat-eater in his twenties. I don’t think your approach will limit your child’s future choices. 🙂

        • Stephanie C December 12, 2011, 3:15 pm

          @Caitlin: I think this depends on the individual, too. My personal theory is that when you’re eating a more vegetarian diet that you end up needing to eat less meat than you previously did. I can get full off the tiniest piece of meat. So I’m wondering if a lot of these people are getting sick because they’re eating too much of it.. but then on the other hand I do know people who are strict vegetarians and have had a bit of meat and then feel sick afterwards and never want to eat it again! Doesn’t seem like a once size fits all.

    • Carly D. @ CarlyBananas December 12, 2011, 3:10 pm

      @Jessica: I actually went to college with a girl who never tried meat until she was 18 and she got extremely sick. I mean, it’s not like she started with Kobe beef maybe she shouldn’t have tried with a greasy burger.

    • Rebecca December 12, 2011, 4:09 pm

      @Carly D. @ CarlyBananas: @Jessica: On another hand, we had an exchange student last year who was vegetarian, and when she decided to go vegan for a while, the first few days sucked and she ended up with stomach problems. At least, that’s my mom’s theory. I honestly think it depends on the person as well as the dietary change.

  • Sarah @ w30 December 12, 2011, 1:49 pm

    I LOVE this post! I’ve only been vegetarian for a little over five months now, and I don’t have kids (yet), but I do live in Oklahoma, aka steak country. The hardest thing for me since going vegetarian has been feeling judged – either because of my food choices, or, more often, because people assume I judge their food choices. I don’t! I think it is so important to show that a person can choose a certain diet while respecting others’ choices.
    I love the balance you have struck between teaching your child(ren) your values (and doing what you believe is right regarding what food you serve) and respecting their autonomy. I think it will both give them the freedom to choose and teach them that there is not necessarily one right way of doing things (thus teaching them to respect other people’s choices). As far as worrying if they will be teased – totally legit, I’m sure, but I also think the world is changing and hopefully more kids will understand vegetarianism now than they did when Isaac was growing up. 🙂

  • Liz December 12, 2011, 1:50 pm

    We don’t have kids yet, but we’ve had this conversation (we’re both veggie) and have come to the same conclusion. We got to choose, so they should get to choose, too, outside of the house. I agree with other commenters that the “we love all animals” approach could backfire, but I also think finding a way to explaining why you eat the way you eat is a good idea because it might help them feel more secure about it if they DO get teased or whatever. It also gives them the opportunity to think about it and make their own connections!

    This is an awesome post about kids and diet:

  • Laura @ She Eats Well December 12, 2011, 1:51 pm

    Lovely post; I really respect how open and non-judgmental you are about this subject. I am a meat eater, but choose to eat meat and fish because my body feels best with these types of foods. It’s my choice, my body…just like your choice to be vegetarian and to raise your child as one. To be honest, I think ultimately, the most important food habit you can instill in children is to emphasize the importance of greens/veggies, and fruit. Whatever my future child chooses, I hope he or she always chooses good quality fruits and veggies. Ultimately, you have to find what works for you and makes you feel best, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

  • Juli D. December 12, 2011, 1:52 pm

    What anyone chooses to do in their own family is up to them – food included. However, you might want to work on the way you present the idea to the kids – saying it’s like eating the family dog is stating it in a pretty emotional charged and scary way. If my parents had scared me into vegetarianism by saying it was like eating family pets, I bet that would have been somewhat scarring. And if your kid then tells other meat eating kids that example you’d probably have some ticked off parents too.

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:09 pm

      @Juli D.: Good point. Do you have a way I could phrase it to be less inflammatory?

      • Becky December 12, 2011, 2:38 pm

        I think with kids, being honest and explaining things completely, but in an age-appropriate way, is always best. Something simple like “We love animals, and we feel that animals raised for meat are not always treated so well. Because we aim to treat all of our friends and family and everyone we meet with respect and love, we want to treat animals that way too. And that’s why we don’t eat animals.”

        • Juli D. December 12, 2011, 6:34 pm

          @Becky: I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it with the kid. Wait for them to ask about it, don’t tell them “we don’t eat meat.” They will ask why – probably around age 3 – and I wouldn’t bring up pets at all – they know what farm animals are. Just say some farmers aren’t nice to their animals, so we don’t like to buy from those farmers. Since it’s hard to tell who the nice ones are, you just don’t eat any meat to be safe.

      • Juli D. December 12, 2011, 6:38 pm

        @Caitlin: It looks like you already made it less inflammatory. I accidentally responded to Becky’s post w/my suggestion but even what you have now in your post is better than what you had before.

  • Fiona December 12, 2011, 1:53 pm

    I have been vegetarian for almost 7 years and eat a mostly vegan diet these days, and while I do not plan on having kids in the near future (I’m only 21!), I feel very similarly to you! I don’t want to force my kids to eat in any certain way but I am definitely not going to cook meat for them or serve it in my house. Vegetarianism is much more mainstream these days anyway!

  • Kayla December 12, 2011, 1:53 pm

    I think you’re approaching this in a wonderful way (and very similarly to how I plan to approach it). Just like your “panic free pregnancy” ideas, this has to be the same. Eat how you normally eat, feed the child delicious, whole food, and call it as you see it. Things change, kids are people of their own eventually and they’ll decide! I dated a vegetarian from childhood once and he was super normal and awesome about it. It was just the way it was for him. People like to freak out and get judgy about stuff like this. Basically, you’re proclaiming to the world that you’re going to actually think about what your kid eats, and I think that’s amazing.

  • lauren December 12, 2011, 1:53 pm

    I think your stance is refreshing. Food can be a difficult subject and you don’t want to associate food with guilt, for your child or their friends’ families. I’m sure it is hard having to explain yourself to people, but that also gives you a chance to share your reasoning – which many don’t already know/understand.
    I’m not veg, but I limit how much meat I consume. I stopped buying conventional meat last year and buy my eggs from a local farm. I get to listen to input from those who can’t believe I spend more that 1.99/lb on chicken and ask why I tend to order vegetarian entrees when dining out. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain your point of view without sounding like you are talking down to everyone. I look forward to hearing more about how you handle things like this!

  • Jennifer December 12, 2011, 1:55 pm

    Do you think when they’re a teenager and buying/cooking their own food at home, will you and the husband allow them to do so with meat?

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:10 pm

      @Jennifer: If they want to buy it with their own cash and cook it themselves, fine by me! 🙂

  • Brigid December 12, 2011, 1:55 pm

    I am 100% on board with your approach, Caitlin. The only difference for me is that my other half is an omnivore, but we always eat vegetarian at home since I do most of the cooking and meal planning. He’s totally down with raising our (potential) (future) children this way, though, because of the health benefits and how important it is to me.

    On the issue of teasing — kids tease other kids about everything. I was teased because my name is funny, for getting straight A’s, because I was short, etc. That doesn’t mean my parents did something wrong in giving me an Irish name, encouraging me to excel, or not . . . um . . . being taller. And anyway, the vegetarian kids I knew growing up — granted, in a small private Montessori school — were not teased for eschewing meat. I don’t think potential teasing is a very good reason for vegetarian parents to feed their children meat.

  • Sana December 12, 2011, 1:55 pm

    I grew up in a limited meat eating household. I brought my warm lunch to school everyday ( usually pasta with a side of fruits and veggies, and I loved with while my friends ate frozen pizza. And strange looking chicken nuggets.

  • Lee December 12, 2011, 1:56 pm

    I have family friends that raised their sons vegan. I’ve asked them about how their kids handle it and they said (the kids are in high school now) that sometimes they’ll eat meat when they are at friends houses but they don’t really even like it that much.

  • Kelly December 12, 2011, 1:58 pm

    I agree with this 100% and plan to do the EXACT same thing someday!

    • Becky December 12, 2011, 2:35 pm

      This is my exact plan too. Kids are not in my immediate future, but my husband and I have come to the same decision: no meat will be prepared or eaten in our house, but when our kids are old enough to choose what they eat (essentially, once they can talk), if they choose to order meat in a restaurant or eat it at a friend’s house, I have no problem. My #1 food priority with kids is that they have a normal, non-disordered relationship with food. That means introducing them to everything and allowing them to make reasonable decisions about food. I think your plan sounds great.

  • Stephanie December 12, 2011, 1:59 pm

    I am going to share my two cents on the issue:

    My husband and I have been on and off vegetarians for he last 10 years. I came off being vegetarian when I was pregnant with my first child because (in all honesty) I caved to the pressure of “doesnt your baby need the meat? Your depriving the baby!” that my mexican and his italian families kept saying. I resumed when not pregnant and back when I was pregnant again. I thought I would raised my kids as vegetarians. Partly because I had hear of children who were self-imposed vegetarians from birth – including my niece. But then I had a premie baby who struggled to gain weight and second son that although full term was also small for his age and when they had a choice of food they screamed “BACON!” and “SAUSAGE!” and “STEAK!” I couldnt not let them eat the food they wanted because I was imposing some idea that I held. They are their own people in the end right? So, as a compromise and as an effort to raise children who are aware and present in the world we say a little prayer before we eat meat essentially:

    “Thank you God for giving us Cows and thank you Cows for giving us meat.”

    Or chickens, fish, pig, etc. And we insist on calling things their name – cows are not beef nor are they hamburger and pigs are not pork or bacon or ham. I want them to understand what they are doing and be aware of it – accept it and appreciate it.

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:11 pm

      @Stephanie: I love this idea. You sound like an amazing parent.

  • Allison December 12, 2011, 2:01 pm

    I grew up in a Sunday dinner steak eating family but decided myself to become a vegetarian in middle school. I did it for two years but I really missed eggs, turkey, and chicken [really the only meats that I eat today]. I did it again after I read “Skinny Bitch” because I had the same reaction as you but began missing the white meats… I don’t eat red meat not because of any special reason other than I just don’t care for the taste or texture, although sometimes a fancy filet sounds fab 🙂

  • Jen W December 12, 2011, 2:02 pm

    I love this topic! I have a question though.

    You say, “If my kid eats meat at a friend’s house, I won’t care. If they want to try it when out at a restaurant, fine by me. I won’t serve them meat in the house, but that’s where my strictness will end.”

    But then you also say, “I’ll never forget how it felt to have my dietary beliefs supported by my family.”

    So, what will you do if your child decides he or she likes meat and wants to eat it at home? You seem to say vegetarianism will be strict in your home, but then you say you liked that your dietary beliefs were supported. Will you not support your child’s dietary beliefs?

    Not trying to call you out or anything. I just find this entire topic really interesting and would love to know. I’m sure it will be a learn as you go process. That’s what I’ve found so far as a new mom. I’m constantly “winging it”. Lol. Love the blog! 🙂

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:12 pm

      @Jen W: Good point! I didn’t think of that. Maybe I will have to reconsider when they are teenagers and are old enough to cook for themselves…. I still don’t want to spend my grocery dollars on meat, though.

      • Carly D. @ CarlyBananas December 12, 2011, 3:16 pm

        @Caitlin: I do think it seems like something you’re going to have to think about it as your kids get older. What if you have another baby in 2 years. And kid 1 never wants to eat meat. But kid 2 does. Are you really going to make kid 2 spend their allowance on food? I think that would be more than a little unfair to the kid who happens to like eating meat.
        (I’m a not a parent but just thinking of the reaction I’d have had if my parents suggested I spend my allowance on chicken nuggets and my brother got to spend his on a video game… well it wouldn’t have made me feel awful.)

        • Sarah R December 12, 2011, 4:12 pm

          @Carly D. @ CarlyBananas:
          I don’t agree with you, I don’t think that is really unfair. That’s like saying kid 1 isn’t interested in playing a board game, but kid 2 is. So then you’d have to buy the board game so the kids can spend their allowance on the same things? Isn’t the point of an allowance that you earn money, and you have to make your own decision on what to spend it on?

        • Miranda December 12, 2011, 8:06 pm

          @Carly D. @ CarlyBananas: I agree with you. That would be very unfair.

          @Sara R I have to respectfully disagree with you. Food is a necessity. Board games are not.

          • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 8:37 pm

            @Miranda: I actually do not think it is unfair. What if my kid wants to buy candy with their allowance money? I’m probably not going to buy them gobs of candy. If they want some, they can buy it with their allowance. How is steak different?

        • Carly December 12, 2011, 8:51 pm

          @Carly D. @ CarlyBananas: I agree with Carly for the reason that as a teenager I went vegan which couldn’t have been further from my families way of eating. If my Mom hadn’t been so supportive and bought me different foods, it wouldn’t have been possible. I guess I just look at it as a similar situation if your child wants to try meat. Eating habits are incredibly personal, even within families!

          • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 9:08 pm

            @Carly: Good point. You’ve changed my mind! I just hate the idea of buying meat.

        • Jennie (in Wonderland) December 13, 2011, 12:04 pm

          @Carly D. @ CarlyBananas: When I was growing up, I ate what I was given. I don’t remember EVER being given a choice. Sure, my Mum might have said, “How does spaghetti sound tonight?” but if I had said, “No, I want chicken nuggets!” I don’t think she would have smiled and been all, “Whatever you want, my little pumpkin.” No, I think she would have said, “Too bad, we’re having spaghetti.” And you’re a kid. You deal with it.

          My kids won’t be served meat and I’m not going to feel badly about it for a second. I ate chicken and steak and hamburgers as a kid and hated it, but my parents served it, so that was that. I hardly think it’s a tragedy if a child can’t have whatever junk food they crave in that particular moment. That’s too #whitegirlproblems for words.

          • CaitlinHTP December 13, 2011, 12:05 pm

            @Jennie (in Wonderland): Agree – my kids are going to eat what I put in front of them, or they are going to be hungry.

  • Janessa December 12, 2011, 2:02 pm

    Great post!

    I was raised vegetarian.

    I got teased sometimes, but being a vegetarian was just a natural way of life for me. I never questioned what my mom was inflicting upon me; it was part of who I was and how I identified.

  • Krista December 12, 2011, 2:03 pm

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to completely eliminate any food groups from a child’s diet, so I appreciate that you’re ok with your kids eating meat at a restaurant or at someone else’s home.

    And I totally agree with others that saying “we don’t eat meat because we love animals” is a bad idea!

    When they are old enough, you can explain that you feel it’s a healthier way of eating and living. But again, I think it’s really important to allow them to experiment with their own food choices.

  • Nicole Mullins December 12, 2011, 2:03 pm

    I was glad you posted about this and it’s interesting to see your sureness on the topic. I’ve been vegetarian for four years and my husband has always been and still is a meat eater. We totally respect each other’s food decisions but it does raise some interesting questions about how we will raise our daughter. So far, our daughter (who is almost 3) has been vegetarian her whole life. In fact, I was vegan the whole time I breastfed her because dairy upset her stomach too much. When we take her to my in-laws house I pack everything she could possibly need but they tend to be more lenient on the issue than I am and will, for example, just pick pepperoni off a piece of pizza for her to eat when I packed her a vegan organic pizza! It’s frustrating for me to be “okay” with her eating meat at this point because she’s so young and it’s really my responsibility to make the decisions I believe to be best for her. However, I ask myself when will she be old enough to reasonably decide for herself when she wants to try something. Is that age 5 years? 10? 13? I want her to be informed on her decision and I don’t want her to hate me for “forcing” a vegetarian lifestyle on her but at the same time, I don’t want her to hate her dad for eating meat. Thanks for posting on this topic, it’s helpful for me to see other veggie parents’ point of view.

  • Mellissa December 12, 2011, 2:05 pm

    This was very interesting to read, while I am not a vegetarian and do eat meat and plan on continuing to do so, I 100% respect each parents decision to choose how they raise their children. I have had a similar conversation with friends about religion. Some of my more religious friends ask me (an athiest) how I plan to raise my children. I always say without religion, but if my future child came home and wanted to go to church we would do so. To educate, discuss and provide the option to choose that lifestyle. It is ultimately a parents job to decide what choices they will make for their families but truly in the end I think it is a child choice too. I don’t know at what age they can make that choice but I do believe in getting their input.

  • Crystal December 12, 2011, 2:05 pm

    I was raised on a mostly vegetarian diet, with the exception of an occasional shrimp here or there. My mom always packed me PB & J sandwiches or cheese and crackers with veggie sticks and apples for lunch so no one at school ever thought anything of it. The problem was that when I went to friends’ houses, I didn’t WANT to eat pepperoni pizza or hamburgers, and when I told other kids’ parents that I was a vegetarian, they would laugh or roll their eyes at me. None of my friends gave a shit, but their parents made a huge deal out of it. So my parents started sending me to birthday parties and sleepovers with a veggie side dish “to share” or something like that so I’d have something to eat. I still do this as an adult 🙂

    • Crystal December 12, 2011, 2:07 pm

      @Crystal: Oh, and BTW, as a veggie RD, I’m glad you used the ADA as a reference in your post!

      • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:14 pm

        @Crystal: That is crappy that the parents did that to you. Ugh.

  • Keely December 12, 2011, 2:05 pm

    Caitlin, you’re absolutely making the right decision to raise your child vegetarian. A huge part of raising a child is helping them create an ethical worldview, and your decision to go meat-free is a significant part of who you and your husband are, even though you are delightfully low-key about it.

    I was raised vegetarian and have been forever thankful to my parents for instilling healthy habits in me from the start. Some of my siblings have dabbled in meat as adults, but I’ve never had the interest. And growing up I was never teased by friends, and only had one doctor suggest that I needed meat (he wanted me to eat liver to help my iron and platelets). My pediatrician didn’t bat an eye when I told him I was vegetarian and planned to raise my children the same way. He simply encouraged me to be sure they had access to a wide variety of nutritional foods, which is easy because it’s how I eat. My kids eat what I eat at, a developmentally appropriate pace of course.

    On a humorous note, my husband occasionally eats meat when we’re at restaurants, which has prompted my 3-year-old to conclude that boys eat meat and girls don’t. She thus wonders why her 1-year-old little brother doesn’t eat chicken. 🙂 My husband completely supports us all eating a vegetarian diet at home. And I actually made the same decision as you to not force vegetarianism on my kids–if they choose to eat meat away from home, I’m not going to explode.

    Although diet, particularly meat-eating, is a heavily charged emotional topic for many (as already seen in the comments to your post), science backs up your moral/emotional decision: Forks Over Knives, The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Food Revolution, and so on.

    I hope you’ll keep your positive outlook and glean the helpful comments from these posts, but let the personal deflections roll off your back. Good luck!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:18 pm

      @Keely: Heheh that is funny that he thinks boys eat meat and girls don’t 🙂 Cute. Kids are so fun.

  • Luv What You Do December 12, 2011, 2:07 pm

    Have you read The Kind Diet book. I think it is right up your alley. I thought of it based on your skinny bitch comment about eating pain and suffering. The Kind Diet goes as far as to say that you are even ingesting the stress horomones produced by the animal before slaughter.

    I am about 2 weeks on a meat-free trial and feeling good. There are so many other ways to get nutrients. I’d like to hope that vegetarianism and veganism is much more mainstream these days and your child will be accepted and like for his/her creative non traditional school lunches. As babies are not in the immediate future, I haven’t through about what diet I will raise them on, but I know it will be a more environmentally conscious and active lifestyle (that I”m sure others will have something to say about)!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:14 pm

      @Luv What You Do: I haven’t read the book but I love her blog!

      • Tania @ The Health Macadamia January 5, 2012, 12:29 pm

        I can’t recommend that book enough too! It got me into veganism – yes – but it also got me into understanding food as fuel and how what I put in can be doing different things to my body. Such a good book!

  • Cheryl December 12, 2011, 2:09 pm

    I became a vegetarian at 12. While this is not super young noone ever said anything about the way I ate and that was 14 years ago when vegetarianism wasn’t as main-stream. I think as long as vegetarians don’t try to spread their beliefs too much noone really even notices that they don’t eat meat.

    • Emily December 12, 2011, 2:40 pm

      @Cheryl: Same here! And yes, agree – me being a vegetarian doesn’t get a lot of attention because I don’t make a huge deal about it or act like I’m better than anyone.

  • jamie@cueyourlife December 12, 2011, 2:13 pm

    Food is one issue with my daughter that makes me feel like a failure as a parent. I feed her things for dinner sometimes that I would never put in my mouth. Ex. Kraft Mac-n-cheese, hot dogs, fish sticks, chicken nuggets. She simply won’t eat a lot of the things that I cook for the gorwnups yet…but is getting better and better. (YAY!) I think I am getting better and better too though…Fast food is simply off-limits, no matter what the time crunch is, soda is completely off limits, school lunches are completely off limits. I make her a whole, unprocessed breakfast and lunch each day…it’s the snacks she gets at school and our hectic dinner schedules that throw things off. Sigh.

  • Sheryl December 12, 2011, 2:13 pm

    What an awesome post! I think this is a wonderful stance on vegetarianism. As someone who is trying to introduce a more vegetarian lifestyle into my household, and as someone with a 5 month old daughter almost ready for solid foods, I find this an inspiring and motivating post. Thanks Caitlin!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:16 pm

      @Sheryl: Thank you 🙂

  • Amber from Girl with the Red Hair December 12, 2011, 2:14 pm

    I get flack from my mom all the time since I’m a pesco-vegetarian (eat fish a few times a month) and she always says “are you going to force your kids to eat that way?” So annoying. My fiance eats meat but not a lot at home (since I do most of the cooking) so I just tell her we’ll continue to eat the way we do now. I’m not going to cook two meals all the time so my kids will eat the way I eat/cook and occasionally, when their dad cooks for them or when they are old enough to make their own decisions, they can eat meat if they please and I won’t care about that. Even if they eat meat occasionally I know they will grow up eating A LOT healthier than I did (grew up in a 90’s, processed food household).

    Also, when they are old enough I will explain my reasons for not eating meat which are also ethical since reading ‘Eating Animals’ made me want to stop eating meat immediately. And yes, I know the fish farming industry is just as bad and so is the dairy industry, but I don’t want to give those things up (like you said above Caitlin) so I don’t.

    • Amber from Girl with the Red Hair December 12, 2011, 2:19 pm

      @Amber from Girl with the Red Hair: PS: I actually wrote a freelance article about this a few months ago. One mom was still raising her toddler as vegetarian but the other mom I interviewed had started eating meat because her older kids wanted to. She would only eat locally farmed meat though. It was a really interesting article to research and write. It’s not online, but here’s the PDF if you or anyone feels like reading it.

      Oh, and I should mention the fully vegetarian mom got mad that it also featured a mom who ate meat and fed her kids meat and wrote an angry letter to the paper after. Those are the kinds of vegetarians/vegans I’m NOT a fan of. The ‘my way or the highway’ ones.

  • Briana December 12, 2011, 2:15 pm

    You approached this delicate topic very well, Caitlin. I am a strict vegetarian and plan to raise my future children as vegetarians as well because as you stated, I won’t feed them what I wouldn’t eat. Thanks for bringing this topic up!

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife December 12, 2011, 2:19 pm

    I think you did a nice job explaining what you’re going to do. I think as long as it is not total extremism (which it sounds like it won’t be), and let them choose, I think that’ll work best. I would hate to subject a kid to teasing just for MY choices, ya know?!

    Love the idea of it all!

  • Renee December 12, 2011, 2:19 pm

    This is so well written. I appreciate that you will allow for autonomy while living up to your own beliefs as well. It’s important that your child will also see what you believe in and learn to at least respect it, if not indulge in vegetarianism with you as well. As a southerner gone veggie(blog title? =) ), it was a really sore subject between my father and me. It made me realize just how personal food was when he was sad that we wouldn’t be enjoying steak anymore together. He initially was defensive about my dietary choices because they went against his. I had to sit him down and explain that while this is my belief, he is also welcome to his..and hey..let’s just respect each other here. He also learned that because I don’t eat meat doesn’t mean I don’t like to EAT! =) We now enjoy many meals together. Thank you for touching on this subject. Congrats on being an open-minded mother, what a lucky kid! Food is SO personal!

  • emily December 12, 2011, 2:20 pm

    I think you have a great attitude about this! I’m semi-vegetarian (I don’t eat mammals) and my planned approach to my future kidlets’ diets is exactly the same.

    My father has been semi-vegetarian since before I was born but made a point of having my mom feed me lamb, bacon, etc when I was a kid so I could chose for myself. However, I decided at a fairly young age that I didn’t want to consume those foods and I almost wish my parents just hadn’t served them to me in the first place. I think letting my kids eat red meat in restaurants (and friends’ houses etc) but not personally making it for them at home is the perfect solution for me.

  • Libby December 12, 2011, 2:23 pm

    I think it’s a great idea to stick to your beliefs and raise your children in a vegetarian lifestyle and letting them choose when they are out of the house too. When it comes to eating lunch at school I wouldn’t worry too much if I were you. My dad made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for lunch from 1st grade through my senior year of high school and no one picked on me or my siblings for not having meat in our lunches. I also live in a family that is not vegetarian and about 6 years ago I told my parents that I was giving up beef and had a similar experience to your’s. My dad and mom looked up recipes that I could make and my family as a whole decreased their intake of beef in support even though I didn’t ask them too.

  • Dena December 12, 2011, 2:24 pm

    I have been a vegetarian my entire life, and I definitely never resented my parents for it, I actually really appreciated it! I loved being a vegetarian as a kid because it made me unique, and I was exposed to all sorts of interesting and delicious types of foods that my friends had never even heard of! It also taught me to be conscious of what I’m eating and learn from a very young age that you can eat healthily and it can be nutritious and delicious. I’m also not a preach-y vegetarian at ALL, and have definitely considered eating meat before, since my primary reason for not doing it is simply because it’s what I’m used to. But I like the idea that my diet by default makes less of an impact on the environment, and I still love being an experimental eater and finding unique ways to create vegetarian meals – so I’m sticking with it, for now!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:28 pm

      @Dena: This comment gives me hope 🙂

      • Emily December 12, 2011, 2:38 pm

        @Caitlin: me too! love it.

  • Elizabeth @ reads recipes runs December 12, 2011, 2:26 pm

    I think that you and the hubby have approached this SO well! You’re not pushing it on them, you’re not making a decision for them, simple as that. If you think about it, no one will give you a hard time if you chose to raise your child with the same religious values you and your partner hold, I don’t understand why not feeding them meat (or any dietary decisions) is any different, but my do people get riled up!

    Funny story, my friend’s parents raised her and her sister to believe that they were highly alergic to sugar and that horrible things would happen if they ate it. I don’t think that she had actual sugar until she was a teen and realized it was BS.

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:29 pm

      @Elizabeth @ reads recipes runs: That… is… hysterical.

    • Nikki December 12, 2011, 3:58 pm

      @Elizabeth @ reads recipes runs: haha! our neighbors told their kids they were allergic to Yellow-5 (or some other food color that’s in everything) basically as an excuse to not let the kids each packaged foods. Dishonest? Yes. But it worked!

  • Kelly December 12, 2011, 2:27 pm

    I don’t think anyone has a right to question another person’s personal decisions regarding politics, religion, or even food choices. Unless you are doing something harmful to yourself or your child I think people should butt out.

  • Nichole December 12, 2011, 2:27 pm

    I had to pop in and say my youngest son is a Vegan due to the number of food allergies he has and he is strong, healthy and thriving in school.

  • Jenn December 12, 2011, 2:28 pm

    I do not have kids yet, and am not vegetarian, but still, what an interesting topic! I love how open and non-judgemental you are!!

    I have a question about something i’ve heard that may or may not be true? If someone is raised not eating meat (or doesn’t eat it for a really long time) when they do eat it (say, at a friend’s house or restaurant) wont the meat make them REALLY sick? Ive heard this is the case but was wondering if maybe its just another “judgy-wudgy” thing people saY about vegetarians?

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:30 pm

      @Jenn: Jessica, Cait, and I are discussing this in the comments above – check it out!

    • Sarah AJ December 12, 2011, 2:55 pm

      @Jenn: My six-year-old chose to try meat for the first time this summer and ate half of a brat, of all things! I was sure he was going to be sick, but he was fine, not even a hint of an upset stomach. He hasn’t tried any other meats yet, although he talked about turkey at Thanksgiving.

  • Whitney December 12, 2011, 2:29 pm

    This is a great post Caitlin and your perspective on this should be commended. I like that you do not judge others for eating meat just like others should not judge you for not eating meat. I am not a vegetarian per se, but I find myself only eating meat once in a blue moon. There are sometimes when I do crave a huge burger (mostly after a completion of a marathon!) but really I stick to other options. I just recently switched my milk source from cow to soy/almond milk. I really love it! You are going to be a great mother! Merry Christmas! 🙂

  • Sarah December 12, 2011, 2:30 pm

    I loved this post. I think it’s very important to allow a child to develop their own preferences and beliefs, after you as a parent have set safe guidelines and told them why you believe what you believe. That’s really empowering to a child, and will give them the tools they need down the line to make other life decisions!

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats December 12, 2011, 2:33 pm

    I think that’s the best choice – keep your home vegetation but if your child chooses to eat meat, then that is his or her prerogative

  • Bethany December 12, 2011, 2:35 pm

    I was raised a vegetarian and agree 100% with your post. My parents always said, if I chose to eat meat, then that is up to me. They wouldn’t pay for it or prepare it, but I could if I wanted to. I’m perfectly healthy and wasn’t teased at all! Of course people were curious, but no one ever made fun of me. My brother’s wife is due in April and he really hopes to raise his children vegetarian. Only problem is his wife isn’t vegetarian and her family loves meat.

  • Katie December 12, 2011, 2:36 pm

    Hi Caitlin! I am newlywed vegetarian, and my husband eats vegetarian 90% of the time as well. We have been talking about this issue a lot lately and have been asked by people what we plan to do when we have kids. Somehow in the discussion of all of this my friend told me something that really stuck with me that I wanted to share. She is not a vegetarian but she doesn’t eat much meat at all, because she is grossed our by the taste, texture, and the idea that it is an animal she’s eating. She told me that this stems from when she was a kid and she started wondering where meat came from. She asked her parents, “Is chicken from a chicken?” and is “turkey from a turkey?”, etc. Her parents told her it wasn’t, so she went on eating it. When she realized later in life that it actually WAS from those animals, she was extremely angry and resentful towards her parents and completely turned off by it.

    So I am totally with you when you say you want to make sure your kids understand what meat is and where it comes from, instead of trying to gloss over it. But I guess the question is, how you do that without coming across like you are calling meateaters heartless, and without scarring the kids for life? I would love to know the answer to that!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 2:44 pm

      @Katie: I agree – this is the issue that others brought up above. I am very curious as well.

    • Sarah AJ December 12, 2011, 3:01 pm

      @Katie: My oldest is only six, so we’re still a work-in-progress, but he knows what meat is and has chosen to try it once. We’ve been giving him the option when we’ve been at people’s houses where meat was a part of the meal since he was five, and I felt like he understood what it was. I’ve told him that I choose not to eat meat because I don’t like to eat dead animals, but that lots of people do like to eat meat, and he sees his dad eat it occasionally. He just takes it for what it is and so far hasn’t made any kind of judgement about meat-eaters (or hunters, for that matter, which there are a lot of around here, including both of his grandfathers), although he still identifies himself as a vegetarian. He does make an exception for desserts with gelatin in them, though, typical kid that he is. LOL

      • Katie December 12, 2011, 3:26 pm

        @Sarah AJ: That sounds like a good, balanced approach!!

  • Emily December 12, 2011, 2:37 pm

    GREAT post! I’m a vegetarian too (started at age 12) and I’ve wondered what I want to do about this when I have kids someday. I absolutely love your stance on this and think it’s something I’ll do too.

  • Faith @ For the Health of It December 12, 2011, 2:37 pm

    I was raised as a vegetarian and rebelled hardcore as a teenager (surprise surprise)…because my mother was very adamant that because she had problems digesting meat and was a vegetarian, I was not allowed to eat it either. I started trying it with my grandparents and out to eat with friends and decided I wanted it in my diet because I wanted it and because I was sick of her imposing something on me that I wanted no part of. (Hellloooo, teenage angst! Ha!) I ended up reverting to vegetariansim after several years in college, but with my own set of motivators. I think that’s the key – allowing kids to come up with their own set of reasons for their actions…especially (like you said) with a personal choice!

  • Colleen December 12, 2011, 2:38 pm

    You have a great attitude about this entire subject and thinking what may happen outside your home. Kids can be cruel. In our house, I teach – I say ‘I’ here because my husband doesn’t do the grocery shopping, meal planning, or cooking-unless it goes on the grill or comes out of a box – my kids they can have/try all food in moderation. I grew up this way and know if you restrict a certain food a child will over do it when they have the opportunity. I tend to make more chicken and fish dishes, but have beef and pork meals throughout the month. Luckily my kids love mac and cheese, cheese pizza, cereal, peanut butter, and egg sandwiches.

  • Rachel December 12, 2011, 2:38 pm

    I became a vegetarian in high school, and its funny how we both were afraid of our parents’ reactions to our diet choice. My mom was super supportive (my dad less-so but not in a negative way). She bought different “fake-meat” items for me to try, and she experimented with me some.

    I am now a vegan, and I always assume when I raise a child my household will be vegan, but what he/she does at a friend’s house is up to them. I won’t deny them a friend’s birthday cake (but I will buy them a vegan b-day cake!).
    I think most people who are against a meat-free childhood are misinformed about the quality of their diet and the ability to successfully raise a kid without meat. I also believe veganism/vegetarianism is a personal choice, and while I don’t force my views on other people, I am always willing to tell people why I chose to be vegan if they ask. Hopefully, as a society we will learn to treat the animals who give their lives to us with the respect they deserve (and less like objects without feelings).

  • Phoebe December 12, 2011, 2:40 pm

    For what it’s worth, I wanted to throw in that I was raised in a way that seems similar to what you’ll do for your baby. My mom is a vegetarian, so I was a vegetarian as a tiny one. (My first birthday cake was actually a heart-shaped piece of tofu!) I had meat for the first time when I was 6, because I wanted to know what a cheeseburger was, since that’s something my friends ate.

    I eat vegetarian meals about half of the time now, and although I do have a taste for meat, it is important to source the most ethically raised meat possible. I think that I have a very balanced way of eating and thinking about food, and I am actually very grateful to my mom for instilling that in me without any judgment when I did decide to eat meat on my own as a child.

    I also have had no digestive issues despite not having meat (and not much dairy) during my early development. I think you’re making a great decision and have a thoughtful approach!

  • Anna December 12, 2011, 2:41 pm

    It only makes sense that you would raise your children on a ‘diet’ that you know will benefit their health. I also think its important as your children get older to let them begin to make decisions like this for themselves, knowing that you’ve instilled in them good sense in food and nutrition. I know when I have kids I will serve them food I feel comfortable eating myself (so mostly a plant based diet) but I also want them to be able to eat what makes them feel healthiest (and keep my fingers crossed it is healthy!).

  • Lindsay December 12, 2011, 2:41 pm

    Your kid, your choice. We eat mainly vegetarian as a family. I do get joking backlash from family and friends. They also give me a hard time about the “healthy food” I feed my kids as well. Such as tofu, kale, brussel sprouts, almond milk, etc. To me, it seems as though it’s a lack of knowledge about what your body needs nutritionally. I try to joke along and keep things light, as not to get defensive. I know I am being the best mom and wife I can be for my healthy family. That’s all you can do.

  • Jacalyn December 12, 2011, 2:42 pm

    I am a vegetarian, my husband is not. Meat is in our house constantly. I ask my 2 year old what he wants to eat. If he wants a hot dog, I’ll cook it for him (I tried soy dogs and he said it tasted weird and wouldn’t eat it). I always offer my meal to him and sometimes he wants it, sometimes he doesn’t. What is interesting is that my son actually really likes tofu now and will order it when we go out to eat. The husband orders him a side of chicken just in case, but he never touches it. He always tears into the tofu. I am with you 100%. I just offer different types of foods and let him decide what he wants.

  • Abby December 12, 2011, 2:42 pm

    No kids yet, but this discussion has come up many times between my husband and me. I’m a vegetarian, but he’s not (and at this point, has no desire to become one). I pretty much have thought about the same things you have (not serving it at home, but allowing them to try it at a friend’s house, etc), but I’m not sure if that will be possible with hubby. We haven’t lived by ourselves since I went vegetarian this summer, so even though I don’t buy meat he will buy it or his parents will (oh the joys of living with in-laws ha). It’ll be interesting to see what happens when we get our own place this summer- Ideally our home will be meat-free and if he wants meat, he’ll need to get it at a restaurant. I’m just not sure if that will happen 🙂
    My other big concern will be my in-laws. They are already displaying signs of “not obeying the parents’ requests” (like giving our dog special wet food), and I’m worried that they will not take my requests seriously about not feeding our children meat. They believe in “kid food” (like hot dogs and mac & cheese) and I think they will have a very hard time when mom’s not watching her kids.
    We still have a few years before we have to worry about this, so hopefully by that point everyone will be a little more on board.

    • Katie December 12, 2011, 2:46 pm

      @Abby: I am worried about the in-laws as well! They have told me before that all kids “need hot dogs” because it’s a part of childhood. Really??! They also sneak chocolate to my nephew behind my brother-in-law’s back even though he has asked them not to because of health reasons. Anyone with advice for how to deal with this type of thing?

      • Jamila6452 December 12, 2011, 5:50 pm

        @Katie: First off, there are vegetarian hot dogs available everywhere. And it gets a lot easier when the kids themselves are old enough to say “No, I don’t want that. I don’t eat meat.”

  • Rachel C. December 12, 2011, 2:44 pm

    Great post and your perspective is great.
    I wasn’t raised vegetarian but I never did like meat. I was often made to eat at least a few bites of it at dinner and remember hating it! For me, not eating meat was simply a matter of not liking it. It wasn’t until I got older that I developed other reasons for not eating it.

  • Lauren December 12, 2011, 2:46 pm

    that’s really cool – teaching your kids the merits of your veggie lifestyle but also giving them the freedom to make their own choices. i’m a “weekday vegetarian” at the moment and only very rarely eat red meat, but when i am home my family balks at my food choices… that is, until they try my homemade hummus!

  • Ashley December 12, 2011, 2:48 pm

    I think your approach is perfect. If you wouldn’t eat it yourself there is no reason to serve it to your child in your own home. But allowing them to make the decision if meat is available at a friends house or something of that nature is an excellent way to promote your vegetarian lifestyle without forcing it upon your children.

    I’m not vegetarian, but have definitely started to take my diet in a different direction. Thus, I feed my child in a much more healthy way as well. Some of my friends don’t get it, and are constantly offering my toddler junk food or things that I don’t want her to eat. It is a tough situation, I don’t want to offend them, but I also don’t want my child asking for those things.

  • Sam December 12, 2011, 2:49 pm

    We have an unusual situation at our home. Our kids (my step-kids) are only with us 3 months out of the year so we cook all veg meals, and throw in some meat every now and then, especially if they ask for it (we don’t want to completely shock their systems!). We don’t try to make them feel bad or guilty or anything about wanting meat every now and then, but they know that when they are with us they will be getting mostly veg meals. The way I see it, we’re here to give them the knowledge to make their own educated choices once they’re on their own. They often help me with the weekly meal planning, and I’ve even caught them going through my vegan cookbooks for meal ideas! But if they were with us all the time, we would take your approach 🙂

  • Meagan December 12, 2011, 2:49 pm

    In a completely different way I relate to this post. Mainly because our family eats mostly Primal/Paleo, and explaining that to friends and family can get…tricky. We’re lax about social situations and we often get the opposite end of the arguments you get.

    However, I do want to say that on the health end of the perspective meat itself does nothing to promote heart disease or obesity. I assume your heart disease comment comes from the lipid hypothesis, (heart disease is caused by blood cholesterol levels, which are ramped up by saturate fat) which has proved to be untrue. This is a good post by a neurobiologist summing up some studies about it:

    Also, Mark’s Daily Apple takes on saturated fat here:

    I respect your balanced approach as always, Caitlin!

    • leah December 12, 2011, 3:05 pm

      @Meagan: thank you for pointing out something that was really bothering me! the line ” As Americans, we eat far too much meat, and it is bad for the animals and the planet. Our meat consumption is also exacerbating our nation’s health crisis (in terms of heart disease and cancer).” has no link to a source. As a public health professional I am curious where this is noted in research….

      • Chloe (In Fine Feather) December 12, 2011, 5:38 pm

        As for the bad for the planet argument:
        All it takes is a little Googling to find many reputable sources as to why Americans, in particular, should eat less meat.

        • Meagan December 12, 2011, 8:17 pm

          @Chloe (In Fine Feather):
          I don’t think anyone would argue with you that CAFO meat is bad for the environment. But that is not a meat-eaters only option. Income and resource permitting, meat eaters can choose well managed, pasture-raised meat which is beneficial to the environment. Plains and grassland environments need grazers to establish their grass/wildflower root systems, which, by the way, store large amounts of carbon and water as well as help to create rich soil. Those habitats also encourage biodiversity of plant and wildlife. Those herds can’t just expand forever, and humans have always been a predator to grazing animals. Thus, we have meat.

          Also, greenhouse gases aren’t the only environmental factor to consider. A vegetarian diet typically is made up of annual grasses and grains, which contribute to mass ecosystem destruction. Of course, CAFO meat is fed on those grains as well. Pasture-fed meat is not, and does not contribute to the problem that mono-cultures create (soil erosion, groundwater pollution, oceanic pollution, excessive amounts of nitrogen, mining of phosophorous, etc.)

          Here are some resources on the subject:

          In the Garden of Eden by Dan Dagget
          Meat by Simon Fairlie

          Here is an list of resources/studies on the environmental impact of managed-grazers:

          • Chloe (In Fine Feather) December 12, 2011, 11:18 pm

            My problem is this – where does most of our country get our meat? CAFO’s. Moving towards a more sustainable animal-husbandry system is a) not reasonable for most families and b) not realistic for the size of our current population, not to mention the global population. Meat is not a necessity. The fact that humans have evolved to raise animals does not mean that raising massive amounts of grazing animals is justification for providing more biodiversity to a select population.
            I would love to live in a world where ethical & sustainable farming was a common practice that could sustain our population but the fact of the matter is that Americans a) eat to much meat and b) raising animals contribute far more to global warming & other environmental issues than vegetarian farming does.

            Mark Bittman is a favorite of mine, and while he is not vegetarian he certainly pushes our society to think about eat a vegetarian diet most of the time.
            Here’s a great Ted talk by him:
            and an article on sustainable farming (excluding animal farming)

            The bottom-line is that humans will contribute to global destruction simply by living. Eating a vegetarian diet will help to ameliorate this problem, as will eating a more sustainable diet, which I agree with you whole heartedly on. I just think there is a lesser of two evils here that people can choose, but I’m also happy that we are having a discussion about this & hope other people gain some knowledge from both of our topics 🙂

        • leah December 13, 2011, 9:26 am

          @Chloe (In Fine Feather): Should eat less RED meat? Sure, but to generalize that all meats (including chicken, and pork) is exacerbating our national health crisis is a little extreme and outright wrong. And as Meagan points to above not all meat is bad for the environment.

          • Caitlin December 13, 2011, 9:29 am

            @leah: Yeah but 99.5% of meat in this country is raised and slaughtered using methods that ARE terrible for the environment. If you want to find ‘humane’ meat, you are going to have to go out of your way to buy it and pay a lot for it. Simply buying organic meat isn’t enough.

  • Ashley December 12, 2011, 2:55 pm

    Love this post. It should be in the Best of December post at the end of the month, hah! Really intelligent discussion on the issue and not that it’s anyone’s business anyways, but I love that you will be approaching raising your kiddo vegetarian with moderation. I think allowing BabyHTP to experiment/make his/her own choices will probably reinforce their inclination to stick with vegetarianism. Similarly to those who investigate other religions before making a firm commitment. So intelligent. I’m not even a vegetarian and I think this is awesome (although I do flirt with it!). Great post!

  • Michelle December 12, 2011, 3:01 pm

    This is an excellent post and I agree with your views almost 100%. As a vegetarian I get a TON of grief from people (potential guys to date are the WORST) about the way I eat but if I was ever to say ANYTHING to anyone about what they eat I’m labeled as a crazy vegetarian.

    I actually don’t want anyone to give up meat unless they 100% want too. I get that people like it. What I do want is for people to be aware where that meat is coming from. It drives me crazy when a friend wil say “oh yea I know the conditions in most meat factories are awful but I try not to think about it.” I just want everyone to eat mindfully and be aware of what they’re putting in their bodies!

  • Alex December 12, 2011, 3:02 pm

    Wow, this is such a healthy approach (pun intended!). I am not a vegetarian, but I rarely eat meat and definitely agree in the health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

    However, when I read your title I was apprehensive based on my strong Christian upbringing. Beliefs are beliefs, after all! Although I completely understood my parents wanting to raise me as they believed, I felt constantly abated by the way their beliefs affected my life. I barely considered myself a strong Christian, yet I was in church EVERY Sunday and never given the option to opt-out of Sunday school. Although I completely understood their need to raise me as a Christian in their house, I never really felt like the decision was my own because of what I was forced to do outside the house.

    Giving your child your beliefs along with the freedom to make their own is really strong parenting, and something I can’t wait to do for my own future children!

    Stay healthy and strong!


  • claire December 12, 2011, 3:06 pm

    It’s so great to read this! We have applied the same line of thinking to our 10 month old. We will only serve her a vegan diet, but she is free to explore outside of our home. We hope she will grow up to be a conscientious eater and free of any weird eating issues.

  • stacy December 12, 2011, 3:07 pm


    I love this post. I too am a vegetarian, but my partner is not. The way we compromise as a couple is to only cook vegetarian at home, but when we eat out, he can eat whatever he wants. This way, we don’t financially support the meat industry, cook meat in the house, or have it around. Plus, I can eat everything we make. We eat out maybe a few times a month. Anyway, when (and if) we have children, I will feed them vegetarian at home, but let them choose at a restaurant or friend’s house what to do. I would hate my child not being able to eat pepperoni pizza or something at a sleepover!

    Thanks for the insights!

  • Cat @Breakfast to Bed December 12, 2011, 3:09 pm

    How in the hell is it any different from raising your kid Kosher or Halal or Religious Veggies like Buddhists or Hindus?? Feed your kids according to your ethics/beliefs. No one else’s opinion matters. Is your kid healthy? Getting all of their iron, protein, lutein, micronutrients? YES? Then people should hush it.

    Seriously, moms are WAXING their toddler’s eyebrows for pageants. That is way more disturbing.

  • Anna December 12, 2011, 3:09 pm

    For whatever this is worth, I’ve been vegetarian my whole life, (I’m 23) and it was one of the best decisions my parents ever made. I wasn’t teased about it at school – there was initial curiosity, but then everyone moved on. I still get incredulous looks from people when I tell them I have never eaten meat – They often can’t believe it and always ask ‘But how do you live without meat’. I reply that I have clearly managed, and ran 10kms yesterday thank you very much 😉
    The only real problem I had was when I was a teen and became slightly aneamic – but easily and relatively quickly remedied.
    Personally, I think its fine to not buy/store/prepare meat in your house – after all its your house. As for telling you kid that cows = animals = you puppy = also an animal, well, in my opinion, I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s true after all. My parents phrased it to me in a similar way (I would have been 7-8) and it allowed me to understand exactly what they meant. I probably liked that they didn’t try any wishy-washy phrases. Meat is what it is and I imagine it does a disservice to try and hide it.
    But, whatever you choose to do will be the right thing for you and your family. 🙂

  • R. Chandra December 12, 2011, 3:10 pm

    Hi Caitlin. I don’t comment too much but I read your blog at least a few times a week. 🙂

    I had to chime in here! I was raised a vegetarian, I’ve never eaten meat in my life (I’m 21). I have no desire or need to ever do. My mom is an amazing cook and always made the best food. I never felt deprived or wanted to eat meat, EVER. Just because I was raised that way meat is super strange to me and eating it is a completely foreign, disgusting concept.

    Haha, and yes, I totallllllly admit I can be one of those holier-than-thou vegetarians, because, well.. I just feel so strongly that eating animals is completely wrong. BUT, for about 6 months in the beginning of this year, I actually tried vegan-ism for the first time. This was the first time I’d ever altered my diet, cut myself off from a food group. And it was HARD! So hard that I decided I really missed/wanted to eat dairy and went back to just vegetarianism. After the experience I had a lot more of an understanding & sympathy for how it feels for a meat-eater to go vegetarian.

    I know my case is pretty rare & I’m definitely extreme & my parents are definitely extreme, but just wanted to throw in my support for raising your kids veggie. 🙂

  • Jaclyn December 12, 2011, 3:10 pm

    This might have been asked and I’m sorry if I’ve missed it, but how come you guys chose not to eat vegan? Just curious, I’m not one of those judgemental vegans, my husband isn’t vegan and I know this will be a major discussion when we have kids. Great post!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 3:11 pm

      @Jaclyn: I just honestly dont want to be. I love eggs and dairy too much.

      • Kira December 12, 2011, 3:16 pm

        @Freya: @Caitlin: Same. I don’t think I could live without my milk, eggs, and cheese. It’s hard to say that since I know those animals are also hurt. My cousins were raised vegans (never have tried meat once) and they are healthy just like meat-eaters. I think it is easier being raised w/o dairy then stopping when older (vegan not vegetarian).

  • Amanda December 12, 2011, 3:11 pm

    That is such a great way to approach raising kids and food choices. Why would you feed them differently than yourself? And why would not let them experimet with what they like? Great job. Don’t let the haters get you down!

  • Kira December 12, 2011, 3:12 pm

    I agree with you 100%. I went vegetarian almost one year ago (January 1!!) and I will raise my children vegetarian in my home. I was also a giant carnivore before (medium rare cajun ribeyes, yummm) but after watching the video on I no longer could support an industry that abuses animals. If my future children want to eat meat (when out or at a friends) then I will not mind because they need to make the decision on their own. I do not believe in forcing my beliefs on anyone especially since I was a heavy meat-eater previously. Kudos to you for being brave enough to post this. <3

    • Kira December 12, 2011, 3:19 pm

      @Kira: I know I comment so infrequently but this post really hits home for me.

  • Freya December 12, 2011, 3:12 pm

    I haven’t the time to read all the other comments, so I’ll just give my two cents.
    Perfect attitude! My mum has been vegetarian (bar fish and chicken) for about 25years. She raised my sister and I the same, with no pressure. SHE didn’t serve us red meat, but we were free to try, and we were well educated about farming. My sister and I both chose to have the same diet as my mum. Now, my sister eats meat occasionally, whist I am vegan, and my mum is fine with both. It’s a personal choice.

    Personally, I would raise my child vegan – because I 100% believe the ethics and health benefits behind it – but I’d be open if my child wanted to experiment. If something is off limits, one wants it more, so it’s better to keep the door ajar.

    Great attitude Caitlin!

  • Ashley // Our Little Apartment December 12, 2011, 3:13 pm

    I have exactly the same philosophy for my son. And as a 15-month-old, he’s had WAY more adventurous foods than many adults I know! 😉

  • Tara December 12, 2011, 3:13 pm

    Great discussion. I was raised vegetarian and have never had any meat in my 30 years of life. I went vegan about 2 years ago after learning more about the dairy industry. So on the one hand this has never been an issue for me or my family (I’m strong and healthy and run marathons), but on the other hand, I’m nowhere close to being married or having kids. I honestly don’t think I’d be able to marry someone who didn’t share my food beliefs and morals (I’m probably one of the judgmental veggie people you don’t like. I would never say anything to anyone without invitation, but if people ask me, I’m not gonna sugar coat it). I also wonder (and this will probably push some buttons), as has been discussed above, what’s so wrong with telling a child, yes, we love our dogs and cats and they are the same as cows and pigs and that’s why we don’t eat any of these friends, and then having the child, on his or her own, make the decision that other people ARE in fact a little heartless? To ME, that is the truth. It doesn’t mean I didn’t have tons of meat eating friends as a child. I certainly did. I didn’t get into arguments with them about food morals – we were kids. And yet, I DID think and DO think that eating dead animals is weird and heartless. I’m not going to brainwash my kids into this belief, but when I explain that animals are our friends and so we don’t eat them, I have no problem with the kids deciding on their own that other people are making the wrong decision.

    Let the hate and “you hippie vegan” comments begin.

    • Kira December 12, 2011, 3:18 pm

      @Tara: Honestly, I never judge people who are not vegetarians but when they ask me my opinion I tell them the truth!! Then they usually say stop I don’t want to hear.. well, don’t ask me why I went veg then… b/c all though it’s sad ITS THE TRUTH. animals are abused in factory farming and it’s wrong

  • Nicole December 12, 2011, 3:16 pm

    Just curious how you will explain to your kid how/ why your dogs eat meat.

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 3:21 pm

      @Nicole: Oooo good question! I feed them meat now because although I know they can be healthy vegetarians (cats can’t) I don’t feel like I have the proper knowledge to feed and supplement them correctly. I need to do more research on the subject, actually!

      • Anna December 12, 2011, 4:38 pm

        @Caitlin: Just say they are animals, they get to? In as much as I am vegetarian, wont by meat or animal products for myself, I cant deprive my dogs of meat – it is what they eat. I know they can survive on vegetarian food, but I’d rather give them meat. I just try to be as careful as possible in choosing the meat to give them (Though, as a disclaimer, If my dogs weren’t fed meat, I’m 100% sure they would go out and get it themself. My dogs are kinda feral farm dogs though 🙂 )

        • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 4:44 pm

          @Anna: Maggie would lie in the middle of the street and just starve to death.

        • Sara S. December 13, 2011, 3:32 pm

          @Anna: I guess the argument your kids could possibly make (when they are older) is that as humans we are animals too 🙂

  • Brita December 12, 2011, 3:17 pm

    Although my boyfriend and I aren’t ready for kids yet, we have this discussion all the time! I’m a vegetarian who can’t imagine feeding nuggets (or any meat) to my children, and he’s a former hunter (!) who loves meat at every meal.
    He feels strongly that the decision to become a vegetarian should be the child’s, and so they should be fed meat until they’re old enough to make their own decision. I think that I wasn’t given the decision to be a meat eater for the first 23 years of my life, it’s just what my parents put in front of me, so I ate it! How is that a choice? What fascinates me the most is how completely supportive of my decision he is… it makes me think that his real concern is that people would think his kids were “weird.”
    Anyway, it’s an interesting debate and I look forward to seeing what you feed BabyHTP. This blog will be my secret weapon! I’ll gather up all the good vegetarian baby ideas and dazzle him down the road 🙂

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 3:21 pm

      @Brita: heheh 🙂

  • Kelly December 12, 2011, 3:20 pm

    I’m years away from having kids, but this is an issue that’s very important to me. I can’t imagine feeding my future-babies meat, as I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life.
    My husband eats meat, and so do both of our families. If I set out to raise my baby vegetarian (in a manner similar to what you described) – I will face resistance. Your post was so well-written, and puts how I feel into words so effectively! This will be bookmarked, and shared with family the next time this issue comes up.
    Thank you for your wonderful words. 🙂

  • Orla December 12, 2011, 3:20 pm

    I think that nobody has the right to comment on the lifestyle or dietary changes you or anyone else makes or follows. Your child will be loved, cared for, provided for and shown how important they are as that should be all that matters to anyone.
    Im veggie, my partners not and if we’re lucky enough to Have kids I’d probably raise them 99% veggie purely because I make 99% of the food in the house.

  • JenRD December 12, 2011, 3:20 pm

    Great post–I can see that you have put a lot of thought into your decision. As a dietitian, I see far too often people who become vegetarians and have a very unbalanced, unhealthy diet. They eat wayyyy too many white carbs and cheese, and (shocker) few veggies! Because you eat (and advocate) a balanced approach to eating vegetarian, with healthy carbs, adequate protein, healthy fats, and of course veggies, I know that your fetus and baby will get the nutrients they need to thrive.
    On a personal note, one thing I feel strongly about is that there is no need for soda or juice in my home. Simply put, I would much rather my child drink water, seltzer, or milk, and eat their fruit rather than drink it–they get many more nutrients that way (from the skin and flesh of the fruit). But, if they want to drink juice at a friend’s, or soda at a birthday party, that is fine–I don’t want them to stand out.


    • faith December 12, 2011, 3:37 pm

      @JenRD: I understand your point Jen but I would like to add that there are just as many (or more!) meat eaters with crappy, unbalanced diets as there are vegetarians or vegans.
      The people who become vegetarian and live on pasta and cheese were probably living on pasta, cheese, and meat before, I doubt they actually decreased their consumption of veggies when they began cutting out meat.
      Just like you are saying, any “diet” can have good nutritional balance or be totally out of balance.

      • JenRD December 12, 2011, 9:00 pm

        @faith: oh, I absolutely agree and see it every day in my career! I didn’t write that to compare vegetarians to non-vegetarians, but merely to say that some meat-eaters may not believe that a well-planned vegetarian diet can include all of the nutrients a pregnant mom, and growing child, could need.

  • Corrie @ Blurb Column December 12, 2011, 3:22 pm

    This is why I think “labeling” can be so harmful. When we create a label for something it often creates a separation from the “norm”, allowing for othering, teasing or harrassing to occur. I say: just eat food. I will pay attention to what I eat and other people can pay attention to what they eat. The end.

  • faith December 12, 2011, 3:32 pm

    My two sisters and I were raised as pescatarians (fish eating vegetarian) because our parents stopped eating meat before we were born. While it was challenging at times when I was over at a friend’s house or we were traveling, I never resented my parents for “not letting” me eat meat. Both of my sisters and my mom now eat meat but I’ve only had a few bites throughout my life, I really have no interest in it. I’m glad that I was raised without a reliance on and taste for meat.

  • Kristina December 12, 2011, 3:32 pm

    I went vegetarian my last year of high school and it was very hard. Not because I loved meat (blech), but because I grew up in a small town where people were a little bit more set in their ways. Nobody I knew was a vegetarian, and certainly nobody in my Italian family was, either. But my family has been nothing short of amazing towards this. My Nonna is quite religious and has been a strict Catholic for years and years, and has never ever pushed her religious beliefs on us, never forcing us to church, never doing anything we weren’t totally comfortable with. My family has always been that way, and so once they all could wrap their heads around me not eating meat they started making all vegetarian meals for the entire family, making more options for me, etc.

    Just from personal experience, the more open minded to a multitude of things you and your social circle are, the easier it is. I know that sounds like quite a simple thing to say, but its so true, and I think we all forget that if we don’t want people pushing their beliefs on us, we can push our own on others either. I respect those who choose not to eat meat, and I also respect those who do, but personally I dont want to consume it for a variety of reasons, and don’t want a meat eater pushing pork chops in my face just as I wouldn’t want a religious person forcing me into prayer – so why would I preach to them?

    I love your approach to this Caitlin, and think it is very open minded of you and the Husband!

    • Kristina December 12, 2011, 3:34 pm

      @Kristina: sorry I meant to say “CAN’T push our own on others either” But now that I read that it should probably be SHOULDN’T push our own beliefs.

  • Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY December 12, 2011, 3:34 pm

    I cannot believe some people’s ignorance. I have several Indian friends who have never eaten a bite of meat (and barely any dairy food) in their lives. All of them are perfectly healthy.

    Interestingly one of the friends I mentioned has babies that are being raised veg and the 5 year old asked for chicken nuggets recently and loved them. So now he wants chicken nuggets at McDonalds, but that’s about it.

  • Tiffany December 12, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Caitlin, I always learn something when I read your blog and I love that!!

    I’ve been vegetarian for almost a year now and I think its the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. I think that when I have kids I will raise them vegetarian and incorporate your idea of being lenient if they want to try it at a restaurant or eat meat at a friends house. I believe letting your child decide what is right for them is creates less resentment towards parents.

    I always say I’m going to have a healthy home and I won’t feed my kids chips or packaged foods or have them in the house…but my mom reminds me “what if they want to try it?” and she’s right. I’m not going to deny them these things but I hope that if i set a good example for them to eat healthy then they will realize on their own that chips and candy are not the greatest options.

    I probably wont keep such food in the house but if they want to try it while were out as a treat, i think it would be fine. I’m not a mom yet so I know I have all these ideas that may seem strict…but when I have kids I will be very open minded because I dont want to be going crazy over the little things in life.

    Thanks for a great post! 🙂

  • Jillian December 12, 2011, 3:37 pm

    I think you’ve found the perfect balance. My mom had a similar policies – in a general sense – “Here’s what we believe and here’s what happens in this house. If you are interested in other religions, diets, etc. I will allow you (or even help you) learn about it or try it.” I think the stance where a child is expressly forbidden from something only fosters rebellion. We had nothing to rebel against.

  • Lindsay Loves Veggies December 12, 2011, 3:37 pm

    I completely agree with your philosophy on this! I’m mostly vegan and my boyfriend is omni, but we don’t keep meat in the house. When I have kids I would only feed them plant food in the house, but if they wanted to try meat elsewhere I wouldn’t stop them. I really like the way you were able to put this.

  • Nikki December 12, 2011, 3:41 pm

    I am not a vegetarian, but I think this is a fantastic and well-thought out post. One suggestion regarding the baby – it’s helpful not even to tell your child they are “vegetarian”. Children don’t put labels on themselves, adults do. If we think about it, there’s really very little reason for anyone to label themselves as such – it’s just a reflection of what we eat. Kids don’t tease each other for being vegetarians until they’ve been taught to classify themselves that way. Just a thought!

  • Maureen December 12, 2011, 3:42 pm

    I really like your laid back approach to this topic, giving your child(ren) your views but allowing them to form their own opinions.

    You would be surprised though at just how young some of those opinions start for a child. It’s been fascinating honestly to watch my daughter grow and already form her own opinion on various topics (including food). Right around 2 1/2 she stopped eating meat on her own, she is being raised in an omnivore home where both her father an I do eat meat but of her own free will she just stopped. She never cared for pork, refused to try bacon, steak or red meat from the day she was born and cut out turkey and chicken over a year ago. I’ve talked extensively with her pediatrician about it and our approach has been to NEVER force her to eat something. I don’t want dinner time to become a battle, and I certainly don’t want her to grow up have “issues” with food. So while our diets changed a great deal for the better in the last few years I’d venture to say that her choices have been the greatest impact on our family. After all I’m not going to fight with my (now) 3 1/2 year old about eating chicken if she’s requesting to make fresh juice to eat with her dinner.

    Anyways, I know that’s a really long tangent but as a parent now it has been really remarkable to watch my daughter grow and make those own choices and opinions you say you’ll allow your children to.

  • Cynthia December 12, 2011, 3:42 pm

    I love your approach to this. It is really no different than most other parent’s out there (and mine). When I got old enough to articulate my disapproval of what was for dinner I was told “you can eat it, you can make something else or you can go buy something else with your money, but I’m not cooking twice for you.” I almost always ate what was on the table!

  • Julie (A Case of the Runs) December 12, 2011, 3:44 pm

    I didn’t get a chance to read the other comments, but this is something I think about often. I eat a pescatarian diet (and a vegetarian diet strictly for 6 years prior) and more often than not, vegan. My boyfriend is from eastern Europe, where meat and potatoes runs king. My cultures also consume a lot of meat. It poses no real problem for us living together, but I guess all issues get multipled when you have kids.

    That said, I don’t plan on serving meat to my kid — what my spouse, grandparents, etc. will do is another story. I will explain the reasons I don’t eat meat but won’t force it… I feel like it’s the kind of decision you need to be old enough to make.

  • Ally December 12, 2011, 3:50 pm

    Gosh, Caitlin, I don’t know you personally at all, but I feel like I can confidently say you are going to make an AWESOME mother!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 3:53 pm

      @Ally: TY!!

  • Philippa December 12, 2011, 3:59 pm

    It was really interesting reading your post. Most of the blogs I read seem to be veggie bloggers and to be honest I hadn’t really given it a second thought – even as a meat eater myself! I grew up in a meat eating family and most of my friends were the same. I do have vegetarian friends and when we eat out it is never an issue. I guess it is different when children are involved, but I totally understand your stance. If both you and your husband are vegetarians it makes total sense that you would raise your children as a vegetarian. I do tend to eat less meat these days, probably a hang over from my university days of being on a serious budget. To be honest I don’t miss it too much, but I definitely couldn’t give up my mum’s weekend roast!

    One thing I am clear on though is this whole ‘guilt’ debate. I grew up in a family with dogs, cats, horses, hamsters & guinea pigs. I have always lived in the countryside, surrounded by farms and when I was a child we reared our own lambs and cows, which we then had slaughtered and ate. We loved and cherished those animals, indeed my sister and I bottle fed the lambs. But I ate them with no guilt because I knew they had had a good life and no part of their bodies were wasted. To me eating meat is not a problem if I know where it comes from and how the animal was treated in life. I am sure there are nutritional benefits to vegetarianism (I can’t comment on that, although my sister as a dietician probably could!) but I like my meat!

  • Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} December 12, 2011, 3:59 pm

    I really like your laid-back approach to what your child(ren) will eat at friends’ houses. I take this same approach when it comes to high-sugar foods and processed snacks/treats. I don’t make them or serve them at home, but I won’t make my children not eat them at friends’ houses. In the end I hope, of course, they choose to not eat too much of these things, but to force them to totally avoid those foods is only going to cause them to want them more, in my opinion. Children do need to be able to make their own choices on occasion and feel empowered in that way.

  • Amanda (modernation) December 12, 2011, 4:03 pm

    I think this is great. We are not vegetarians, but we feel the same way about processed foods and junk food. We are not going to serve that to our kids at home on a regular basis, but if their friends’ parents serve sugary cereal at a sleepover, we won’t care. Even with my GOTR girls, I refuse to buy them Honey Nut Cheerios for snack versus regular. Even though they complain, they all eat the regular ones and no one goes hungry!

  • Cristina December 12, 2011, 4:04 pm

    I think that it’s great that you’re going to raise your kids vegetarian. If they want to eat meat when they’re grown up, I’m sure they will, but why would you purchase and prepare food for them that isn’t part of your diet?

    Out of curiosity, what do you feed your dogs? I imagine that the animals used for dog food are treated are largely the same animals that we eat, with the better cuts saved for humans. I’m under the impression that dogs need a LOT of protein, so what alternatives are out there (eggs? soy?)? Or do people feed their dogs fish-based food as an alternative?

    • lauren December 12, 2011, 4:11 pm

      @Cristina: We feed our dogs a Taste of the Wild – Pacific Stream, a fish-based food (high protein) strictly because one of our dogs has severe allergies to chicken & beef. So, there are foods like that out there!

      • Mel December 12, 2011, 4:14 pm


        I’m confused by this thread. How is fish an alternative to chicken or cow? Fish can also feel pain and are treated inhumanely and fishing is just as disastrous for the environment as factory farming of chickens and cows.

        • Cristina December 12, 2011, 4:24 pm

          @Mel: Sorry, I didn’t mean that fish is an alternative to meat, I just meant that it might be a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional dog food. Do you know of any truly vegetarian canine diets?

          @Lauren-I feed my dogs Taste of the Wild as well, but the normal red meat varieties.

          • Michelle @ Lifewithacrazypup December 12, 2011, 7:53 pm

            @Cristina: I’m actually not a vegetarian and I had never planned to raise my children, much less dogs as vegetarian. However, one of my Goldens has a food allergy that he’s had since he was a puppy. We could never determine whether it was the lamb, chicken, etc in his food. We ended up switching his food to Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin. This food can be food at Petsmart or Petco and is pretty reasonably priced. It is made with no animal byproducts and has all of the nutrients your dog needs for a healthy diet. Hunter’s skin has completely cleared up. Also, he’s prone to ear infections from his allergy and he hasn’t had a single one since we switched his food.

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 5:54 pm

      @Cristina: We feed them organix and Paul Newman’s because they both are organic-based dog food. I said above that I’m not really knowledgeable about how to healthily make my dogs vegetarian (supplements, etc) so I’ve never felt comfortable doing it. We don’t have a vet who supports that view, either.

      • Cristina December 13, 2011, 5:05 pm

        @Caitlin: Good to know! I have heard of people having “vegetarian” dogs (in quotes since it’s not the dogs’ choice), but I wasn’t sure if there was a healthy way to do this, or a way to do it using commercial dog food. Thanks for the input!

  • Rebecca December 12, 2011, 4:08 pm

    I totally understand your reasons for being a vegetarian. I have been trying to eat less meat lately. I considered becoming a vegetarian, but I can be a bit of a picky eater. Plus I love meat too much! 🙂

    • Rebecca December 12, 2011, 4:12 pm

      @Rebecca: Also, your recipes look so delicious!

  • Sarah@The Flying ONION December 12, 2011, 4:10 pm

    I think you’re being smart about nutrition. Speaking from a dietitian’s perspective, I see a lot of kids being raised on french fries and chicken nuggets. Yeah, they’re getting their protein…so what? People forget about those little guys called the micronutrients, which your kids will get plenty of, considering how health conscious you are with the foods that you choose to eat.

    And I like your thoughts on letting your kids figure it out as they get older. It’s the same with any healthy eating, really. I don’t have kids right now, but I can assure you I’ll be cooking all kinds of healthy foods when I do (and getting them involved as much as possible!) But I don’t want to be THAT mom who refuses to let her kids have a soda or a cupcake or a mcdonalds cheeseburger. 😉

    Great post, Caitlyn!! 😀

  • StoriesAndSweetPotatoes December 12, 2011, 4:10 pm

    This is a great, balanced, honest post. Truthfully, I feel strongly that kids should not be raised any particular diet and allowed to naturally gravitate towards what sounds good to them and what their bodies respond to well. Part of this is from an eating disorder perspective. I think it’s far easier than most people acknowledge to raise a disordered eater and I wouldn’t wish that hell on anyone. I also think it’s entirely possible to raise a vegetarian child IF you know what you’re doing both in terms of their health and mental wellness. The real problem is that most people DO NOT.

  • Mel December 12, 2011, 4:13 pm

    It seems weird that it would be news that any mother raised a veggie kid. There are tons of vegetarian celebrities.

    I would scope out this uh-DORE-able series from vegansaurus on happy vegetarian/vegan kids. It is so cute you will die.

  • Susan December 12, 2011, 4:14 pm

    I would like to make two comments:

    It’s not meat consumption that’s exacerbating the health crisis, it’s just over consumption in general.

    Also, the health benefits of being vegetarian spring more from increased vegetable and fruit intake than from decreased meat consumption.

  • dana December 12, 2011, 4:14 pm

    I became a vegetarian by choice at a very young age…my parents thought that I was just being difficult, but soon realized I loved all vegetables, but refused to eat meat. By the age of 5, I didn’t eat meat at all. I was never teased in school or by friends for not eating bologna or ham sandwiches. No one really seemed to care.

    I have a friend who was raised vegan. She switched to Lacto-ovo-vegetarianism in high school and now that she’s 30, she’s a full-fledged meat eater. She has said that she never had issues w/it when she was young.

  • Rebecca December 12, 2011, 4:21 pm

    I grew up in a house where we were encouraged to try new things. If we didn’t like what was being prepared, we could make ourselves a PB(&J) sandwich or not eat until breakfast. Heh. It wasn’t like we were eating meat for every meal (and I remember one night in particular my sister literally ate mashed potatoes as her entire dinner because she’d forgotten about everything else on the table), but we don’t not eat it, either.
    I am thinking about giving up meat like over Lent next year, just to see what would happen. I know a few people who gave up red meat this past Lent and I thought about it but didn’t. Maybe this next time around I’ll see what happens.
    My dad works for Jennie-O (turkey store/company), but I don’t think he’d care if my sister or I gave up meat. We probably won’t, because we love meat, but… I grew up hearing a little bit about what happens to the birds and whatever, and it never bothered me enough to quit eating meat. Maybe I’m an exception to a rule?

  • Mel December 12, 2011, 4:27 pm

    Oh, also it’s very nice to say that you don’t think your diet is better than anyone else’s but I will go ahead and think it is for you. 🙂 Vegetarianism is just objectively better.

  • Megan @ Newly Wife December 12, 2011, 4:28 pm

    Great post. Have you ever used the meatless-meat options? Like shredded “chicken” sandwiches? I’m not a vegetarian, but I know they sell some amazing meatless options at Fresh & Easy. Then your child might feel like they aren’t missing out. Just a thought.

  • Emily December 12, 2011, 4:32 pm

    Thank you for posting this! I think you handled the issue of childhood vegetarianism very well. I was raised vegetarian and my parents were often criticized for “pushing” their beliefs on me. In reality, there was no “pushing” involved. When I was old enough to make my own decisions, I did…and I chose vegetarianism.

  • PressureCookerDiaries December 12, 2011, 4:33 pm

    I don’t think it’s too much meat that is hurting our country, rather too few vegetables. It’s not quite the same issue. Most people are lucky to get one veggie a day as a side with dinner (and maybe it won’t be iceberg lettuce…)

    • Tania @ The Health Macadamia January 5, 2012, 12:31 pm

      I love when people say things like this: they go hand in hand. If you ate more veggies, there wouldn’t be more room for meat. Why be fickle about which does it and just do it, ya know?

  • Jessica December 12, 2011, 4:43 pm

    I am a mom of 2 (ages 3, 19mos) and pregnant with #3 (due in April), and we are mostly vegan-ish. We are not strict, and I let my kids eat meat and/or dairy on occasion. I found a great ped, and OB that are in full support. As you know, there is nothing “wrong” with not eating meat. For us, it’s a health decision – I just don’t see the point in filling my kids arteries up with bad cholesterol and fats. We eat more whole foods, my kids are never sick, I’ve never had to deal with (sorry to be so forth coming) with baby constipation or pregnancy constipation (we ALL know it happens! lol). Actually, going into my 3rd pregnancy I am considered obese, and I found that sticking to a plant based diet has helped to control unwanted cravings and extreme weight gain. I’m 6 mos, and only gained 2.5 lbs (I think I would have lost weight if I wasn’t preggo). My docter is extremely pleased with the baby’s measurements, yadda yadda yadda. I think, from a nutritional stand point, having a vegetarian child is the way to go!

  • Brooke @ sweats & sweets December 12, 2011, 4:44 pm

    I see nothing wrong with raising your baby vegetarian. I find it to be a healthier way of live then most Americans. Do you seriously want your child to grow up thinking McDonalds is good food? I read once that is where most children get their meat intake, through fast food and NOT at home cooked by their parents. Sick. I’m not a big red meat eater, I stick to chicken and fish and tons of veggies.

  • Dori December 12, 2011, 4:46 pm

    That is exactly what I plan on doing one day. I won’t cook meat in my house, but I won’t restrict my kids from eating what they want with their friends. I think it is a great solution.

  • Steph December 12, 2011, 4:49 pm

    I really enjoy your blog, but I feel like I have to respectfully say something about this post. How can you give up meat for “the love of animals and the environment” and continue to eat dairy and eggs? What makes one decision better than the other? You are still participating in a hurtful industry when you consume eggs and dairy – even if they are organic. Cows need to be pregnant all of the time in order to produce milk. Would you want to be pregnant all the time? Diet is very much a personal decision. I agree with you. However, if you are going to post to such a large audience, I just think there needs to be more responsibility. You kind of sound like you don’t fully understand the horrors of the dairy and egg industry.

    • Kate December 12, 2011, 5:25 pm

      Caitlin – Have you read Eating Animals?

      • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 5:36 pm

        @Kate: Yes – such a good book!

        Also, Steph – I explain my views about eating dairy above, but basically it’s that I don’t want to give it up. I do feel like this kind of commenting falls under the “my diet is holier than yours” thought process… Veganism is not right for everyone. I never said my diet was perfect.

        • Kate December 13, 2011, 12:13 pm

          I get where Steph is coming from.

          I myself am a vegetarian 100% of the time and a Vegan around 70%.

          My reasons for not eating meat are ethical, environmental and compassion based.

          I also know that by eating dairy once in a while, which I do, I am a hypocrite.

          BUT I also think we all just do what we can and even if people just did one meat free day a week, it could make a difference. You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference 🙂

          I admire Vegans. And hope to one day become one. Because really, if my reasons for not eating meat have anything to do with the treatment of animals, well vegans are “holier” than me because the way they eat causes even less harm to animals.

          And those are my thoughts 🙂

          (Great post by the way!)

        • Steph December 13, 2011, 2:57 pm

          @Caitlin: Caitlin, I never said I was a vegan. So I am not coming from a place of “my diet is holier than yours.” I was simply trying to raise a valid question in a respectful way. If you care about one, then why not that other … that’s all.

          • Kate December 13, 2011, 3:09 pm


            I thought your comment was both valid and respectful.

  • Hillary December 12, 2011, 5:03 pm

    I think about this a lot, actually. I’d like my kids to eat “real” foods, minimal fast food, and minimal junk, but like you, I’m not going to be crazy about it. I was raised under some pretty strict and restrictive dietary rules, and I definitely don’t want to inflict those on my kids.

  • Katherine December 12, 2011, 5:04 pm

    Too many comments to read through, but wanted to say a couple of things. My best friend and her husband are vegan and so is there 10 year old. When he went to his first birthday party as a youngster she told him he could have some cake if he wanted, but that it had cow’s milk and chicken eggs in it – the choice was his. As you can imagine he decided to have some cake, but stopped right before eating it and said aloud “thank you mama chicken for your eggs and thank you mama cow for you milk.” I think bringing children up to appreciate the gift’s animals are giving us when we use them as a food source is incredibly important.

    That being said, I am planning to raise my 5 month old as a vegetarian for at least the first year or so she is eating solids. I see no need to introduce meat to her early. I am currently a meat eater (was a vegetarian for over 10 years prior to eating meat again.) I was encouraged to start eating meat again by two acupuncturists/Chinese medicine doctors for my eczema/allergy issues. Acupuncture is my primary healthcare and has been for many years. Beginning to eat meat again really was healthier for my body. I know all conditions are different, but wonder if your husband ever has (as a vegetarian) advised that before. Just curious. Thanks – I look forward to reading all the comments when there’s more time.

  • Shannon @ Mon Amour December 12, 2011, 5:19 pm

    I love your view on raising your children vegetarian. I am a vegetarian too and people always tell me I am going to have to start eating meat when I have children to set a good example for them. I think by allowing them to make their own decisions when they aren’t home they will not resent being vegetarian

  • Rebecca @ Naturally Healthy and Gorgeous December 12, 2011, 5:20 pm

    What a great topic! I am a vegetarian and my husband isn’t, so that will be an interesting topic for us someday!

  • Jamila6452 December 12, 2011, 5:31 pm

    Hey there, I’m a vegan raising a vegetarian child. He’s an extremely healthy 5 year old now, and what I love is that he is CHOOSING to be vegetarian at this point. His father and grandparents all eat meat and I never forbade him from eating it, but since I was the one feeding him 99% of the time, his access to it was infrequent. And I was honest from the very beginning about why I don’t eat meat. I believe kids are naturally very compassionate towards animals and it’s not difficult to encourage that – I would think it would be harder to make them circumvent it! Since he was about 3, he’s been saying that he’s a vegetarian too and turning it down if someone offered him meat (whereas before, he would eat the odd chicken nugget at his grandparents’). Addressing the “why do other people that I love eat meat?” has been the hardest part. I explain frequently that it’s something everyone has to think about for themselves and make their own choices about. I tell him that I ate meat once upon a time too, before I realized I didn’t want to anymore and that maybe some of his other family will change their habits too. We both try to be proud of our compassionate choices towards animals, while still being respectful of other people.

    Incidentally, he’s in kindergarten now and school lunches are so not a problem. He’s not teased at all, the teachers often compliment him on the great meals I pack, and if he wants to buy they have at least 2 vegetarian choices every single day. Social situations aren’t hard either – every birthday party around here has cheese pizza. Veganism would pose more challenges, but he’s decided that he’s still lacto-ovo for now at least.

  • Catherine December 12, 2011, 5:35 pm

    You might enjoy reading the blog Green Kitchen Stories if you don’t already. They are raising their daughter vegetarian and sugar free. They did a very interesting post as well.

  • katie @ KatieDid December 12, 2011, 5:40 pm

    I agree with your approach to allowing them to choose for themselves when they reach that age. We never had any sort of food rules, restrictions, or judgements in my home growing up and I am SO thankful for that. On the other hand, I am a meat eater and always will be because 2.5 years of vegetarianism messed with my health. I have done tons of reading and research on the topic and truly believe meat eating can fit into a very healthful diet and I strive for that. I plan to raise my children in a non judgmental house which doesn’t put too much of an emphasis on one way of eating or another.

  • Dani December 12, 2011, 5:49 pm

    I love this post, Caitlin. Whether anyone agrees or does not, it is well thought out.

    I became a vegetarian when I was 7 or 8 and, as a girl scout, one of my assignments to get a badge was to look at the ingredient labels on food. Well, once I learned what meat was, I was disgusted! I gave in to chicken a few times in college (and didn’t get sick, btw) but really try to eat as close to vegetarian as possible now. I don’t really remember ever being teased as a child. I really think vegetarianism is so commonplace now that teasing shouldn’t even be an issue, but maybe I’m being naive.

  • Kaci December 12, 2011, 5:50 pm

    My husband and I have been discussing this topic as well. I’m 30 weeks right now and when my first daughter was born both he and I were not veg, but now that we are we do let our daughter eat chicken but she detest any other meat. Weird? We’ve only bought veg chx nuggets for home but will let her eat regular chx nuggets at school, etc. Anyways, we still are not sure what we will do or how we will approach with this little one. I’ll be anxious to hear and see what you do. XO

  • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 5:51 pm

    @Rebecca: I actually plan to never discuss my vaccination views on the blog because people are way too attacking about their opinions on it. Kind of falls into the religion/politics area for me! But I’m sure from that statement you can infer that my views are close to yours 🙂

    • R. Chandra December 12, 2011, 9:44 pm

      @Caitlin: i’ve never eaten meat OR been vaccinated. i’m just an all-around freak of society, haha. i’m never having children, but as a child of two very alternative parents i’m looking forward to following your parenting journey, Caitlin. 😉

      • Caitlin December 13, 2011, 9:27 am

        @R. Chandra: Haha come be IRL friends with me!

  • Becca December 12, 2011, 5:52 pm

    love the post and concept of letting your child eat meat elsewhere if they would like. keep meat off limits would only make them more curious. Question though- What do you feed your dogs? Is their meat in their dog food? just wondering!

    • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 5:54 pm

      @Becca: There’s a few comment streams about this above! Just control+F search for dog food!

    • kathy December 12, 2011, 7:59 pm

      My children never crave meat they know where it comes from and do not understand why people would eat it. This argument about making things off limits seems to come up with non vegetarians. Would you tell that to a religious person who had dietary rules?

  • Ali December 12, 2011, 5:55 pm

    Hi Caitlin,

    This is my first time commenting, although I’ve been reading since your blog was seebriderun. I just have to add that I was raised a vegetarian. My parents had a similar policy to the one mention here – we could try meat if we wanted, but they educated us on why it is not the best choice either for our ethical and spiritual beliefs or for a healthy diet and it was not served at home. Sure, my brother tried bacon at our cousins’ house and I was tricked into tasting a beef taco at summer camp, but we both choose to be vegetarians and were educated about that choice – and have been for nearly 30 years. We were never really teased, because it was just the way we were. Here is a neat link I just came across yesterday from someone else raised vegetarian:
    wishing you all the best to your growing family.

  • Dan @ Essentials of Nutrition December 12, 2011, 6:02 pm

    I’m not a vegetarian but, like you, I support everyone’s right to eat what they’d like. There are better things for us to argue about, eh?

  • Kathryn December 12, 2011, 6:03 pm

    Great post Caitlin! I am not/never have been a vegetarian/vegan and have my own thoughts on this topic, but I truly admire how well thought out your posts are. I babysat for a family back in the day that REFUSED to let their children eat anything that was not vegan. While I respected the decision they had made, the kids were miserable and truly hated the food that was served to them. At first, I thought they were just trying to pull one over on me since I wasn’t their mom and was just there for the night, but they would cry every time certain foods were left for me to give them. They would beg me to give them something “that “so and so” had at their house, whether it was chicken, cheese etc. I think you are being extremely realistic to the fact that your child may have an interest in trying it one day – it just won’t be served in your house.

  • kalli December 12, 2011, 6:13 pm

    i read through quite a few of the comments but not all so maybe i missed it. maybe you shoul djust eat the way you like and if and when your kids ask why , tell them it is for health reasons. there is so much reserach backing a veggie/vegan diet as being good for you if you eat right. of course i do not have kids but i have coworker who ask me all the time, i say i eat this way for health reasons 🙂

  • Sonia (the Mexigarian) December 12, 2011, 6:25 pm

    I really love your standpoint on this subject. I am omni and lean towards more of a veggie lifestyle (rarely eat meat unless body is super freaking craving it) and plan to have my future kids eat veggies at home and meat, if they so chose outside the home. I do not want to limit their potential food choices or lifestyle but also want to emphasize the importance of a healthy lifestyle full of fruit and veggies.

    On a funnier note, here’s a story:

    My Hubby tells this story of when he was a teen and his baby bro Ty was a toddler. They were at Burger King eating chicken nuggets when Hubby decided to play with Ty. Hubby pointed at Ty’s chicken nugget he was eating and asked “Ty, what are you eating?” “Chicken” came his happy knowledgeable reply. Hubby then pointed to a group of chickens across the road (Prunedale is country) and asked Ty “What are those?” Again Ty was pleased to show his smarts and proudly said “Chicken!” This went on 2 more times, Hubby pointing to the nugget and then to the live chickens when Ty finally put the two together, staring at the live chickens and then at his nuggets before he screamed and broke out into tears. Hubby still laughs about it to this day and Ty still loves eating chicken.

  • MelanieF December 12, 2011, 6:28 pm

    It’s funny that we are almost in 2012, and that the questions towards a vegetarian (or even vegan) diet is still the same as it was years ago. I have been a vegetarian on and off for a lot of years, and while, right now, I choose to eat meat that has been locally raised, I still eat plenty of legumes and tofu. And, if I had kids right now, I would gladly feed them tofu and legumes, or feed them a vegetarian diet without hesitation. You do not need meat to be healthy, and growing. I do believe that every one should eat less meat, and eat a more plant based diet.

  • Dana @ the Big Fat Skinny December 12, 2011, 6:28 pm

    I loved this post – I could’ve written it myself actually. I have a 2 year old, I am a vegeterian (for 10 yrs) and the hubs is not. The hubs works all of the time and rarely joins us for meals. I cook for G and I all week and never buy or cook meat. I will however cook meat for him when he is home bc I could never force him to give it up – its not my place, and like you said, food is extremely personal! G has been offered meat at her grandparents houses and usually declines. She may have had a taste or 2 in her 2 years and I’m ok with that – this needs to be her decision when she gets older and I don’t want her to resent me. Like you though – I believe while she’s in my care in my home and unable to make that desicion for herself, I’m not going to be offering her meat as an option.

    And the best part is that shes wonderfully healthy, as am I – both living as vegeterians – and I’m carrying baby number 2!

  • Marie@feedingfive December 12, 2011, 6:29 pm

    Not sure if I’ve ever commented but I have to say you are so smart about your approach. I am a health nut but you can only push so much before it backfires. My kids are very knowledgeable about health and nutrition, but they are all at school and various places and they have to make their own choices.

    I have to trust they will do what’s best for them with all the information they have.

    I have a feeling you are going to be a fantastically wonderful mother.

  • Elise December 12, 2011, 6:32 pm

    I think the way you’re approaching having vegetarian kids is really the right way to do it, and how I imagine I would go about it if I decide to have kids (I’m only 21, still in school, and single so all of that is a looooong way away for me).

    I also don’t think that comparing animals raised for slaughter to a pet will necessarily be traumatizing to a child (I know some people mentioned the child freaking out every time they saw someone who did eat meat or imagining people coming to eat the pet). Personally, I think it’s kind of silly to suggest that children are absolutists when it comes to value-judgments and can’t make a distinction between what they do and what others do. Children are raised with different values about religion, spanking/violence, kindness, sharing, and how leisure time should be spent (books vs. TV vs. sports vs. computer time etc.) without any problems and I don’t see why diet should be any different. That said, if you do decide you want to explain it to your children without making a comparison to the family dog, you might be able to do it by instead contrasting animals raised for slaughter to the family dog (by saying the dog has enough space, a warm- or cool, depending on climate/clean place to live, good food, good healthcare, and love etc. while animals raised for food don’t and that’s why you don’t support eating them). Or you could simply say that as a family you care for animals and that’s why you don’t eat them.

    I also wouldn’t worry too much about your kids being ostracized by other kids for following a vegetarian diet, especially living in an urban area. There are so many “normal” foods that are vegetarian anyway (yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, etc.) that the child wouldn’t have to eat anything “weird” at the lunch table if they didn’t want to. And beyond that, “weird” vegetarian foods (like tofu and hummus, for example) are becoming very commonplace in areas that are urban (but not inner-city), so they might not even seen weird to your children’s classmates. Additionally, I grew up in a neighborhood where a lot of the children had “different” diets (they were severely lactose intolerant, or kept kosher, or were Israeli-American and ate a more Mediterranean style diet) and none of them had any trouble. In fact, I remember my friends and I would always get excited to go over to their houses because we would get to try different foods.

    Sorry I practically wrote a dissertation on the issue, haha. I guess I had a lot to say 😛

  • Mel @ Post Grad Mel December 12, 2011, 6:40 pm

    I was just talking about this with my Mom a few days ago. I’m in no position to even think about having kids any time soon, but I have thought about whether or not I would raise my kids vegetarian like myself.

    I think I’m kind of an anomaly to most vegetarians because I actually just don’t like the taste of meat. I never have. I decided two years ago to give it up altogether because I was only eating processed meats anyway (chicken nuggets and hot dogs were the extent of it).

    When I was talking with my Mom about the possibility of raising my future kids as vegetarians though, she got super wigged out! But I think I will show her this post, because I think you’ve made some valid arguments and I like your approach. Plus, I don’t even know how to cook meat…so my kids would probably be better off in the long run!

  • Angela December 12, 2011, 6:46 pm

    To be honest unless little HTP asks specifically why you don’t eat meat I wouldn’t bring up the vegetarian label as it’s something that they don’t need to worry about. When they do ask I wouldn’t make too much of a big deal about it.

    Children are very accepting if you tell things to them straight but obviously in a sensitive way which is why I probably wouldn’t mention the dog when explaining it. We don’t eat dogs so I wouldn’t add that confusion or potential distress that someone might eat their dog! I would also change your explanation slightly to reflect your dietary choices because milk comes FROM those cows they see in fields whereas burgers ARE those cows. It sounds silly and obvious to an adult but to a 5 year old its an important distinction when trying to understand why one is ‘ok’ and the other isn’t.

  • Lauren December 12, 2011, 7:02 pm

    Hi Caitlin! Love your blog! Just wanted to chime in here as a nearly lifelong vegetarian who grew up in a family of meat-eaters – the most flack that I caught as a kid for not eating meat was from my brothers. Most kids are so picky that all of them have something that they won’t eat, and for me, that was meat. I think that because I didn’t make a big deal of using the label “vegetarian” until I was older (in my teens) it really wasn’t an issue or something that people told me was wrong. I truly have never liked meat and so just responding to people’s questions about not eating it with, “I don’t like to” usually ended the conversation pretty quickly.

    I think it’s great that you’re going to raise your kid as a vegetarian! I hope to have a similar plan for my kids (when they happen). 🙂

  • Yelena (One Healthy Apple) December 12, 2011, 7:14 pm

    I’m 16 weeks pregnant with my first baby and I have thought about this for a while. I live a flexitarian lifestyle and so does my husband, we also don’t eat pork because of religious reasons. We eat meat if it’s humanely raised (I know there is a spectrum of ideas on what is considered humane). I intend to provide healthy food for the family and offer a variety of foods, including good quality meat products in the home.

    If my child decides to eat meat or not, it will be an informed decision. Like you, I will not try to stop him or her from trying foods and making a decision later.

    I really appreciate this post and your unbiased approach. Congrats to you on the new addition!

  • Rachel December 12, 2011, 7:38 pm

    I guess you could say that my daughter was “vegetarian” for the first few months after she started solid foods. My husband & I eat meat, but the idea of pureed meat totally grosses me out! I was making all of her baby food, btw. So yeah she was on all veggies, cereal, fruit & formula for a while. Once she got some teeth we started giving her bits of chicken, ground beef & steak. Even now at 2.5 she’ll go through a self imposed “no meat” phase every now & then. I just roll w/ it. I was always told to look at the bigger picture. Don’t focus on what they eat in just 1 day, focus on the whole week. Chances are it will balance out.

    Honestly, there are few things in life as rattling at being in charge of a growing humans nutrition! The more you can go w/ the flow, the better. You seem to be on the right track 🙂

  • Molly December 12, 2011, 7:41 pm

    I fully support the way you’re choosing to raise your kids…it sounds like a mentally healthy way to approach things.

    However, you have been vegetarian a very short period of your life. I know right now it may seem like you never want to eat meat again, but truthfully, 2.5 years is really not a very long time. I’m presently 20 years old, and I’ve been vegetarian for 4 years (minus 3 months in the middle where I got sick and ate some fish and chicken.) I’m not saying that to talk down to you at all, but just to point out that who knows what life will look like ten years from now. It just seems kind of…presumptuous maybe? (not in a bad way) that after just 2.5 years you’re assuming that you’ll be eating this way in 10 years.

    Obviously, you know best. I’m just curious what your thoughts were!

    • Molly December 12, 2011, 7:44 pm

      My perspective on this is probably very biased by my commitmentphobia. My ex asked me on my first date whether I would raise my kids vegetarian and it MAJORLY freaked me out! haha

      • Caitlin December 12, 2011, 8:36 pm

        @Molly: Hahah funny comments 😉

        I know you should never say never, but I really don’t think I ever go back to eating meat.

  • Alex @ Alex Eats Green December 12, 2011, 7:52 pm

    Caitlin (and Kristien!), this is amazing. Although I just became a vegetarian a year ago (and am FAR away from having children) I think about this issue all the time. I think forcing vegetarianism on anyone, doesn’t make sense, and I agree with your views. Even if other vegetarians may not agree, I commend you for being so forthcoming and honest about this situation.

  • kirsten December 12, 2011, 7:54 pm

    Great post Caitlin! My husband and I are both vegetarian and we plan on raising our kids vegetarian as well. I would like to take a similar approach to yours where they aren’t served meat at home but if they eat it at a friends house I won’t be upset.

  • Cailin December 12, 2011, 7:55 pm

    I don’t have time to read the many comments above. However, I totally support your plans (even as a meat eater).

    As a teacher, I have seen a few students come through my doors that are vegetarians (mind you, I teach 9-10 year olds, so it is few and far between). The one thing I thought was interesting was that some of them had veggie parents and some of them had decided to be veggie on their own. It’s funny that this is your post today because I witnessed and exchange between a veggie girl in my class and a little boy. The boy just didn’t understand. She does eat fish and insisted that all veggies do (“Vegans” don’t eat fish, but veggies do). It was funny to hear all the questions that arose from this among the kids. She happens to be an animal lover.

    On the flip side, I had a student whose parents forced him to be veggie and gluten free (he did not have an allergy) and he was teased a lot. I even had to keep special muffins for him in my freezer. We caught him sneaking cookies and trading food at lunch. He was rebelling. I felt badly for him and felt frustrated that his parents forced that diet on him. When we went for pizza all he wanted was a piece of pepperoni.

    So, in the end, if your child likes meat or decides to eat it after tasting it elsewhere, hopefully you would let them make that choice to even eat it home. However, I am going to guess, if you raise them like that at home, they won’t care or miss it.

    One last thing— it’s easy to make assumptions on how you will be as a parent. Just try not to draw hard lines. You just cannot predict how life will go with children! You will surprise yourself! (Saying this as a mom).
    Good luck!

  • Caroline December 12, 2011, 8:03 pm

    great post, caitlin! i really appreciate how eloquently you were able to articulate your thoughts on such a tough topic. i hope i’ll be able to have such a balanced approach when it comes time for me to have children one day. in response to molly’s post above, i don’t really think it matters how long a person has been a vegetarian when it comes to choosing to raise her children as such. when someone changes her behaviors to match an ideological or ethical point of view, those shifts are more often than not permanent. even if you were to begin eating meat again in the future, your child would still have been raised with a healthy diet and an open-minded approach to eating… she’d have the tools and information she needed to make her own decisions going forward. i think setting a good example at home and educating your children about why you make the decisions you do is the best approach. at the very least, i’d bet that kids raised on plant based diets develop a more mindful approach to eating than those who are raised to choose what is most convenient.

  • kathy December 12, 2011, 8:05 pm

    I am vegetarain since I was a teen. I will always be vegetarian. My children are vegetarian and husband is not. I only got the question will you let your kids eat meat if they want to? I said no until they are old enough to know where it comes from and can go out and kill the animal itself. My kids have never been teased and we live in a red neck town. One lady asked me where my son gets his protien from, I askes BMi was. I always shocked the parents who have overweight kids and feed them crap do not get asked all theses questions.

  • Ashley December 12, 2011, 8:06 pm

    I really love your philosophy and I think when we have children we will probably adopt a similar stance on their diet. I also read Skinny Bitch and it has kicked my butt into gear about vegetarianism. I see no reason why anyone needs meat, but I have no problem with anyone eating it but myself. It’s a personal choice and I wouldn’t force the issue on my friends 🙂

  • Stephanie December 12, 2011, 8:12 pm

    This is exactly how I’ve decided I am going to raise my child down the road, too. Great post!

  • Tricia December 12, 2011, 8:13 pm

    I am a vegetarian. My husband is not. Most nights of the week, we eat totally meatless meals. I don’t prep any meat that my husband eats unless it’s popping something into the toaster oven or something. We plan on raising our future children the way we eat: balanced. My children will eat a lot less meat than other kids, but like you, I don’t care if they want to try meat out or even be carnivores. I wish my parents had allowed me to not eat meat growing up. I actually never really enjoyed meat. So, I’ll let me kids eat how they want as long as their diets aren’t chock full of sweets 😉

  • mi-an d. December 12, 2011, 8:26 pm

    My boyfriend is vegetarian (he’s hindu so he’s never had meat) and I am not. However, I do eat 80-90% vegan/vegetarian food. ( We have already talked about raising our children vegetarians and I am perfectly happy about it. Since having a heavy plant based diet, my palate for meat actually has disappeared. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if I turn vegetarian/vegan.

  • Jolene (Homespun Heritage) December 12, 2011, 8:36 pm

    I am vegetarian for health reasons (moral reasons are a bonus). My 22 month old is vegetarian due to health issues. I have 3 older children that are getting the idea of this. They are making healthier choices. They now only eat meat on occasion as its just become easier to cook without it. By simply setting the example they (my children AND husband) are choosing wiser.

  • kerry December 12, 2011, 8:43 pm

    At the very least, I hope you will let your child eat fish and/or mix fish oil into their applesauces, smoothies, etc. after their breastfeeding phase is complete. The omega 3s (EPA/DHA) are essential for the growing years. DHA in particular is absolutely crucial for brain development in young kids. Without it, brain development (among other things, like vision) is severely thwarted.

    I know that many vegetarians and vegans believe that they can get omega 3s through vegetarian omega 3 supplements or flax seeds since they contain Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the precursor to EPA and DHA. BUT…ALA is an 18 carbon omega-3 fatty acid and must be converted to EPA and DHA, which are 20 and 22 carbon fatty acids, respectively. Our bodies are not so great at that upward conversion process of going from 18 to 20/22 carbon chains. We lose a lot of the fatty acids in that process. At best, only around 4% of the ALA consumed ends up being converted into DHA (6% for EPA). The bottom line is that marine animal-sources of EPA/DHA are far superior to plant-sources of ALA. For kids, I really worry about what they are missing by not having adequate amounts of EPA/DHA in their diets (until around the age of seven or eight, which is when the first and most important part of brain development tapers).

    Omega 3s are somewhat of a passion of mine, academically. If you want any research studies on the importance of omega 3s, let me know and I will be happy to send some along.

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

  • Heather December 12, 2011, 9:25 pm

    While considering the environmental cost/humanity of raising animals, please don’t forget a similar cost of supporting conventional farming.

    I find those reasons for vegetarianism slightly hypocritical when a person isn’t mindful of where they attain their produce. I feel just as much guilt supporting farmers in Peru who are exporting their food to Americans, while not feeding their own. And I don’t even like to think of the conditions the workers are faced with as they work to provide a bag of grapes for us to consume.

    I think the real answer is to know where your food comes from, whether you eat meat or not. Take the time/effort to support local farmers. Guilt free.

    • Caitlin December 13, 2011, 9:27 am

      @Heather: Agree. Local AND organic is the way to go. There is a very interesting discussion about food miles and how conventional is sometimes better – have you heard this? Probably!

      • Sara December 15, 2011, 8:04 pm

        Most organic foods that we consume travel further to get to us than conventionally-raised. I say local wins. 🙂 America also exports LOTS of its safely raised foods to other countries. Foreign countries LOVE our food! We’re pretty lucky in the grand scheme of things.

  • Jen December 12, 2011, 9:28 pm

    You guys are going to be such amazing parents! I love that you’re open to letting your kids try meat outside of your home…that open-mindedness that will serve you and babyHTP(s) well down the road!

  • Chelsea December 12, 2011, 9:34 pm

    I love your stand point on this argument <3 If anyone ever asks me what my stand point for raising a vegetarian kid is than I'll send them directly to your blog hahah! I think it'll be hard though considering I'm vegetarian and my boy-friend is a meat eater….That's if we get married one day =/ I just know if I'm cooking the meal there's no meat in it. If he wants meat he can make it himself lolz.

  • Jess Geier December 12, 2011, 9:49 pm

    I think it is great that you are open to the child making his or her own decisions about food/politics/religion. While I am not 100% vegetarian right now, I have been in the past. It is hard to always be on the defensive about not wanting to eat meat and I applaud you for the attitude you have taken. It is ridiculous (in my opinion) that there is such an emphasis on meat in this country. I am reading The China Study right now, and it has completely opened my eyes to reality of our protein needs.

    It is also my opinion that if you are going to eat meat, you should educate yourself on where it comes from and how the animals are treated. When I did that I started buying my chicken and beef from a local farm.

    Keep up the great writing!!!

  • Sarah December 12, 2011, 10:00 pm

    We didn’t set out to raise our daughter vegetarian–but she has naturally gone that way. We never fed her “meat” babyfood (gross, IMO), and when she was ready for finger foods she rejected all meats.

    Now she is 4 1/2 and still doesn’t eat much meat, even though it is occasionally offered. She consistently avoids poultry and beef. She will rarely eat ham and will eat bacon (no other pork), but with both of those I think she likes the salt!

    People sometimes comment on it (she won’t get enough protein, yadda yadda), but I’m not worried. She eats eggs and dairy and plenty of veggies and fruit, so I guess I have a lacto-ovo vegetarian kid!

    You never know what your kid will prefer naturally.

  • Emily December 12, 2011, 10:08 pm

    I don’t have any children, Caitlin, but I know that little kids look up to their parents and following their diet from when they start to eat solids – I don’t imagine they would find hard to do. Letting them eat a seperate meal at the dinner table doesn’t really seem like a ‘family’ structure – so I completely support your idea:D
    I also love that when they’re not with the family they can experiment.
    You’ll make a great Mum!

  • Katie of Cabbage Ranch December 12, 2011, 10:31 pm

    I am a meat eater, I’m in agriculture, and I believe in animal welfare- three things that can happily coexist. I can also happily read your blog. I don’t agree with it all, but I like that. It’s so interesting to me to hear your thoughts and reasons, and I know you open up a lot of discussions most people are afraid to broach. And I love the way you draw the line between your choices and beliefs and your child’s. Cheers!

  • Melinda December 12, 2011, 10:42 pm

    I like your blog, but you are way off here. Meat eating is NOT the cause of our nations health problems. Processed foods, hydrogenated oils, and sugar are the problems. Our ancestors (and many other animals) were/are meat eaters. When I was vegetarian I became very sick, and my recovery only came when I went back to eating meat. If you read about the GAPS diet, Dr. Weston Price, or the Paleo diet you will see how important meat is to humans. I did not want to believe this either because I love animals, but it is just a fact of life. Animals in the wild have to kill other animals to survive, and humans had to do this as well for many years. Our bodies were meant to eat meat. You should really research this more before promoting vegetarianism, because you could affect a young girl negatively. Learn the facts about vegetarianism (from a book more scientific than Skinny Bitch) before doling out advice.

    • Caitlin December 13, 2011, 9:22 am

      I am going to disagree with many things you said, but I’m not going to argue with you about whether vegetarianism is healthier than a meat-based diet. There is more than enough evidence for this. And I know the ‘facts’ about vegetarianism and have read a book other than Skinny Bitch. This comment is so patronizing!

  • Ambika S. December 12, 2011, 10:45 pm

    I always find conflicting view points on vegetarianism very interesting. I was born and brought up in the US. However, my parents are from India and I’m Hindu, so both my sister and I have been 100% vegetarian our entire lives. I have never once tasted any type of meat, poultry, or fish in my life, just like millions of other Hindus in India!
    While I do not think any diet is “better” than another, I do think it’s a little absurd people think vegetarian kids have health problems. My sister and I, as well as all our cousins and family friends, are absolutely healthy! We didn’t get sick that frequently, we weren’t underweight or anything (in fact, I was a pretty chubby kid!), and we have always led active lives with dance, tennis, and other stuff.

    Vegetarianism, when done properly, is no less healthy than any other diet! Eating legumes, lentils, beans, yogurt, whole grains, and vegetables since a young age has left me with a really good relationship with food. Also, I never felt “left out” or anything, my parents made sure to give us all sorts of fun treats and we ate at restaurants regularly too! Plus, vegetarianism/veganism is even more mainstream now than it was when I was little!!

    • Ambika S. December 12, 2011, 10:48 pm

      @Ambika S.: one other thing, traditional vegetarians (usually from Asian countries) have avoided meat for hundreds of years and there is no history of deficiencies or anything, as people often think!

  • Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon December 12, 2011, 10:49 pm

    Very interesting post–I love the attitude you two are taking with this!
    I am a vegetarian but haven’t given how I’ll raise my kids much thought yet since I’m not married/in a relationship. I think a lot of the decision will depend on my future husband’s dietary choices.

  • Lu @ A Mix of it All December 12, 2011, 11:01 pm

    My husband and I are vegetarian. We don’t cook meat in our house. We don’t eat meat. However, our son does. The only reason he does is because 1) he likes it, and 2) becoming vegetarian is a recent thing for us and I didn’t want to make a huge change for him. The majority of his meals are vegetarian though because we don’t cook meat at our house. That being said, I won’t allow him to eat processed meats. Nope, not happening. I think that raising your child vegetarian is great. I figure one day my son will understand our reasons for going vegetarian. Health.

  • Lindsay C December 12, 2011, 11:07 pm

    I am not a parent, but I am a teacher. In my third and fourth grade classroom, three students are vegetarian (out of 20)! We have been studying Native Americans and colonial life and several students asked if there were any vegetarian Native Americans. It is a very normal lifestyle for them. (Does it help that their teacher is veggie, too? I don’t know…We’ve never discussed it.) Although we have never started a conversation about vegetarianism, we have started conversations about foods in other cultures that have brought up the topic of vegetarianism and it has never led to teasing or bullying of veggie students (or teachers). Yay next generation!

  • Sarah Stephen December 12, 2011, 11:36 pm

    I am very proud of you for tackling this topic. I think you handled it very well. I really respect that you don’t judge meat-eaters and I think that they should return the favor.

    I don’t think people really understand that you CAN get the nutrients you need (ALL of them) from a plant based diet. And as long as a child isn’t a soda and chips kindof vegetarian they will grow at the SAME rate as a meat eating child and be just as healthy if not healthier.

    I love your approach to be open to what the child wants to eat outside the home. You are wise to not make meat the “forbidden fruit.” I hope to one day raise some lovely plant eating babies myself!

    Keep up the good work.

    P.s. thx for letting your vegetarian eating preferrence out of the bag, it is really encouraging.

  • Khushboo December 12, 2011, 11:41 pm

    Great post and well done for discussing your beliefs..I am sure you will get some hater response but who cares! I respect your views and decisions to raise your kids vegetarian (I probably would too if I was one myself). Would you be ok with them bring non-vegetarian foods to the house if they were cooking it?

  • elizabeth December 13, 2011, 12:00 am

    Hrrrmmmm…I read this (excellent!) post earlier in the day, including comments. However, there are probably triple the amount of comments now, so forgive me if I repeat. But as the day progressed, something has kept nagging me, so I gotta say it. Re: the “heartless” thing, I know you don’t want to make your kids judgmental of others’ choices by pitting veggies as good and meat eaters as cruel. But I think withholding your simple explanation about cows and pigs being equivalent to dogs keeps your kids from feeling one of the most wonderful, special feelings about being a vegetarian. I love feeling like I REALLY DO love animals and I back that up with my dollars and my plate. It’s not your job to keep meat eaters from potentially feeling heartless. Of course, I wouldn’t say that they are heartless to your kids. But I would say something like, “sometimes society makes us agree or go along with certain things that we later question or change our minds about…” or something like that. To me, kids (at a certain age) can understand that. They learn about slavery in the US and women not being able to vote in the US and lots of things that we as a group accepted and we as a group now do not accept. In fact, this could be a fantastic teaching opportunity about peer pressure/group think. A seed to plant that later blooms.

    Anyway, I love the thoughtfulness in this; thank you. One teeny last thing – I will be five weeks pregnant tomorrow! I know it’s super early, but it’s our second and I am so delighted, I’m blabbing. I feel very far “behind” you right now, but I’m due in mid August and it will be so fun to share the pregnancy journey with you!

    • Caitlin December 13, 2011, 9:28 am

      @elizabeth: YAY! I am so happy for you 🙂 Enjoy it!!

  • Esen @ COOKBOOKSANDCAKE.BLOGSPOT.COM December 13, 2011, 12:24 am

    Hi Caitlin,

    Great post! And I agree with you wholeheartedly!

    Keep up the great work!


  • ashley December 13, 2011, 12:32 am

    Thank you for writing this post, and responding nicely to all the ummm…naive questions people ask. PS-Get your kid outta Charlotte enough so that they are able to realize the rules and stereotypes many play by there stay inside those boundaries, and don’t need to be solidly abided by. And I can say this because I grew up there! I love it, but it does lag…

    • Caitlin December 13, 2011, 9:25 am

      @ashley: I think it is getting a LOT better than it used to be!!!

  • Jen December 13, 2011, 12:48 am

    I am not a vegetarian myself (although I have found myself eating a lot of vegetarian – and even vegan – meals lately), but I totally respect your choice! I have absolutely no doubt that your baby will be healthy & happy! You, of all people, certainly know how to get those essential nutrients into the diet. Also, the LOVE within your household, I believe, is truly the most important ingredient to ensure a happy child!

  • Jess December 13, 2011, 12:50 am

    I think you attitude is very healthy, esp. the part about letting the child try meat once they are old enough to make those decisions. In my mind it is no different to how every child is raised: the parents make the decisions (like 3 meals a day, meat and veg, vegatarian, constant takeout etc) but when the child is old enough they can start calling the shots 🙂

  • Ciera @ Rose and Thistle December 13, 2011, 1:52 am

    Such a balanced approach, I think that your child will have a great outlook on food! I’m not really much of a fan of parents raising vegan children because I have my doubts about how healthy that ends up being, but I think vegetarian children have every opportunity to get the nutrients they need. Plus not banning meat outright is probably the best way to ensure that they don’t become fixated with diet – I remember a friend at school when I was little would be sent to parties with veggie sandwiches and as soon as her mum left would be at the ham sandwiches!

    • Vicky S. December 13, 2011, 8:32 am

      I am definitely raising my baby vegetarian… and I plan to limit animal products as much as possible.

      • Vicky S. December 13, 2011, 8:33 am

        @Vicky S.: I think that you should do more research… raising children vegan is super healthy…

  • Elisabeth December 13, 2011, 2:28 am

    I am not a vegetarian (although I was for a couple of years in college), but I think you’ve handled this topic beautifully! I really like your choice to let your future children eat meat while not at home, but choosing not to cook meat for them, and I love that you’re not a ‘preachy’ vegetarian/vegan. I don’t think there is one ‘right’ way to eat & think everyone needs to make the best dietary choices for them personally 🙂

  • Julia December 13, 2011, 2:44 am

    What a great post and amazing comments!!!!
    I love that you brought up this topic and opened it for discussion.
    I’m an fairly new vegetarian and have thought about this topic a lot. I like your approach not to restrict your future kids from eating meat at other people’s places if they want to try eat.
    Probably, there is no right or wrong approach to what to tell your kids about vegetarianism. Maybe, you should not make a big deal about it until they question it.

  • Jenn December 13, 2011, 7:13 am

    Cool post Caitlin!

    My parents have been vegetarian most of their lives, and my brother and I have been raised entirely on a vegetarian diet. We’ve never had any problems with it–it just became a habit. Growing up, people would wonder how two vegetarian kids could get enough nutrients to be active at the level we were (my bro plays hockey; I figured skated at the national level)…but with good planning and smart parents (PS my mom is a traditional medicine doctor like your husband!), it can be a great choice. More power to you!

  • Katy @ HaveYouHurd December 13, 2011, 7:17 am

    I think your decision is great (not that it REALLY matters what I think because it is your child we’re talking about here and you can raise them how you’d like)! It is so important for parents, and people for that matter, not to shove their beliefs and ideals down the throats of others. I think you’re going to be teaching your child a very important lesson.

    I am not vegetarian, but I would have no problem not eating meat. To me, it’s just more convenience thing. Plus, my husband cannot eat a single meal without meat. To me, that’s just as annoying as the vegetarian who loudly proclaims at dinner “THAT IS YOUR ONLY VEGETARIAN DISH? EW!”

    Also, if you’re a vegetarian and all you eat is pasta in creamy sauce…that does not make you healthy.

  • Becky December 13, 2011, 7:48 am

    There’s just one thing to say, and that is, people are constantly going to question how you raise your child no matter what the topic. You do what works for you and what you’ve researched to be the best for your child.

  • Megan December 13, 2011, 8:19 am

    Being a personal trainer and a new vegetarian with plans to go vegan, I definitely plan to teach my children about the importance of fitness and health/wellness. I think those are the two most important things in life, we can’t live to our full potential if we aren’t healthy! I like you, don’t plan on forcing my children to do anything they don’t want to do. They will have a choice and I will give them the tools to do that on their own. My husband is not a vegetarian and if it stays that way my children will be able to see both sides and choose what is best for them.

    I think you have an excellent idea of how to approach the subject with babyHTP and I wish you the best! Also, if you haven’t already I would highly recommend Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr. It really opened my eyes to the health benefits of a plant based diet and it just makes so much sense. Perhaps that would be helpful in explaining vegetarianism to your child? Knowledge is power and the best way to approach things is from all angles, in my opinion =]

  • Carolina John December 13, 2011, 9:05 am

    Don’t forget about the concept of “what your kids will actually eat”. I still can’t get mine to eat any meat. There are a very limited number of foods that they will actually consume. The eldest has finally started eating hot dogs, although not regularly.

    since both kids were born and consistently stayed underweight we had to absolutely shove as much food down their throats as possible. We would give them anything they might consume, even though we stuck to vegetarianism. It was years before they would actually eat any meat. Even the jars of meat baby food got thrown back at us. It was disturbing.

  • Ali @ Around the VeggieTable December 13, 2011, 9:11 am

    That is EXACTLY the approach I plan to have with my children! My biggest concern is actually that they will be stuffed with meat when they go to visit their grandparents. My parents are very unsupportive of my diet, and I know once I have little vegetarian children that they will be stuffing them full of hot dogs and hamburgers and pepperoni and other super unhealthy meat products. I don’t really know how I’m going to approach that. Ideas?

  • Jen December 13, 2011, 9:53 am

    I’m surprised that so many people think a vegetarian diet is unhealthy for a child. I was a vegetarian from around age 6 to 12(I was a picky eater and just couldn’t stomach meat during those years), and I don’t remember anyone ever commenting on it. Food allergies are another thing that provoke bizarre reactions, like parents getting offended if they can’t pack their child a peanut butter sandwich for lunch because another child in the class has a severe peanut allergy (I worked in public schools for about three years so I saw this problem a lot). People really can’t seem to mind their own business when it comes to raising kids!

  • Michele Albert December 13, 2011, 11:33 am

    OH MY GOODNESS! I am sorry you have to defend what you eat. My only issue would be if you refused to fed your child. Good luck and happy eating!

  • Staci December 13, 2011, 12:00 pm

    I can’t say it better than anyone else already has so I’m just offering my complete support and kudos for your acknowledgment of the “issue” and responding to it in such a positive way. I’m not a vegetarian but am not far from it, either, as I don’t eat a ton of meat. I have had my own struggles with my son as I’m extremely sensitive about what I eat and his dad is not so there have been many a disagreement over what child should/shouldn’t eat and then he ultimately has become extremely picky and knows he can use food as an excuse not to eat just because he hasn’t tried something or didn’t like it before. I hope your openness and agreement on the subject will help you avoid a similar situation!

  • Jennie (in Wonderland) December 13, 2011, 12:10 pm

    Why are we so consumed with this idea that vegetarian parents are ‘pushing’ their diets on their kids? Isn’t that what parenting is, at the end of the day… you teach your kids what YOU know, let them grow up as best as you can, and then set them free into the world.

    My parents are meat-eaters and so my brother and I ate meat. I didn’t like it, but I never questioned it… it’s what my parents knew, and it’s how we ate. They didn’t give me any options beyond likes/dislikes, because we weren’t made of money (ie: they weren’t going to cook entirely separate meals for me when I was four just because I didn’t like chicken very much) However, when I was 25, I gave up meat and haven’t looked back. My brother kept right on keepin’ on.

    My kids won’t eat meat because I don’t (my fiance is an omni, but he thinks I should make the decisions since I will likely do all the cooking and preparing), and when our kids are old enough to cook their own food (and have the cash to buy it), they can make their own decisions.

    At least Caitlin’s children will be fed healthy, nourishing food. Isn’t that all that matters? So many kids don’t even have that basic need fulfilled.

  • Jennie (in Wonderland) December 13, 2011, 12:15 pm

    PS: I disagree that saying ‘we don’t eat meat because we love animals’ is wrong. I think it’s a great approach. Why shouldn’t kids know that cows/pigs are no different to dogs/cats? There’s a reverence with which we treat pets that doesn’t correspond with how we treat farm animals. I don’t want my kids to feel superior to certain types of animals – ie: “We love our doggie, but the cow? Meh. Let’s put it in a burger!”

    MORE kids should be taught where their food comes from, and that ‘meat’ isn’t a nameless, faceless object to be consumed. Some kids can’t even connect a chicken breast with the actual animal. That’s encouraging an ignorance about where ‘food’ comes from that I find disturbing.

  • Constance Blizzard December 13, 2011, 12:32 pm

    Thanks thanks thanks for this. I’ve been a pescetarian for 15 years (tried living without fish but my brain missed the oils), and my fellow’s a carnivore– when we eat together, it’s fish or veg. If he makes his own meals (we’re a busy couple and can’t always eat together) he indulges his meatyneeds. We don’t get sanctimonious about one another’s dietary habits, even though we don’t agree. For us, it’s a matter of personal choice and belief– and it works. For the record, we share the same philosophy about food source and agribusiness, and whether it’s vegetables or fish or (in his case, chicken and pork), it comes from local sources, mostly from our own garden or people we know. We’re VERY fortunate to have the land and time to be able to pull this off.

    When our Twig arrives next summer, we plan to largely keep the same habits. The Twig will understand why I don’t eat land-dwelling flesh or wear leather, and will equally understand why Papa does. While I wouldn’t serve my child food that I wouldn’t put into my own body, I also wouldn’t deprive him or her.* Really, as long as (s)he* grows up with an understanding and respect for food sources and food production, I’ll be happy with whatever choices s/he* makes when outside of our domain. I mean, that’s all we can hope for our children, as a broader rule, right? Not how we control them when under our care, but who they become and how they choose to live beyond that?

    (*Oh for the lack of a gender-neuter pronoun, or a few more weeks until this thing is a Him or Her already…)

  • jenny December 13, 2011, 1:06 pm

    that’s legit…im not a vegetarian, but that’s a cool approach. i like it.

  • Stephanie December 13, 2011, 1:21 pm

    I would only have an issue with you cooking 2 different meals to include meat for babyHTP because you felt that your diet wasn’t balanced enough. =) I also feel like it’s crazy that people have to defend being veg*n at all.

    But I will say, don’t worry too much about your kid being picked on for what he/she eats in school…unfortunately, if it isn’t one thing, it’s another, and kids pick on each other for every/any/no reason. Sad, but true.

  • Keri @ Keri {&} Brian December 13, 2011, 1:30 pm

    I was raised a vegetarian and did not try meat until I was 18. I often got teased in school… but I would rather be teased about being a vegetarian than be teased about looks or something else that would be harmful to my self esteem.

    There was a period right after I got married where I was no longer a vegetarian. I think this stemmed from the fact that vegetarianism was never my choice to begin with. Now that I am older and it is my choice, I eat a diet that is flexible. I do not cook meat in my home or choose to eat it if we are out but if we are at a friends house for dinner and that is what they prepare then I will try to gag down a few bites. Usually though, it is pretty easy to just pretend I am eating it.

    I love your flexible approach to raising babyHTP

  • HTPMom December 13, 2011, 1:37 pm

    Your plan for raising a child with care not to push your beliefs regarding politics or religion or food is rare and admiral.

  • nancy December 13, 2011, 2:16 pm

    Being a mom with kids in middle school and high school, I can say that being a vegetarian kid is not a big deal. All our schools offer a vegetarian option in the cafeteria every day. I have seen our Girl Scout troop leaders make sure there were vegetarian options available at camp outs. Granted, I live in a pretty open minded place (Austin, TX)but it’s not seen as being quite so “hippy” anymore. My only concern for veg kids is making sure they cover all their nutritional bases and i know you’ve got that part down. And just fyi, following your example I have been able to drastically reduce the meat that I personally eat. My body has been wanting to do that for a while but I was kind of afraid to do it. Interestingly enough, my running took a huge step forward when I reduced my meat consumption. Coincidence? Who knows. At any rate, the endless amusement my teenagers got from me asking for a tofu press for Christmas made the meatless experience totally worthwhile. 🙂

  • Amber K December 13, 2011, 2:36 pm

    Okay, so it took me a long while to go through the comments, but to be honest I don’t even know what to say.

    I think it’s ridiculous that people are so judgmental. You obviously take the time to actually think through and consider your choices, and for anyone to get mad about the decision you reach is just crazy to me.

    You will be a great mother Caitlin, and I love reading your thoughts about controversial issues. Even if I have to roll my eyes at the comments section sometimes 😉

  • Sara P December 13, 2011, 2:44 pm

    I LOVE this blog post. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in May (I am 17 weeks along). I have been vegetarian (vegan-dabbler here and there) for almost 5 years. My husband on the other hand eats meat occasionally…with his family or out at a restaurant; I do most of the cooking and cooking meat grosses me out. I can sometimes stomach cooking an egg, but that is rare too.

    I plan on raising our soon-to-be child the exact same way that you mention above in your post, and the same way that my husband lives and eats in his life. I have sat and read EVERY SINGLE one of the comments in this section because I too am a soon to be mother with a hungry child on my hands. I was interested in reading other people’s perspectives but after reading them all, it just enforces mine, and that I am not making a bad decision in providing my child with the most nutritious life style available.

    You are making the right choice, Caitlin, and I salute you for being so open and honest with the blog community about it. Kudos to you…and I wish you the best of luck! 🙂

  • Carly D. @ CarlyBananas December 13, 2011, 4:13 pm

    @Jennie (in Wonderland)@Jennie (in Wonderland): : I certainly wasn’t suggesting that she prepare different two different dinners. I was just put off by the comment that she’d let them order meat in a restaurant (where presumably she’d be paying) but wouldn’t let them eat it at home if that’s what they liked better (unless the child personally purchased it).
    I think this is a hilarious conversation because what if this was the other way around – what if Caitlin was a meat eater and her child wanted to be vegetarian? No one would be like “Good for you Caitlin. Force a cow down that kid’s throat and if she doesn’t agree starve her!” I hope her kids do enjoy vegetarian food, because they’ll be exposed to other food all over the place outside of the home. Kids and teens aren’t always rational and you can only say “Fine, well don’t eat.” for so long.

  • Stefanie December 13, 2011, 5:43 pm

    My husband and I are what was call “flexitarians.” We eat veggie at home but won’t turn down someone making us dinner, even if it includes meat. I believe that we will likely take the same approach for our kids. Thanks Caitlin for making me feel not alone out here on this one 🙂

  • Joey December 13, 2011, 6:55 pm

    I LOVE your outlook on this issue. I’m unable t have children but I was just telling my Husband the other day that I think it would be SO hard to raise healthy kids this day in age with processed foods & meats being so easy and cheap verses their healthier counterparts. Good for you guys!!!

  • Ari @ Ari's Menu December 13, 2011, 7:15 pm

    I can’t imagine anyone wanting to feed their child a diet they didn’t eat themselves! I feel the same way about healthy eating–*if* I ever were to have children, I would want to feed them the same mostly nutritious, healthy, balanced food I make for myself. I feel like letting them make their own choices outside of the house is key because no one likes to be told how to eat. I would think you were silly if you made a hummus sandwich for you and a turkey one for BabyHTP! 🙂

  • Laura December 13, 2011, 8:46 pm

    Interesting discussion! I grew up on a farm and we slaughtered our own meat, so when I read Fast Food Nation many years ago I was APALLED at factory farming. I literally had no idea that’s how it worked since we always raised our own beef and bought chicken, pigs, eggs and milk from our neighbors. I was very NAIVE. Luckily I live in a Pac NW city now and try to buy meat and cheese from stores and producers that do their best to do it humanely. (I do think it can be done humanely. But that’s my opinion based on my life journey and seeing it be done in what I would consider a humane way). When we have kids I want to focus on a whole food diet, which is what the husband I do now (basically no processed food) but I like how thoughtful you’re being. (Another reason I LOVE your blog). 🙂

  • Emily December 13, 2011, 9:40 pm

    Such an interesting topic!!! First, one of my high school friend’s parents are vegan. Meat, dairy and such just wasn’t in the house. But his parents encouraged him to eat whatever he wanted eating out or at friends. When he asked if his mom would start buying milk she was fine with it. I think their causal attitude about it was really key. Second, my sister declared herself a vegetarian at the ripe age of four. She is pretty okay 20 years later : )

  • Libby December 14, 2011, 12:52 am

    I became a vegetarian in 2004 when my children were 5 and and 3. For a while I bought them free range ham but have not cooked meat since then. The eldest ate meat when out until a year ago when she became vegetarian (at 11.5 yrs old). The youngest ate fish and ham but has also become a vegetarian during the last year. My husband is now outnumbered but only eats meat away from home. I’m sure you’re children wont like meat if they are used to it – or the smell of it!!!

  • Julie S. December 14, 2011, 3:02 pm

    I purposely haven’t read any of the other comments because I just wanted to comment on your post w/ my 1st thought, which was “What a great attitude you have about it!”, and I think you are 100% right on in your plans to raise your child in accordance w/ your own beliefs. Isn’t that how we all parent? I also think you’re extremely smart to let your child try meat on occasion & make his or her own decision when the time is right. If you forbade meat altogether, odds are your child would resent it, & don’t we all want what we’re told we can’t have all the more? It’s obvious your reasons are all very sound & thought out. Good job! You’re gonna be great parents! (I’m not a vegetarian, by the way.) 🙂

  • Angie All The Way December 14, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I’ve always respected your laid back and nonjudgmental view respecting your choice to be vegetarian and it only makes sense to me that you would raise your child the same way, especially since you and hubby are on the same page.

    However, I do wish to suggest another way to explain why your family doesn’t eat meat, if you want to pass on the “non-judgmental” viewpoint to babyHTP, simply because I did see you were looking for suggestions on how to modify the explanation. As an omnivore, I did find your explanation somewhat judgmental toward those who chose to eat meat. I have a dog and a cat, both shelter rescues and have always had pets and LOVE THEM and I don’t feel like eating meat is indicative of not loving them, which I think your initial explanation kind of eludes. Sooooooooo, how about something like, “Every family is different and has a different style of eating and in our family, we view all animals equally and meat comes from animals.”

    A bit of a work in progress, perhaps? Jeez it’s hard to sum something like this up age-appropriately!

  • Sara December 15, 2011, 8:00 pm

    My husband isn’t a Vegetarian (I am though) so I don’t feel I can push my beliefs on our child since my husband eats meat. He doesn’t really eat it in the house (I don’t cook it) but when we have hot dogs–he has beef dogs, I have veggie dogs–he makes the turkey on Thanksgiving–I eat beans. But mostly, he eats Veggie at home. I decided when I have kids (though this could change, who knows) I don’t plan to cook them meat, but if my husband is having a hot dog and they want to eat his–OK. Plus I’m not sure if soy is OK for kids? I really don’t know a lot about it. But good for you for sticking for your beliefs. I also love that you called them slaughterhouses instead of factory farms 🙂 That’s the proper terminology. Yay! Love these discussions 🙂

  • Bridie December 16, 2011, 9:50 am

    I’ve been vegetarian since I was 13, mostly because I just never liked meat. We eat veggie at home. My 7 yr old can choose to eat meat at my mom’s or at school lunch (every night it’s his choice between school and cold lunch). Over time I find he chooses less and less meat. Kids aren’t dumb. I think if you give them time and space to figure it out on their own, they will learn that a whole foods, veg diet makes them FEEL better.

  • Kim January 4, 2012, 10:04 am

    Hi Caitlin, I just stumbled upon this post and had to comment. I am a healthy and very active woman who has not eaten meat in 18 years; for me, it was a natural choice but I don’t push my beliefs on others. My husband is not a vegetarian, and I respect his choice, but we do not cook meat in our house. We are currently raising our 20-month-old daughter veggie and she is a healthy, active, thriving child. I can’t imagine feeding her any other way, and am proud of the healthy food choices we make. I’m impressed with the confidence you have in your ability to say you will allow your child to eat meat at a friend’s house or restaurant. I know I too will have to let my daughter make those same decisions some day but I already dreading it. All I can do is educate her best I can and hope she makes the right choice for her; easier said than done though!

  • Jen January 4, 2012, 11:48 am

    I’m late in seeing this post, and there’s no way I can read all of those comments! But I just wanted to say thanks for posting this. It’s something I’ve considered as well, since I’ve been a vegetarian for 7 years (and my boyfriend for >10). I have no idea how to approach this topic when I decide to have kids, so thank you for being open and honest about it publicly even though it’s such a touchy subject for some.

  • Michaela@PilgrimageOfHealth March 5, 2012, 10:18 am

    I am a vegan, and have always thought that when I have children, I will raise them vegetarian/ possibly vegan. My father has asked me “if you have boys, please at least feed them a little meat. It’s vital for development!”

    Takes awhile to change the mentality of folks around you.

  • Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) March 5, 2012, 7:08 pm

    I know this post was published a WHILE ago, but I just had the chance to read it because of your link-back today.

    I was wondering what your thought of dairy is…I literally last week went to a farm that produces beef, poultry, veal & pigs and is certified humane and organic. The farm was exquisite and the animals have a wonderful life there! However, the farmer did discuss that supporting the dairy industry (eating milk, cheese, etc) inevitably supports the veal industry, because farmers have no other use for baby male cows. And there is no way to get around that. I’m not a vegetarian/vegan myself, but I’m curious how a vegetarian like yourself feels about this???

    I would love your thoughts!

  • Kailey May 19, 2012, 1:48 am

    My personal attitude to my being vegan is “If YOU couldn’t kill it, l don’t think you should eat it.” My two children are not vegan, but vegetarian, and I’ve always approached their question as to why we eat the way we do in this way…They’ll make up their own minds, but hopefully they will always both think and take responsibility for what they choose to eat….

  • Amy June 17, 2013, 11:55 pm

    I’ve been vegetarian for 21 years, and so has my husband. Our 3 kids ages 8, 7, and 4 have all been vegetarian since birth and are healthy and growing fine. Our rule is until they are 10 they eat like us, after that they can choose for themselves- however if they eat meat it will be elsewhere as I will not buy or cook it. After so long, I don’t even know how anymore.

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