Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vegetarian Babies

We - meaning Boston Chef/Parents of Boston Twins - are not vegetarians. We like all kinds of meat, prepared lots of different ways. We've even made Bacon Candy!

However, and in spite of our fondness of carnivorous cooking, we often wish we were MORE vegetarian. We TALK about eating less meat, even ranking our meats into 3 levels of... sin? Starting with mammals as the most "sinful" (beef and pork), down a level to birds (chicken and turkey) as a little less sinful, and finally fish as the least sinful. Don't get us wrong, we don't sit around and bemoan our terrible eating habits while we pull apart a 5-hour-braised pork butt! It's actually when we AREN'T eating meat that we say "we should eat less meat!" We're obviously still working through this ourselves...

So, we are not vegetarians. The babies, however, are another story. They've never eaten meat - not at ANY of our three "levels". They get plenty of protein from their formula, yogurt, oatmeals and bagels and other cereals and grains... we even have them trying tofu! They don't NEED meat by any stretch of the imagination. Many millions of people throughout the world (hundreds of millions, actually) are vegetarian. 10% of U.S. adults identify their diet as "a vegetarian-inclined diet" and 3% of Americans are vegetarians... numbers that are on the rise and numbers that skew towards younger people. Being vegetarian is not only better for your health, but better for the health of the planet!

However, as noted, we are not vegetarians. So it brings us to a crossroads. We don't think we'll raise vegetarians - we, the Parents, are not going vegetarian. We'd like to go MORE vegetarian (eating less "sinfully" - as based on our meat levels - i.e. more fish, less red meat) but where does that leave the babies? At what point, if we keep them veg, will they look at us eating a perfectly roasted chicken and say "Hey! We want some of that, too!" What about - omg - when they come across the inevitable frozen chicken nugget monster? Or - gasps! - microwaved hot dogs? :faints:

Should we just get it over with and steam up some chicken for them? The French-Chicken-In-A-Pot we made the other night would be PERFECT for babies... but we don't even think about giving them any. Instead, we introduce tofu and wonder what to do. (update: they're NOT fans of the tofu!)

Now that the babies are staring down 1 year old (on Thanksgiving, no less! oh, turkey...) we realize we are going to have LOTS of decisions like this one. We have already made many "life decisions" but these decisions seem to be steadily increasing in order of magnitude...

Thoughts on veg or not? Should we just take the plunge? Ava loves her fruits and veggies, but Colin less so. He is really dependant on his 30ozs of formula every day - what about when we take that away from him? If it is inevitable, why wait?


Nicole S. said...

I do not think kids should be vegetarian. The reason many cultures are vegetarian is just that - culture! Its not the overall American culture and its not the culture in your house so what's the point?

And why is eating meat sinful?? Its SOOOOOO good for you! Millions of years of human development are not wrong. I realize that some of the cows, chickens and fish we eat nowadays are not so good - but that's just more reason to find a suitable supplier. There are lots of local farms to get well-raised beef, chicken, pork.

And fish is a super food - it will help their brains grow big. Tofu won't do that! :) My kids love salmon and haddock. Collette even ate an anchovy!

In your spare time (ha!) read Michael Pollan - he is very persuasive and enlightening on these issues.

Boston Chef said...

Thanks Nicole - we agree that fish might be an easy one to get around, we don't see fish (lizard-brained and cold-blooded) as being on the same level as fellow mammals or even birds.

That's one of the areas where our "sinful" levels come from - the fact that we're eating fellow mammals. Would you eat a dog or a cat? People certainly do, but we wouldn't. Pigs and cows are really no different than dogs or cats - just four-legged mammals.

The other "sinful" side of it is that - outside of protein - eating red meat doesn't really add very much to your diet and is, in fact, a leading contributor to heart disease, cholesterol, etc... We're not sure that it (esp. red meat) is soooo good for you at all! And we're not even getting into the environmental impact of animal farming...

And yeah, our household isn't vegetarian - but that's because we weren't raised that way. What if we had been raised differently? Or, what if we were to raise our children differently.

I've seen interviews with Michael Pollan... as he says (his central theme in his latest book): "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants!"

Check this out:

Boston Chef said...

And, just to be clear, we don't think "kids should be vegetarian" and we don't think "kids shouldn't eat meat" and we don't think "it's bad if your kids eat meat" or "it's bad if they don't."

We're just talking about our kids!

Julie said...

I think whatever you decide for them will be perfect! I think it gets easier too when they can eat what you eat.. so only one meal needs to be prepared. We're not there yet with our very selective eater (who, by the way, prefers fruits, veggies, pizza and cheese!) We just got her into eggs! Not a big meat fan at all.

Nicole S. said...

I feel you on the "fellow mammal" part - that's a very personal choice and its about the only reason, other than religion/culture, I see vegetarian-ism making sense.

The health and environmental reasons I think are less worthy - there are lots of studies that say eating red meat makes us die of heart disease but, for some reason, its not happening in all these other countires that eat red meat. Think France. The meat we eat in America is not good quality and I think that's the big issue. And we probably eat too much overall - I'm with Pollan on that one. I love steak and many other meat dishes but i find that I only eat meat (including poultry) about once a day.

I think if those who became vegetarian for health reasons instead chose to only buy meat raised in the proper way (read: pastured cows, sustainable farming practices, etc.) they would make a bigger impact. I think we should support those farmers that treat animals the way they should be treated while they are alive. It helps the earth, repects the animal and in the end is healthier for us humans. If we all ate pastured cow meat in reasonable amounts, I truly don't think cholesterol and other maladies would be an issue.

Can you tell I like this topic? :)