According to our parenting expert, it's not that big a deal if your child decides to give up meat. Credit: Thinkstock
You could blame "Free Birds" for your kid suddenly developing a social consciousness when it comes to eating meat. But the truth is, every child sooner or later realizes that the same animals they see in picture books are the ones that end up on their plate. So what do you do? Metro enlisted parenting expert and feeding sociologist Dina Rose, author of the upcoming book "It's Not About the Broccoli," for her advice.
Rose encourages parents to have conversations with their children about where food comes from and giving them space to make up their own mind. "When my own daughter was 3, she started asking questions and developed an ethical dilemma about it," Rose says. "I told her about the various ways people deal with it, telling her some people elect not to eat meat, some eat meat and not think about it, and some people eat meat only that is raised and slaughtered ethically."
Once your child decides how he or she feels about the issue, Rose says you should do your best to respect it. "Every parent knows you can't make your child to eat something he or she doesn't want to eat," she says. Instead of forcing whatever meal you've prepared or having to cook two separate main dishes every meal, Rose says there's an easy middle ground. "When you do make a meat dish, most dishes can be easily modified to make a portion without meat."
And eating more vegetarian meals is actually healthier for the whole family. "Everybody, no matter what your diet is, benefits from eating a number of vegetarian meals during the week," she says.
And the problem of not getting enough protein? Not a big deal. "A lot of parents automatically worry about where their child is going to get his or her protein, but our culture really worries about it more than it's necessary," she says. "We vastly overestimate how much protein we need."
Rose says the biggest mistake parents make is starting to give their kids pasta and cheese-heavy meals. When a parent can't get their child to eat meat, they come up with a few go-to meals to feed them instead, whether to make at home or order while eating out. "If you eat meat, you should also eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. And if you don't eat meat, you should especially eat a lot of fruit and vegetables," Rose says.