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Growing veggie babies 10/27/10

Children will put just about anything into their mouths and as parents, we need to guide them.

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By Morwenna Bosch

My daughter is 18 months old, and as far as she is concerned, it would be just dandy to exist on a diet of cheese puffs and stolen sips of dad’s beer. Now, before we are reported to some authority or the other, let me say that the above example illustrates a case in point: that children are not discrete consumers when it comes to nutrition. Wait, when it comes to just about anything, from masses of plastic toys which leer from the shelves of Baby City to garden worms and green paint. So, as parents we guide our children in their choices, not least of all in food choices.

I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat animal flesh. I’m a lacto-ovo veggie, so I do eat eggs and dairy produce. I try to follow a diet based on fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, grains, pulses, milk and yoghurt. I have been my daughter’s primary care-giver since she was born, and have not prepared meat for her. However, when it comes to the question of whether to ‘raise’ my child vegetarian, I am in a bit of a dilemma. She has been handed pork sausages at braais and munched some chicken, and when I am pressed as to whether I am ‘making’ her vegetarian, so to speak, I reply that the choice will be hers.

I do hope, however, that I can lead her gently towards vegetarianism – which I believe to be a more ethical path. Every day I eat salad with her. We spend time in the garden planting and nurturing vegetables together. She loves foraging for food in the garden: naartjies, wild strawberries, mint and gooseberries being the garden menu of choice. (This foraging practice is most fascinating to watch: we had a hard time trying to get any fresh veg and fruit into her, but she will eat it with joy when it’s straight out the garden!) I hope that as she grows she will be equipped with a consciousness about life and sentient beings and that she chooses the gentler path of vegetarianism.

Of course, there is the question of nutrition: am I denying my child necessary protein? Personally, I think that the myth of protein is a peculiarly western obsession and that the warm South African climate is suitable for a diet low in animal protein and fat. I have noticed, too, that my little one really enjoys the protein-rich nut and dried fruit snacks which I make for her. Grasping at the nuts, seeds and dried fruit pieces also develops her fine motor skills- you see, she could be a vibrant veggie genius!

So, while I believe that my child will make lifestyle choices of her own, I hope that I can nurture a compassionate spirit in her which will hopefully include vegetarianism. I hope, too, that she will eat her greens before she tucks into cheese puffs and beer (blame dad for that one!)

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One Responses to this article

editor November 26, 2010 Reply

I was raised vegetarian, and I don’t ever recall it being something that was ‘forced down my throat.’ Through simply introducing your child to good, healthy food – vegetarian or not – they will become familiar with these healthy eating patterns and will take that base with them as they grow up.

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