I feel like I get asked all the time whether I would ever raise my children to be vegetarians. This is a funny question to me because a.) I have no plans to have kids in the near future and b.) I’m not actually a vegetarian—while I do enjoy a mostly plant-based diet, I eat fish and eggs a few times a week because that seems to be the healthiest balance for me at this point in my life. And yes, I tried the prosciutto when I went to Parma.
That said, I do think it’s possible to do perfectly well on a vegetarian diet, provided it’s well-planned and includes plenty of legumes, whole grains, healthy fats, and (duh) vegetables. Simply being meatless does not automatically mean a dish or a diet plan is healthy. I also tend to agree with those who say children can grow up strong and healthy on a vegetarian diet, though it may require more planning ahead and learning on the part of parents.
While I understand that some people may have religious beliefs that involve adhering to a strict vegetarian diet, in pretty much all other cases, I feel it should ultimately be the choice of the child. That doesn’t mean I think vegetarian parents should serve up steaks, but I would advise against telling kids not to eat meat at friends’ houses or to try new things.
I’d recommend that families either interested in raising their kids vegetarian or adapting to cooking for a child who has decided they don’t want to eat meat should consult with a dietitian.