Thursday, November 13, 2014

Teenage Vegetarian Seeks Parental Acceptance For Her Choice

Dear Tazi:

I am seventeen and for many reasons I have decided to become a vegetarian. I am not certain if I want to go completely vegan, but I do not wish to see animals die for my meals any longer. When I told my mother this she responded that as long as I eat at her table I will eat what she serves and not argue about it. I figured I could get around this by simply not eating dinner when she serves meat, but she grounded me for wasting food! How am I the one wasting food when I tell her not to prepare a meat-based serving for me?

My father has been a bit more supportive, suggesting that I am going through a "teenage phase" and asking my Mom to "play along" until I "grow out of it". Tazi, this is not a phase! I will be off to college in another year and a half and I will be able to eat however I want, and a vegetarian diet is what I want. In fact, I am only looking at schools that offer vegetarian meal plans.

My decision to go vegetarian has caused a lot of stress around my dinner table. This was not my intent and would like to try and diffuse it, but it looks like the only way to do that is to give up my new lifestyle as a vegetarian and that is not an option. Can you think of any ways to get my mother to lay off on the meat? She serves it at almost every meal!

Vegging In, Not Out

Dear Vegging In, Not Out:

For years now, medical science has touted the benefits of a well-balanced vegetarian diet. The key here is the term "well-balanced", which means your diet should include a combination of starchy and non-starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes (nuts, beans, and other protein rich plant-based foods. So often, people who decide to "go veg" do not do their homework and end up eating a poorly balanced diet that is deficient in many of the amino acids needed to build proteins - which are the building blocks of the enzymes your body needs to function!

I suggest that you ask your mother why she is so offended by your choice to eliminate animal flesh from your diet. If she is concerned that you will end up malnourished a trip to the doctor for a full check-up and a visit with a dietitian, who can show you all that you need to eat in order to achieve a balanced diet, will go far in assuaging her fears.

I only wish it was this easy!

If your mother is afraid that your new diet will be an additional burden on her, requiring her to make separate menus for every meal you need to make sure that this does not happen. It is very simple to ask your Mom to set aside a portion of a recipe before adding any meat to it; it is quite another to demand an entire meal be prepared separately for your needs, since there is no medical reason for your specialized diet. For example, if your mother is making spaghetti and meat sauce, ask her to set aside some of the sauce before adding the meat/meat juices; if she is making steak and potatoes, do not tell her that she needs to prepare a Tofurky for you. Rather, politely request that she not prepare a helping of steak for you and sit with your family and eat the parts of the meal that coincide with your dietary preferences.

If your mother's concern is that your vegetarian needs will be a burden on the family's grocery budget, offer to pay for the additional cost of your specialized foods. If your mother normally buys you beef hot dogs for $3.69 a package and tofu pups cost $3.99, offer to pay the difference in cost. Although 30-cents is not much, over the cost of an entire shopping trip the money really does add up fast!

Lastly, if your mother is afraid that you just don't like her cooking, reassure her that this is not the case; that the decision you have made to eschew meat is a deeply personal one. Try sharing your reasoning with her to help her understand that your decision is about you, not her, or anyone else for that matter. You may not be able to convince either of your parents that you are not going through a "teenage phase", but you may be able to convince them to be more accepting of your choice once they see you handling it in a mature and responsible manner.


P.S. Another idea is to buy a vegetarian cookbook and offer to cook dinner for your family or ask your Mom to help you prepare some vegetarian recipes! Quality time is what the family dinner hour is all about!

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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