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Feud over Food
I'm a sixteen year old kid who wants
to become a vegetarian (I haven't had a bite of meat
in a month so far). The thought of eating animals is
beginning to make me sick. The only problem is, my family
doesn't support this decision. They constantly try to
shove meat in my face (I won't eat it) and tell me that
I won't get as much protein as I would normally. My
mother refuses to make me any vegetarian meals and she
tries to sneak meat flavorings or parts in my food.
What can I do when I'm living in a house made of meat?
A lot of young people today are making
the compassionate choice to become vegetarian, so you
are among very good company. It's a hard decision to
make because being vegetarian puts a person outside
of the mainstream at an age when conformity is highly
valued and peer pressure is particularly strong. It
is especially difficult when parents are antagonistic
about it. However, just because you don't receive encouragement
or support at home doesn't mean you are wrong or that
you should give up trying.
It's not unusual for nonvegetarian parents
to balk when daughters or sons tell them they want to
stop eating meat. Generally, it's because the parents
are misinformed or don't know much about vegetarianism,
and, as with most things, what we don't know can be
frightening. For parents, the health and well-being
of their children is paramount, and your mother is worried
that you won't get adequate nutrition on a vegetarian
diet. She may not understand what is motivating you
to be a vegetarian, and even if she does she may feel
that you are challenging your family's values and lifestyle.
Some parents interpret this as threatening or disrespectful.
Your mother could be concerned that you won't fit in
or be able to go to social events with your friends
or family if you are vegetarian. And, since it appears
that your mother does most of the cooking, she may think
that she will have to make separate meals to accommodate
you and that her work will be doubled.
In order for your determination to be
convincing, you will need to take the initiative in
several ways. Learn as much as you can about being vegetarian
and be clear about why it is important to you. Be prepared
to explain your reasons to your parents without getting
defensive or angry. Educate yourself about vegetarian
nutrition so you know what you need to eat to stay healthy.
Supply your parents with books and other literature
so they can read about it for themselves. My book "The
Vegan Sourcebook" contains comprehensive information
about the modern history of the vegan movement, vegan
ethics and philosophy, environmental aspects, psychological
and sociological perspectives, and much more. It also
has a thorough nutrition section written by Virginia
Messina, MPH, RD, one of the leading vegetarian dietitians
in the U.S., along with nutrition charts, menu plans
just for teens, and recipes. Another of my books, "Vegan
Vittles," provides concise information about vegan
nutrition written by Suzanne Havala, RD, as well as
essays on the ethical aspects of veganism and a wide
range of recipes. Two outstanding and very comprehensive
books on vegetarian nutrition are "The Vegetarian Way"
by Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, and Mark Messina, PhD,
and "Becoming Vegetarian: The Complete Guide to Adopting
a Healthy Vegetarian Diet" by Vesanto Melina, Brenda
Davis, Victoria Harrison, all registered dietitians
(Book Publishing Co.). Two highly informative and very
supportive books are "A Teen's Guide to Going Vegetarian"
by Judy Krizmanic (Puffin) and "For the Vegetarian in
You" by Billy Ray Boyd (Prima). The
Vegetarian Resource Group (P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore,
Maryland 21203, phone: 410-366-8343) has lots of materials
on vegetarian nutrition and would be another excellent
source for information. The
North American Vegetarian Society (Box 72, Dolgeville,
NY 13329, phone: 518 568-7970) has a terrific booklet
of recipes called "Vegetarian Cooking for a Better World"
by Muriel Golde Dugan, MA, MS, MLS, and another booklet
called "Good Nutrition: A Look at Vegetarian Basics."
Both of these are great tools for anyone getting started
Be willing to cook meals for yourself.
Share recipes with your mother, but let her know that
you will agree to do your own cooking and clean-up if
she doesn't want to. All of the books, pamphlets, and
organizations listed above offer easy recipes that will
help to get you started. My book "Table
For Two" contains recipes designed for two people.
You could prepare these small-size recipes and use the
leftover portions for another lunch or dinner. Offer
to do your own food shopping and make your own lunches
as well (if your school cafeteria doesn't provide vegetarian
options). Help in any way you can to make your "being
different" less of a hassle for the other people in
Brothers, sisters, cousins, and other
family and friends will inevitably razz you. This is
typically just good-natured teasing that happens in
nearly all families or groups when a member does something
out of the ordinary. Even though it can be frustrating
and irritating, it's generally done out of love with
no real intent to hurt, so try not to let it get the
best of you.
Your family loves you and wants the
best for you. If you demonstrate the awareness and maturity
to research the matter, and prove to them that you have
the motivation to eat a well balanced diet and cook
for yourself when necessary, they may very well come
to be more accepting and respectful of your decision.
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