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My teen is a vegetarian

Hold the burgers please

The atmosphere in the community education building was warm and friendly as we waited for our class on “healthy vegetarian cooking” to begin. When our instructor began the class with the ice breaker, “Tell us your favorite food,” the first participants rattled off favorites such as faux-chicken-and-rice casserole and lentil loaf. It should have been my cue to profess my love for mashed potatoes. Instead I mentioned steak with whiskey-peppercorn sauce. A fellow student glared at me, “Then why are you here?” I explained that I had health concerns about my teenager’s vegetarian diet. How do we respond, as parents, when children announce that they are vegetarians?

Have conversations with your child about vegetarianism.

What is it about vegetarianism that appeals to you? What types of foods do you plan to avoid? What other foods will replace the nutrients you used to get from these foods?

Try some of your child’s new favorites to add variety to your own diet!

Is your child ready to assume more responsibility?

It is our moral responsibility to work toward the common good to ensure that all are fed. (CCC #1908) In particular, parents provide nourishment for their children. But when an adolescent becomes a vegetarian, that doesn’t mean the parents become short-order cooks, preparing meals for multiple diets. Instead, adolescent vegetarians should expect to plan ahead so that ingredients may be purchased, to learn basic aspects of food preparation and to cook individual entrées if necessary. Each family negotiates the best fit for including a vegetarian in its lifestyle.

“We also hear the call of Catholic youth and other young people to protect the environment.” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, June 15, 2001, Global Climate Change)

Your teen’s newfound vegetarianism could be a temporary dietary change her friends are trying. Or it may be he is beginning to incorporate moral issues as a part of identity development. Many Catholic teens are becoming adults in a world that must resolve issues of global climate change and enact just agricultural policies in order to be effective stewards of God’s creation.

Grain in the U.S. is often produced for the feeding of livestock, an inefficient conversion of energy.

Perhaps your child’s announcement is one way the Holy Spirit is working to bring food to the tables of those who hunger.