how we’re raising our children: vegetarian to non-vegetarian and why

Recently, one of our readers emailed us about a dilemma she’s facing.

Mommy eats meat.

Daddy is a vegetarian.

Mommy and daddy disagree about how they are going to raise their son.

Sound familiar to anyone out there?

Many families face the same issue when thinking about how to raise kids.  It’s one thing to accept that your partner has a different eating preference than you but another when you bring a child into the picture and now have to agree on how to raise him or her.  Obviously, compromise is the key.  There is no right or wrong answer.  But to help get the discussion going, we have each outlined how we grew up and how we are currently (or planning to) raise our kids to eat.

This is a hot topic for many and we really want to bring a lot of examples to the table for readers to gain insight from.  So we’d love to hear from all of you out there.  Please share what you’re doing and how it’s working out for you and your family.

– Chai Mommas

PS + Check out some of our vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes such as Enchilada Style Stuffed Green Peppers, Spanakopita, and Meat Sliders.  Sooo good!

Neesha & Amar (both non-vegetarians)

Growing up:

I was brought up eating meat.  Both my mom and dad love to cook so new meals both vegetarian and non-vegetarian were always being created in our house.  My husband on the other hand was vegetarian until he met me.  Although I don’t think the culprit was me, it had to be my dad’s amazing cooking that made him change.  My husband came from the opposite spectrum, all his family ate was Indian food, which I love, but he was sick of.  When he began to eat meat in moderation, it made cooking so much easier for me.  I respected his outlook on not having meat everyday (which I can’t handle either) although I never would have touched a veggie burger until I met him.

Raising her son:

Once we had our son, we both agreed that we wanted to expose him to as many different foods as we could agreeing that when he gets older, he can make the decision on being a meat eater or vegetarian.  We do focus on healthy eating…for example, we stay away from those fried chicken nuggets and make him a grilled chicken breast instead.  We don’t force him to eat anything he does not like but we have a rule to always try at least one bite before not wanting it.  By exposing him to so many foods, we really believe it has brought some culture into his life and love the fact that he will eat a filet of Tilapia over mac and cheese when we go out to eat.

Puja & Amish (vegetarian/non-vegetarian)

Growing up:

My mother was a strict vegetarian, meaning she didn’t even eat eggs. My father ate white meat, mainly chicken, when he first came to the U.S. from India in his 20’s. So when I was born and old enough to eat table food, he would sometimes make chicken dishes for me to try, (his tandoori chicken is famous among our friends and family in NY).  He said as a toddler, I would take the chicken he made and put it to the side of my plate, opting for things like peas instead. The running joke in my house is the time I threw the chicken on the ground and my mom knew I was a born vegetarian. When my dad gave up meat for health and partially religious reasons, (my mom is a devout Hindu and he started following her beliefs), they still allowed my sister, brother and I to choose whatever lifestyle we wanted, but didn’t cook it for us in the house. At age 14, I would glimpse over at the spiritual books my grandmother read and then talk about the philosophy to my grandfather who was a professor at the time. I decided that I never really enjoyed eating meat and became the vegetarian I am today. My husband eats white meat, (chicken and fish, he gave up red meat years ago since heart disease runs in his family). His parents are also vegetarian, but his older sister eats all types of meat. Because my brother and sister still ate meat, I was around it when they cooked it and also had roommates in grad school that cooked meat in our apartment. So when Amish and I moved in together, he would cook meat here and there when he felt like it, but since dinner prep mainly became my thing, I started cooking chicken for him every once in awhile. I didn’t mind doing that, since seeing it in raw form reminded me of what I didn’t like about eating it anyway. Plus, it was healthier for him if I made it at home rather than buying it prepared. Now a days, Amish actually prefers being more vegetarian like me, but he’ll still have fish when we go to restaurants sometimes.

Raising her daughter:

Regarding food choices for Laila, we plan on raising her to just eat healthy. We want to set an example of ‘healthy being cool’ and understand as parents, we need to eat that way if we want her to. We’ve decided to take it one day at a time. We will feed her what we eat, which is lots of fruits, veggies and good grains and if she wants to try my husband’s sea bass off his plate one day when she’s old enough, we will let her. Just like we were raised, allow her to make the decision on her own and have it come from a place that is her own truth of why, instead of just telling her and imposing beliefs on her that don’t mean anything unless she feels and truly understands them.

Shraddha & Hitesh (both vegetarians)

Growing up:

I grew up primarily vegetarian.  My mom is strictly vegetarian and does not eat eggs unless they are baked into something, like cakes or cookies.  My dad always ate eggs but started eating meat when he came to the U.S. for graduate school back in the early 70’s.  When I was about 7, I decided to quit eating meat myself when we were visiting a temple and that prompted my dad to also stop.  But when I moved away for college, it was because of my mom’s urging that I started eating chicken and fish since she thought it might help with gaining weight.  I grew to love Indian chicken dishes and sushi especially.  My husband on the other hand, was raised strictly vegetarian/no eggs…he’s still never even had an omelet and 100% never will.  By the time we were seriously dating, I already ate little to no meat.  And once we started living together, we collectively decided that we would not bring any meat into the house.  For awhile now, I have been completely vegetarian and I know a lot of that is because of my husband’s influence.  I have to admit that it’s just easier to eat the same diet…makes meal time simple because we both eat mostly the same foods.  I still eat eggs though…I’m not sure I could give those up…

Raising her son:

We both agree that until he is old enough to make his own decisions, we will raise our son vegetarian since we both are.  When he’s able to actually understand more about food, the main thing we want to teach him is to know where his food comes from and how it’s made so he can make the best decisions about anything he is interested to put into his body.  I of course have no problems with him having eggs…in fact, I look forward to finally having some company.  My husband is not so sure and thinks it’s best to let him decide himself when he’s old enough.  It’s nothing we need to finalize now…we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Reena & Vipul (non-vegetarian/vegetarian)

Growing up:

I have been married for over 9 years and in our household I am the meat eater and my husband is the vegetarian.  He has been a vegetarian for almost 26 years.  He grew up with a household of vegetarians, in fact his entire side of the family is all veg. All of my family eats meat.  I never knew how hard it would be with one spouse and family being vegetarian and the other not.  It took my husband and I awhile to figure things out.  One thing my husband and I came to agreement on is that we would give our kids the option to eat meat.  He said that growing up being vegetarian in Texas was hard for him because the majority of his friends were meat eaters.

Raising her kids:

Before the kids, majority of the time we ate a lot of vegetarian food (which I was ok with because if I wanted to add meat to my dish I would just make a little for me).  After having kids, my husband and I decided not to offer them meats during their first year.  It turns out that my daughter is like me, she loves all kinds of meat dishes.  My son however, is not a big fan of meat dishes and we never force him to eat it.  It’s awesome that we have a 50/50 household of eaters!  So I am able to make a combo of meat and vegetarian dishes.



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