No, I won’t be raising Olive vegetarian for several reasons.
Firstly, bacon. I don’t want to deny her the exquisite pleasure of bacon. Or a turkey sandwich. Or beef jerky, for that matter. You will never find me denying that meat tastes amazing, I got to experience that and so should she. I don’t think she’ll be eating meat seven days a week, (probably more like 1-3 times) and I will make every attempt to make sure that the meat I do serve is free-range, hormone free, and from happy animals who were massaged daily with organic essential oils, but it won’t be verboten at our table.
The second reason is that she deserves to be able to make up her own mind about this when she’s able. I’m sure there will come a point where she realizes that Papa eats pork chops and Mama doesn’t. I’ll explain to her in age-appropriate language that pork chops come from pigs, and Mama doesn’t like eating animals. That conversation will look different depending on her age, and I’m not planning on showing PETA videos to a three year old, but I do believe it’s important that kids are aware where their food comes from.
Third, because being a vegetarian does require supplementing your diet, there’s virtually no way around it. This is always a go-to argument for those against vegetarianism, which I don’t really understand. Regardless of whether or not our bodies were designed to eat meat, we’ve evolved to a point where we don’t have to in order to survive. So while there are some things, like vitamin B12, that are near-impossible to get from a meat-free lifestyle, I am happy to take B12 supplements in place of taking a life. To ask a baby or a toddler to do the same seems trickier as I hear that they can’t swallow pills that well 😉 I think it’s easier and safer for her to be eating whole foods to make sure she’s getting what she needs while she’s growing, rather than messing around trying to replace that artificially.
Fourth, I want her to be able to experience life normally, without having to ask at a birthday party if the pizza has meat in it, or feel bad because she can’t eat what her friends are eating. Regardless of how we eat in our home, no matter how sugar-free or gluten-free or whatever we are at our table, when she’s dining with others she can eat what they do. The world is huge, and reaches far beyond my personal views on food. I want her to enjoy eating and be open to different styles, tastes, and cultural norms before deciding what she agrees with, likes and doesn’t like. I don’t think that setting restrictions right off the bat is the best way to encourage that. Plus kids eventually want to defy you at all costs and if I try and force her to be a vegetarian I’m pretty sure that I’ll be finding hot dog wrappers hidden under the couch in a few years time- “Olive Grace you come down here this instant! Is that a PEPPERONI STICK hanging out of your mouth? Oh hell no! NOT IN MY HOUSE YOUNG LADY!” etc.
Phew- eating is so political now! This answer ended up being a lot more serious than I intended. Honestly though, regardless of the clear ideas I hold about what food we will and won’t be eating, I think meals should be fun, and delicious,and about enjoyment and satiety and togetherness, rather than a coldly calculated breakdown of nutritional information. You need to leave room for fun and for cupcakes and yes, even for bacon.