By David Grotto, RD, LDN aka “The Guyatitian”
When she was eight years old, my oldest daughter Chloe went on a trip to Lisbon, Portugal with my wife Sharon and myself. She traveled well and was our adventurous eater until we stopped at the first restaurant outside of Lisbon. On the menu and in plain English, read “We serve filet of Kid”. Her jaw dropped, and she looked at us in a state of fright. “Do they really serve children here?” After we assured her that it was illegal to offer any part of a child or adult’s body as a menu item, she proceeded to ask, “Then what is kid?” Explaining that kid was just another name for a young goat, she then paused for just a moment and officially informed us that she was now a vegetarian. She decided from then on, eating animals wasn’t the way she was going to roll.
Now enter Madison (my youngest). Her favorite stuffed animal growing up was “Mr. Pig”. She took him everywhere…even to the dinner table. One day, while she was eating one of her favorite breakfast foods, bacon, she asked where bacon came from. My wife and I looked at each other. Fearing she’d be in therapy for the rest of her life if we lied to her, we decided to tell her the truth. She was not happy…not happy at all. She put 2 and 2 together and also swore off of any pork products from that day forward. But she also decided that eating any animal was ‘disgusting’ so joined the ranks of her sister. See where this is going?
First do no harm! Some of you may be asking, “Why didn’t you put your foot down and insist that your daughters continue to eat meat? Besides, isn’t that healthier for them?” Don’t forget…I wear two hats here: not only am I a concerned father, but I’m also a nutritionist. Like other dads, I only want the best for my ‘kids’. As a dietitian, I already knew what the science had to say about kids and a vegetarian diet:
“Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
American Dietetic Association Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets.
My vegetarian daughters were on solid ground, as far as the science went. But I also knew that my daughters had no clue what a “healthy” vegetarian diet consisted of. Though I have supported their decision to avoid meat, I have also watched over their menu planning, educating them about different vegetarian offerings to ensure adequate nutrition. Admittedly, I have also prayed that they make better choices when on their own.
The Dilemma: We are a mixed plate family. Now let’s fast forward to the present day. My wife, daughter, Katie, and I are card-carrying omnivores who enjoy a small piece of meat on our plate for dinner from time to time. My other daughters, Chloe and Madison, (now teenagers) are still firmly entrenched in their lacto-ovo (means that they will eat eggs and dairy foods) ways. So what’s a mixed family to do?
1 house, 1 meal. It’s really not as hard as it may sound. Both Sharon and I are resolved to make one meal for dinner, varying the protein from time to time. With two veggie teens in the house, we admittedly have gravitated to more plant-based meals simply because it is the path of least resistance. And truth be told, we are grateful and enjoy every bite. As long as the food tastes good and is satisfying, no one really cares. Even when we grill up some chicken, steak or chops, my two veggie teens are okay with our eating it as long as it doesn’t touch their plate and also as long as we provide a protein for them, too. A great example is where we made spaghetti and meatballs the other evening where both vegetarian and regular meatballs were served on the side.
Day in the life of a mixed plate family
Breakfast: French toast, fruit, milk (everyone)
Lunch for school:
Veggie lunch meat and cheese sandwiches with garnish (Veggie teens)
Low-sodium ham and cheese sandwich with garnish (Katie)
Cereal bar or chips
Snack at school: Cheese wedges and crackers or a protein bar are faves
Lentil vegetable soup
Whole grain tomato focaccia bread
Spring mix salad
Grilled pork chops (Sharon, Katie and I)
Evening snack: cereal, chips and salsa, smoothies, fruit, trail mix, popcorn
See? It can be done! Do you live in a mixed plate family? I would love to hear how you resolve meal dilemmas and keep the peace.