Judith Myers-Walls, associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue, says there are three qualities of adolescents that could lead them to become vegetarians:
"Sometimes the adolescent's decision causes the rest of the family to try vegetarianism,
but this may not always be good," she says. "If the reason the adolescent is trying
a new diet is rebellion, it could cause the child to go to extremes. He or she may
become macrobiotic, for example, and that's really challenging. Macrobiotic diets
consists chiefly of whole grains."
Beth Russell, 16, Bedford, Ind., says she became a vegetarian two-and-a-half years ago because she was disturbed when she read pamphlets about the alleged abuse of farm animals. Russell's family has had few problems with her dietary choices. "It hasn't really been a problem," she says. "I eat a lot of noodles and vegetables -- all kinds of vegetables. We'll do things like using water instead of chicken broth to make vegetable soup. We also make lasagna with vegetables instead of meat."
Myers-Walls suggests having the child make his or her own shopping list to ensure that foods are available to support the new diet. For older adolescents, parents may even want the vegetarian to do his or her own shopping.
She also recommends having the vegetarian prepare one meal each week. This will give all members of the family a chance to explore different menus without forcing an entirely different diet on them.
By trying some of these approaches, parents may be able to better coexist with their vegetarian children. "My overall reaction is not to try to get children to change their diet," Myers-Walls says. "Handle it in a healthy way. After all, you can't force feed children, not even when they're babies."
Sources: Judith Myers-Walls, (765) 494-8402; Internet,firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Russell (812) 279-3917
Writer: Amanda King, (765) 494-8402
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, email@example.com
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