I am a vegetarian. Stephen is an omnivore. I never planned on raising our kids as vegetarians, for a wide variety of reasons I don't really feel like getting into right now, but the upshot is that Stephen and I agreed our kids would be omnivores.
Gracie, apparently, has other plans.
I mean, no. She'll eat some meat. She likes ground beef, if it's mixed in really well with her mac and cheese, she'll eat the occasional meatball, she sometimes loves bacon (and sometimes refuses it), so, there are some things she'll eat. But strips of meat, like steak, are absolutely out of the question. And do not even get me started on the pure evil that is poultry in ANY form.
I haven't been too worried about it, because she really does eat a very nicely varied diet, as far as most toddlers are concerned. She likes fruits and vegetables (both orange and green), she likes beans, all dairy products, eggs, peanut butter, and obviously carbs in all their lovely forms. I try to keep offering meat to her, but it's kind of hard, because it's a huge pain to make, it costs money, I hate wasting food, and 9 times out of 10, it gets dumped down the garbage disposal. But we really are trying. I don't want to give in to a toddler's dietary whims, and I know that any day now, she might change her mind and discover the joys of chicken. On the other hand, she gets PLENTY of protein, and iron...well. She's almost old enough for half a Flintstone vitamin, and really, she probably gets more vitamins and minerals than a lot of toddlers, so I just can't stress about it.
What's interesting to me is the reaction this gets. I can't tell you how many people have insisted I offer her hot dogs and bologna. Seriously? Because the protein in kidney beans and yogurt is so inferior to protein that's served with a side of nitrites and excess sodium? Listen, don't get me wrong- she gets her fair share of junk food. I've been known to feed her McDonalds and Taco Bell. She gets chocolate milk a few times a week. She gets the occasional cup of juice (which, don't get me started on baby candy, that's another rant for another day). My little mutey says "ice cream" when she sees it in a book. So. We're far from perfect here, is my point. But do people GENUINELY believe she'd be better off eating processed, over-salted lips and assholes? Girl, please.
It's the same problem I have with all the articles about the "safety" of vegetarian diets, both for adults and children. They always emphasize the importance of thoughtful food choices, ensuring balanced diets that address all nutritional needs. Because eating whatever sounds good has worked out so well for the health of this nation's omnivores? Not thinking about what to feed an omnivorous child is a wise choice?
I think the whole food/eating issue is incredibly loaded and incredibly difficult. I want Grace to understand how to respond to her hunger cues, to stop eating when she's full and not to keep eating until her plate is clean (if she is full and there is food left over, that is MY failing, not hers). To understand that junk food is okay, it's just not supposed to be the staple of her diet. To be able to snack when she's hungry and not because she's bored. All of those things. It sounds so easy but DANG, it's hard.
I'm also struggling a lot with the soy issue. I just sent a message to one of my medical librarian friends, asking for help with a lit search on the topic. I do believe there are some very real endocrine effects from soy consumption, and it stands to reason that a toddler would be more vulnerable to those effects. But just because that seems logical doesn't make it true, and there are also health benefits to weigh against any other risks- reduced fat intake, cardiovascular benefits, and a possible link to decreased breast cancer risk in adulthood. I just want to make an informed choice, especially because Gracie inexplicably LOVES her some vegan Boca burgers and fake meat crumbles.
And I'm still pretty sure the answer isn't a goddamned hot dog.