Parents: Don't fight with your veggie kids

Parents are no strangers to squabbles with kids. For some, it's cleaning their room. While others fight over their kid's homework.

While those can be logical battlegrounds to enter, experts say arguing over food -- specifically if it's over your child being a vegetarian -- aren't worth the fight.

According to Jennifer Nelson, director of clinical dietetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, food battles can be stressful for kids. Especially if they involve peers.

"You need to be able to support your child in situations where he is going over to Tommy's house and Tommy's family is not vegetarian," Nelson said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Are you going to tell the child he can't go to Tommy's house, or are you going to raise your child to deal with that so that he doesn't feel like he's trapped between two world war events?"

"I used to fight with my daughter about eating the food she was offered when having dinner at a friend's house," Jill Marchetti, a mom of two, told Walletpop.

Experts say instead of parents like Marchetti battling, suggest age-appropriate explanations for your child about why they don't eat meat. Then give children reassurance and strategies for making food choices when they're not with you.

"The last thing you want your [child] to do is go into the world and feel distressed that 'I have to be just like Mommy and Daddy, and I'm not seeing anything here I can eat,' " Nelson says. "Early on, you do not want to set your child up for failure."

To sidestep food fights, try these tips:
  • Involve your kids in the planning and preparation of meals.
  • Offer them a few choices. For instance, if they'll only eat veggie burgers, suggest you try out different flavors and brands. Discover new options he'll eat.
  • Look for similar alternatives. To reduce a vegetarian child's anxiety, and help him feel at ease with family members and friends during meals, look for vegetarian foods that look like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and bacon (for BLTs).
Sound off. How do you side-step food fights in your house? Do you think kids should eat foods they don't like "just because?"
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