Stubborn Ignorant Teen Vegetarian Stepdaughter
My stepdaughter is vegetarian in the most ignorant, stubborn teenager way
I have no problem with her eating a sensible vegetarian diet with lentils, chickpeas, quinoa or whatever it takes to keep her energy levels high, maybe some leafy greens for folate, even supplements if needed. I have a lot of problem with her just skipping meat and eating almost nothing.
My partner is worried she is undernourished, too skinny, low in energy and has bad moods because of her diet. I think he is probably right but I don’t think the problem is being vegetarian. The problem is being ignorant.
My SD does not like to read or do research. I have bought her several vegetarian cook books and given her all mine (I like to sometimes eat vegetarian even if I am not commited to it and don’t want to be).
I have printed and photocopied recipes for her, emailed her and her father recipes and all to no avail.
She has anxiety disorder, control issues, hates me (I am her stepmother after all and she’s been through a lot) and can barely read so she is not able to process the information on her own and does not want to do it with me.
Her dad gets angry if I try to involve him. He does not want to learn about vegetarian diet or help her cook. He wants me to do it, but he is not willing to help. I think if I were to show him a bit of what I know my SD would be willing to learn too.
I loved your tips on vegetarians and non-vegetarians eating together
That’s pretty much how we got through Christmas (a roast made from cashews and macadamia nuts costs even more than turkey…but at least people liked it.) Whenever I cook I make sure there is some vegetarian food as well as meat.
I got my SD a slow cooker for her birthday. I thought it would be useful to her to throw things in it and come home to a decent dinner. I thought she would be reassured by having her own cooking pot that had never cooked meat.
I researched many simple and more elaborate recipes she could do and put them in a folder for her (this was how I found Savvy Vegetarian). She has not used any of the recipes or tried out her pot (it’s been months) because her dad is really not on side.
This kid is surviving on packet pasta with the odd tin of beans or frozen veg and far too many chocolate bars and junk food. I get shouted down by both if I say anything. Apparently getting the facts straight is me “putting her off” the few foods she will eat.
I don’t know how to get them to come to Savvy Vegetarian and find some stuff out, but I think her psychiatrist recommended she see a dietician which is a good thing!!
Savvy Vegetarian Advice:
Hi S. R. Thanks for writing.
It’s great that one of you knows something about vegetarian diet. It would be nice if the vegetarian and her Dad did too.
It’s hard when you live with a problem and can see the solution, but can’t convince anyone who needs convincing. And it’s sad but true that the more you push the less likely it is to happen, especially since your stepdaughter hates you, and your partner is a vegaphobe – and a guy!
At least her therapist has recommended a dietitian. That could help Dad become aware of the nutritional issues, and take more responsibility for her diet. A supplement which includes B12 and Vit D would be a great idea, if you could get him to buy it and her to take it. A dietitian might have better luck.
I don’t know many parents who have succeeded in forcing their teens to eat properly. SHE has to want to, then it’ll happen, and YOU can’t make her get to that point. She’s made that clear by refusing to use the crockpot or cookbooks you’ve given her.
Many teens have worse diets and survive. She’ll grow up and figure things out, or not, but meanwhile, there’s no point in aggravating yourself or her.
My advice is to continue for now with what has worked for you – making delicious nutritious things that everyone will enjoy when you have the chance – and otherwise stay out of it. Don’t drop helpful hints, hand out reading assignments, nag, or lecture. Hard not to, I know, but do it for the sake of your relationship with your partner.
Maintain a calm, serene, pleasantly detached facade and keep your lip zipped. Generously offer to share your wonderful food, but don’t show that you’re offended when they don’t.
Try to stick with easy kid friendly recipes. I haven’t met anyone, veg or non-veg, who doesn’t like these easy recipes, and they’ll give her the calories and protein she needs: pasta tofu & veg, tofu burgers, or black bean quesadillas, hummus wraps, guacamole & corn chips, fruit salad, veggies & dip, or carrot salad.
She could make these simple vegetarian recipes easily herself, if she wanted to, when you’re not around. But don’t mention that – let her make the first move. Leave one or two extra servings in the fridge or freezer for Dad to feed her – not too many; scarcity creates demand.
If they ask you about anything veg, say the minimum necessary, then drop the subject. They’ll come ’round – eventually. And you’ll be well on the way to sainthood!
All the best, Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian