New Teen Vegetarian Scared to Tell Parents

New 16 year old vegetarian, super-conservative parents don’t know, terrified to tell them

Scared To Tell

Hey, I am a newly declared, sixteen year old vegetarian, and my parents simply do not know. . . . yet. They are super conservative and I have kept my vegetarianism a secret so far. Often times we’re not at the dinner table together, that’s how I’ve kept it a secret.

My step mom cooks, then has something to do with one of my siblings and rushes out to do it. My dad gets home, on average, at about 6, 6:30 every night.

Vegetarianism has come up in conversation before and they said, quote, “It’s stupid”. I’m terrified to tell them, any advice?

Logan G.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

Hi Logan,

Congratulations on going vegetarian! Changing your diet like that takes courage and strength. It also helps to have a lot of support. So I’m sorry you fear your family will be unsupportive.

You wouldn’t be the first new vegetarian to face family opposition. It’s pretty common for family members to feel criticized by your different diet, and make things hard for you.

They may also worry that you’ll be malnourished, and your busy stepmother probably won’t be willing to take on extra work to accommodate your veg diet.

So, you’ll need a plan.

Just avoiding the meat dishes and making up for it with cereal and PB&J’s is not going to cut it. You’re still growing, and you won’t be healthy unless you eat well. And if you aren’t healthy, your family will have all the reason they need to insist you eat their way.

First you should do your research. Reading a few books on vegetarian nutrition will help you answer your parents when they worry about your health. You should know about protein, vitamins and minerals, and how to get good nutrition from your veg diet.

Start by reading these free vegetarian reports:
The Savvy Vegetarian nutrition report,
and 10 Tips for Going Vegetarian.
and the article How to Get Enough Protein In Your Vegetarian Diet.

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And these vegetarian nutrition books:
Vegan for Life, by Norris and Messina,
and Becoming Vegetarian, by Melina, Davis, and Harrison.

The more you know about veg diet, the better you will be able to defend your choice.

But please, avoid the most common mistake made by new and enthusiastic vegetarians: Don’t preach! If you do, you’ll alienate your family, and any friends you try this on.

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I find I get a better response when I quietly follow my own diet and am ready to answer any questions from the curious – without being judgmental about their choices.

Of course you’ll have to learn to cook for yourself, if you haven’t started already. Get a vegetarian cookbook or three and start trying the recipes that look easy and edible.

Being able to show your parents that you can and will feed yourself will show them that you’re serious about your vegetarian diet, and willing to work to make it happen.

A few good teaching cookbooks to check out:
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman,
30 Minute Vegan by Reinfeld and Murray,
the Everything Vegan Cookbook by Jolinda Hackett.

Remember, even though a recipe may be vegan, you can easily sub in dairy or egg if that’s your preference, or add them on the side.

The basic recipes on Savvy Vegetarian will show you how to cook basic foods – a good place to start when putting together a meal.

While learning to cook, be considerate in the kitchen – you don’t want to wear out your welcome by leaving dirty dishes and crusty counters.

Don’t just clean up your own mess, leave the kitchen in better shape than you found it. That will put you in the running for Most Popular Guy Ever!

You also want to make sure you don’t get in the way while your step mother is trying to make dinner for everyone else. In fact, you could make her life easier by volunteering to make some side dishes to go with dinner – cooking experience for you and less work for her. If you’re learning to cook, it doesn’t hurt to have your stepmother in a charitable mood.

Assuming you know next to nothing about cooking, if you can get your stepmother to show you basics like how to scramble eggs, how to cook rice, how to prep vegetables, it will really help you when you’re trying to learn new recipes.

The more you can show your family that you are serious, educated, and willing to do the hard work it takes to learn a new way of eating, the more likely they are to support you. The more support you can get from them, the easier it will be for you.

In the worst case scenario, where you do all you can to show your family that you’re serious, and their reaction is still negative and even hindering, you can still educate yourself, use your own money to buy ingredients, and wait them out.

It won’t be long before you’re in college, feeding yourself anyway. Learn to eat well now and you’ll be miles ahead of the other freshmen. I really wish I had paid more attention in my Mom’s kitchen. What a shock it was to leave home and realize I didn’t know how to cook most of my favorite foods!

Remember: Going vegetarian is a long term commitment, and the start is sometimes rocky, given family pressures and the steep learning curve that comes with completely changing your diet. Seek out friends, find resources for support, and don’t let the challenges get you down.

Zoe Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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