On Sunday we were invited for a BBQ with Ben's family. We were sitting in the garden and having fun with the water hose until food was served and drama took its course.
Ben's oldest niece didn't want to eat any of the grilled meat, while her step-dad insisted she had some. With her being almost 13 years old and her step-dad only wanting her to get the nutrients she needs, you can imagine it all ended in a big discussion, tears and a teenager refusing to eat anything at all.
Well, this whole situation got me thinking about whether as a parent you should force your teenager to eat meat or let them decide themselves, knowing that they might miss out on iron and other nutrients important for their development. I could sympathize with both sides. As a teenager you go through phases of wanting to try different things. I remember that a lot of my friends at school went through a meat-free time. Some because they suddenly didn't like meat anymore, others because they didn't agree with animals getting killed just for us to have something on our plates and some just because they wanted to test themselves. I didn't belong to any of these groups. I have always liked my meat and knew that I couldn't live without certain meats such as chicken or my beloved sausages so I didn't even try it - I hate failing!
Anyway, one of my friends went vegetarian for a couple of months and got serious problems with her bones due to an insufficiency of a specific nutrient that you can find in meat. She was weak, tired and all the supplements her GP prescribed didn't help. She had to go back to eating meat just to feel healthy again.
As a parent you have heard about these things and do of course worry that, if your child decides to become vegetarian, their health might suffer. Their body is still developing after all. So what do you do? Would you force your child/teenager to eat meat or would you let them go ahead although you might know that their health could be in danger?