Thursday, February 11, 2010

Children, Lent and Fasting

Two Square Meals left a comment on my post about vegetarian recipes for Lent that I thought was worth addressing in a post. It boiled down to: what about the kids? How do you make sure they get enough protein if you do a vegetarian fast for Lent?
I don't know what everyone does, but here's why it works for us:
1) My kids all willingly eat eggs, cheese, milk and beans. If they didn't, I'd probably make sure they had meat during our Lenten meals. They're growing, and I'd make sure they had what they needed.
2) At least a night or two a week, we eat dinner at my folks' place or with my mother-in-law. They almost always fix meat, and we follow the rule that if someone offers it, you eat it, because you don't impose your fast on other people. So the kids get meat during Lent when they visit their grandparents.  :)
3) We don't fast at all on Sundays, because that's the day we celebrate the resurrection, even during Lent. So the kids eat meat then.
4) This should maybe be a sub-category of #1, but I think that a well-balanced vegetarian diet has plenty of protein for a growing child. Again, if you have kids who will eat the big veg. protein sources (eggs, dairy, legumes).
As you can see, with our exceptions (Sundays, other people's homes), the fast from meat isn't really that strenuous. So, it seems to me like it's a good way to introduce the idea of fasting to children, without worrying that it'll do them any harm. Kids (or "those who are attaining their growth" as they used to say) shouldn't do any true fasting. They shouldn't go hungry or be undernourished. If they're hungry for it, they probably need it. (Unless "it" is five bowls of ice cream a day.) But, at least the way we do it, I don't think going vegetarian for Lent is anything that will do them any harm. Frankly, I'm not even sure they'd notice unless we pointed it out. :)
peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell


Becks said...

I am a little surprised that you even felt it was necessary to offer justification for fasting from meat. Americans and everyone else who follows the western diet eat waaaaay too much meat. People have lived for generations and generations eating much, much less animal protein, and by all counts had far fewer "lifestyle" diseases than our generation. Heart disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, etc. are totally symptomatic of our diet. In our house, we actually only eat meat once or twice a week, and we are healthy and thriving!

Anyway, all that is to say, good for you!

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Given the way you guys eat normally, I think you're right. They probably wouldn't notice if you didn't tell them. :)

Amy said...

AND this is a short-term thing!

Can't keep up with you today :-)

Rev Dr Mom said...

Your choice to fast as a family is admirable. But I would add for those who think you are "depriving" them, that is entirely possible to raise healthy children on an entirely vegetarian diet. I'm surprised that people would question that these days.

Jessica said...

Becks and Rev Dr Mom, I totally agree that you can raise children healthily on a vegetarian diet. But I think that in our culture, that's not obvious unless you've had reason to research it, so it's not a strange question to ask.

TwoSquareMeals said...

I should clarify that I have no problem with vegetarian diets and understand that you can get plenty of protein that way. In fact, we don't eat a whole lot of meat around here, anyway, for the sake of the earth and because we try to buy ethically raised meat.

We do, however, have a baby who refuses to eat beans and eggs and cheese. So I guess my question was how to incorporate some protein for my kids when we are cutting out all meat and the protein for that night is something they eat only by force (without cooking a separate meal for them).

My older kids are good eaters, so this is not a problem. But there is only so much you can do to force protein down a 16 month old who doesn't like it. My solution has been Trader Joe's frozen meatballs. I can cook those for him without making an extra main dish. He also gets plenty of yogurt. That way, he is getting protein even though we are not having our usual roast chicken turned into three separate meals for the week.

Jessica said...

TwoSquareMeals, thanks for the clarification. I was just answering the vegetarian question because it's one I think's worth answering. But it sounds like you didn't need the explanation and that you've found a good, reasonable solution yourself!