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Dinner Time Science and Vegetarians

Getting kids to eat at dinner time can often be a struggle. Matt Rae and his partner found that sometimes it’s just a matter of psychology . . .

The little guy has been on a vegetarian crusade for a few months now. Sausages excluded. According to toddler logic, sausages are actually vegetables. Sure, I know you can get vegetarian sausages, but to be honest I prefer my meals newspaper free.

Anyway, we were eating dinner the other night and we got to the meat issue once again. I have to say I almost felt like I was being mocked. We had been cooking a boneless lamb roast in the BBQ for the last four hours, it was delicious. To us perhaps.

‘I don’t like the meat’

He says, before even having a bite. He is not usually a fussy eater by any means, but the additional chewing effort and texture of meat has just turned him off. Fair enough I guess. We are actually at a point where we allow him to chew pieces up, ‘turn them into sausage’ and spit them out. Bit of a compromise, but it is a start.

A few days earlier, I was explaining to food pyramid to him. Not to much success, but it’s better to start early right?

Went through a few foods he knew and explained where they fit. “You need to eat a balance of these because it’s good for you.” That kind of stuff.

Ok, back to the lamb. My partner had a burst of inspiration, and in that moment explained meat contained iron. The little guy has an obsession with superheroes at the moment, Ironman in particular.

Well, Ironman is made of iron. Meat has iron in it, if you want to be big and strong like Ironman, you should eat your meat.

Seemed like a valid enough idea. He took to it, kind of. We then went into a bit of a science lesson and why not?… Tony Stark would have been pleased had he been there.

I explain how iron is in a thing called the periodic table of elements, and they make up everything. But they are so small we can’t see them.

“They are like little tiny legos, everything is made of little elements, like legos.” My partner’s analogy was superb. 🙂

“But if you look really closely, you could see them”

He returns. Ok, we are going there. I then explain what a microscope is, and say maybe when he is a little older we can have a look at one. ‘Just like your toy pirate telescopes, but they look at little things instead.’

Don’t think we have won the meat battle, but the science crash course was good for a laugh. Who knows, he might absorb something. 🙂


Matt Rae writes on his experiences as a first time Dad and other hair-raising adventures at the unsimple life.

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  1. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I love your science lesson concept at the dinner table.

    My 4 kids were all raised on meat. Now 2 are meat-eaters and 2 are vegetarians. Not sure how to take that!

    Just quietly, I actually admire the 2 vegetarians because it takes more effort to stay true to the philosophy of vegetarianism and veganism, as well as planning their menus to ensure they cover all their necessary nutrition.

  2. Blanik

    What a clever little fella. Saves having to make the change thirty five years down the track. Truth is that vegetarian food ensures a greater variety in ones meals, rather that the same old slab of dead animal and some vegetables every meal. Nutrition is not a problem with a huge variety of legumes being available

    We were both raised on meat and changed forty years ago and have never looked back. If we visit and are served meat, we’ll
    eat it without a fuss, but mostly our friends understand and go vege themselves for that meat.

    Millions of Indian folk can’t be wrong. lol

  3. nickthiwerspoon

    Meh. The food pyramid was constructed with the advice of the meat and dairy industries, so naturally it emphasises “protein”. There’s plenty of protein in beans and legumes and in raw nuts. One doesn’t need to eat meat. Anyway, there is enough suffering in the world without adding to it. And all the longitudinal and epidemiological studies confirm that meat is bad for you, with the more you eat the worse it is.

  4. Jexpat

    Most parents have the opposite problem, trying to get kids to eat healthy vegetables instead of red meat or sausages.

  5. mikestasse

    Thomas Rippel has a vision to turn the world’s soils into a lush paradise, reverse global warming and reduce world hunger by living in symbiosis with cows and composting their manure with biochar. For this vision, cows should only eat grass and clover from pastures like the alps and from crop rotation. And the number of cows on this planet should not be determined by our appetite for meat, but by the amount of grass and clover available to us in this wonderful symbiosis. And lastly, farmers should compost the manure of their cows with biochar, giving us all the organic fertilizer we need to grow grains and vegetables for humans without needing any chemical fertilizers.

    Thomas is a globetrotter who has settled down in Switzerland to live his life as an organic farmer. Sustainable agriculture is central to his life’s philosophy and combines his passions for cutting edge science, healthy nutrition, animal welfare and combatting global climate change.

  6. DanDark

    Having 6 kids I know a little something about meal times, and how all of a sudden they declare I am not eating that, or you can’t make me eat this, all I know is that kids grow up especially boys and when they get to a certain age, they will eat a horse, they will eat anything, they have hollow legs, meal times have to be fun for kids and not a stressful event, if it is made stressful this can lead to probs down the track,
    Keep meal times fun and stress free is my advice for first time parents….

  7. Sir ScotchMistery

    6 kids and no politics at the table? Heaven.

    I started a men’s group a couple of years ago for socially isolated gay men, to get them out of the house and socialise.

    There’s really only 2 rules, no politics at the table, and no liberals.

    Works a treat. Though a liberal did sneak in. Allowed that to go ahead because he is so old. Forgets who the PM is so we keep telling him it’s Bronwyn Bishop.

  8. DanDark

    Sir Scotch kids know more about politics and Liberals than Phony Tony 🙂
    “Tony dumb dumb: “Toe Knee abutt” these words came out of the mouths of babes,
    its on video somewhere, there are some already political aware primary school age kids out there
    They give me hope for the future 🙂

  9. Sir ScotchMistery

    On a pouring rain Saturday, a little levity is called for.

    I agree. Occasionally there is a glimmer of hope.

  10. Bethany Hunt

    Before you start educating your children, maybe you should get educated yourself? No one, esp. in the western world, needs to eat animal products to be healthy, in fact the opposite is true. Health bodies that issue guidelines for nutrition are usually well-populated by reps from the meat, dairy & egg industries, who, surprise surprise, give biased information. There is more than enough iron in green leafy vegetables: flesh is not required. The belief that it’s ok to eat animals (& their products), known as carnism, is a dominant violent ideology that is thrust on all of us from day one. Dominant because it’s all-pervasive, violent because it’s, well, violent to kill others, and an ideology because it is based on a belief, which underpins the choice people make every day to eat animal products. See Melanie Joy’s work for a fuller (& better) explanation. Your son is resisting this ideology, which in a caring human is natural, and you’re trying to blunt his empathy & awareness in order to fit in with your beliefs. Heaven help the poor kid.

  11. Blanik

    I’m of the belief that eating dead animals would be fine as long as it included human animals. A roast two tooth child would be nice and tender, don’t you think? Especially with mint sauce.

  12. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    You are naughty, Blanik!

  13. Margaret McMillan

    I have read a couple of articles recently and heard a report on Radio National in The Science Report. The old food pyramid idea has been discredited. There is no way we need as many carbohydrates as is suggested by it being the largest part of the pyramid. Minimum carbs are best unless you are extremely physically active. Fat of certain kinds is no longer considered to be a no no. Vegetables (mainly) and fruit along with good protein are what makes us healthy. Meat does not have to appear on the menu at all. Also, has the writer any idea of how much salt is in sausages?
    I don’t mean to be over-critical of Matt’s story – I’m aware that I get over-enthusiastic about this topic – and in fact I applaud him for interacting at mealtimes providing a communicative experience for his child.

  14. stephentardrew

    Was vegetarian for forty five years and am still walking so can’t be all bad. Bugger all cholesterol.

    Australian atheist moral philosopher Peter Singer is vegetarian on the grounds of animal cruelty, environmental degradation and water usage. Crops are much more productive and less environmentally damaging. His arguments are very persuasive and soundly based upon empirical evidence. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

    Matt there can also be psychological benefits to your son you cannot yet appreciate. I am not a fanatic as have a leg of free range chicken now and then days as my ex has turned carnivore. You never know it may help reduce aggression and mindless killing. Just speculating on the possible benefits.

  15. eli nes

    What pleasant topic.
    We have our youngest grandchildren(7 and 9) for a sleepover(I get the spare room) our tactic is to put their dinner on a large plate spread in bitesize pieces. Keeping the good:bad as BGGBGGBGG. with our own pair we were successful with everything except broad beans and they went to the loo via knickers and underpants we were vulnerable and oblivious to the pact against the vegetable we loved most. We still put broad beans on the second generation plate but they are not compulsory eating and can be scraped onto our plates. So far neither has been game to do more than put one into the mouth but the texture renders them as spit outs.

  16. RosemaryJ36

    I was surprised to see no mention of fish and other seafoods!

  17. unsimplelife

    Our little guy is 3 people. At this stage I think it is important for him to be exposed to all kinds of different foods. I am aware the pyramid is out dated, but in this case it is an easy to understand visual representation of how foods are different from each other. I have no problem with vegetarians, when he is old enough to make that decision he has our support.

    He is 3, if he had the choice he would be living off lollies.

  18. corvus boreus

    I am not a vegetarian ,not that there is anything wrong with it. I am broadminded enough to have friends who eshew eating any flesh from the animal kingdom, and I do not begrudge them their separate BBQ plate.
    I do have a problem with tofu though, it is fundamentally dishonest.
    Tofu claims to be a curd made from the ‘milk’ of the soybean.
    Beans do not have nipples, therefore they cannot lactate. Soy juice is not milk.
    Tofu lies.

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  20. John Armour

    “Well, Ironman is made of iron. Meat has iron in it, if you want to be big and strong like Ironman, you should eat your meat.”

    A lot of elite non-carnivore athletes would find that a curious thing to be telling one’s child.

    It borders child abuse.

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