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The Lies I Tell My Carnivore Kid About My Vegetarian Diet

I’m a truth-telling mom, most of the time. I don’t shy away from the tough topics, and my 3-year-old daughter knows more about the uterus than the average adult male. But when it comes to my vegetarianism, I’m a big fat liar.

I never meant to be a vegetarian. As a small child, I made the connection between the cute animals at the farm and ones on my plate and vehemently refused to eat them anymore. My mom indulged me, working hard to find alternative sources of protein so I wouldn’t stunt my growth. This wasn’t easy in the pre-Whole Foods 1970s, so props to her. That said, I am only 5’2”.

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As a grown-up, I still love animals, but I’m fine with people eating them, especially the humanely raised cage-free sorts. Unfortunately, after decades of avoidance, I’ve completely lost my taste for burgers and wings. Most meat — even the leanest, most ladylike chicken breast, is totally gross to me.

However, I feel strongly that animal protein is an important part of a balanced diet for a growing child, and I’ve bent over backwards to become a mom who may not eat meat but cooks it with a smile. This is sometimes a little scary, because I’m serving my daughter food I haven’t personally sampled (hello, Salmonella?). Luckily, my husband is usually willing to be her royal taster.

The last thing I want is for my daughter to stop eating her favorite foods just because of me.

I’m happy to report that my daughter loves chicken, turkey, meatballs and salmon — really anything you put in front of her that’s not a vegetable. The problem is that she’s starting to notice that she and I are eating two different dinners.

“Mommy, try some of my chicken,” my sweet girl implores. How do you turn that down? But I do. By lying. Here are some of my favorite ruses and fibs:

  • “Mommy’s tummy is full.”
  • “Thank you, but I’m really busy eating my pasta right now.”
  • “I want you to have all the chicken because it’s sooo yummy!”
  • “I already had some — it was delicious!”
  • I make tofu dogs for both of us and pass them off as real hot dogs — at least we’re eating the same thing.
  • I “pretend” to eat the chicken the same way a newly pregnant woman pretends to drink a glass of wine — by stealthily passing it to my husband.

My lies are working for now, but eventually my kid will see through them, forcing me to confess the truth. I’m afraid that when this happens, my vegetarianism might be catching. The last thing I want is for my daughter to stop eating her favorite foods just because of me.

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Until then, I’ll be in the kitchen, frying up some turkey meatballs I pretend to love but have never tasted. They do smell pretty good, though.

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