Confessions of a Vegetarian Toddler
How young is too young for a child to reject meat?
‘My name is John. I’m a father to a beautiful 26-month-old son. He’s just like your regular toddler. He pushes his toddler boundaries and I constantly chase after him in public — he makes me laugh every day. All is good… until meal time.’
This is the introduction I’d give should TA — Toddlers Anonymous — actually exist.
I feel the nerves tingle at the back of my neck as my imaginary audience look straight through me, awaiting my drop of the bombshell.
‘My son doesn’t like eating meat. He prefers fruits and vegetables.’
Cue shock, gasp and horror.
It’s true. Levi prefers his greens to his proteins.
When presented with a dish full of colourful nutrition, Levi methodically picks out the meat and places it on one side of the dish.
Once he’s satisfied he has cleaned out the meat, he actively pursues the rest of his meal with the two-handed gusto one would associate with eating fried chicken wings.
Minced, sliced or diced meat that’s served home-cooked style will never reach his taste buds.
I’m not suggesting that Levi abhors all meat.
He does give his seal of approval to meat that’s ‘convenient’.
Think McDonald’s chicken nuggets, hot dogs and other meats-you-purchase-when-you’re-in-a-hurry.
Of course, this opens up another can of worms that I won’t be going into because I’d rather examine the merits of a fruit- and vegetable-loving toddler.
It has got to the point where an exasperated Michele hides meat in the greens.
Yup, you read that right — it is possible to hide meat in vegetables.
Once the meat travels past his lips he doesn’t seem to mind eating it.
But preparing meat-stuffed vegetables does get frustrating and tiring after a while, so it’s not something we do all the time.
We just can’t wrap our heads around his — for lack of a better word — distrust, of meat.
It’s incredible to watch your son using visual stimuli to feed himself. It almost looks like he’s processing through two channels.
Looks like meat: reject. Looks like vegetables or fruit: eat.
I’m actually close to suggesting to Michele that we should start adding colouring to, say, chicken breast, so that Levi thinks he’s being served watermelon.
Or finely mince some meat, mix with a tiny portion of fruit juice and freeze in an ice cube tray.
Fruit mince, anyone?
John Ng lives in Melbourne with his wife Michele and their two-year-old son Levi. He contributed a regular column, Living with Levi, to the previous version of Aquila Magazine.