Paleo Paradox: the vegetarian teenager

You can be a paleo-autocrat with young children. Or with employable young adult offspring who are still lurking around sticking their big noses in your refrigerator. But between those two stages is a phase when totalitarianism is only going to create entrenchment.

My #3 teenager became a vegetarian approximately the minute I went paleo.

I can’t force her to eat like me. If I try, it’ll just encourage her. I know. I was a vegan evangelist in my youth.

I worked at Orange Julius in an underground mall, and it seems strange to me now, but it didn’t at the time, that I never met anyone who was in charge. The franchise was run by a series of teenaged girls who would find & train each other. As long as we deposited cash each Friday and kept ordering supplies as they were needed, the business sort-of ran itself. This gave us quite a bit of opportunity for creativity. We invented our own smoothies and specialized in customized drinks for customers. We gave all the meat hot dogs away to homeless people’s dogs (and patronizingly insisted that the dog-owners not eat the hot dogs themselves.) We gave the dog-owners tofu dogs. In fact, we only served tofu dogs, which we purchased ourselves at the grocery store with the cash that didn’t go into the bank.

So I can totally relate to the strident vegetarian phase of adolescent development.

My kid’s 13, so she’s too young to be left to her own devices. Her devices would be a combination of nothing and breakfast cereal three times a day. I have to feed her but there is very little that she will eat that I consider to be wholesome besides vegetables.

I was a youth worker for many years and I figure that whether you are working with a junkie or a vegetarian the strategy is the same. It’s all about harm reduction.

So, to source non-paleo food for my vegetarian kid, I have a triple bottom line:

  1. I have to think it’s at the top of the heap of healthy vegetarian foods. And I reserve the right to change my opinion about what is healthy as I learn more;
  2. My kid has to like it enough to eat it. If it’s healthy but stale-dates in the cupboard, not only is she still hungry but I’ve just thrown money away;
  3. I have to dislike it enough not to eat it. I am not immune to the charms of a bag of gluten-free pretzels after a long day at work when only an uncooked halibut is grinning at me from the fridge;

So, once we have identified foods that meet these criteria, they come into the house. It’s a smallish list.

Protein is tricky. She loves the fake meat products that are made with soy & wheat gluten but I feel like I’m poisoning her if I buy those.

Of course, she doesn’t really like eggs. She’ll eat an egg if it’s invisible, but not by itself. Fussy? I know! At first she tried to tell me she also didn’t like beans. I told her she could not be a vegetarian under my roof without eating beans, and that she had to pick the bean she hated the least. So now I buy black beans by the case. I also buy organic full-fat dairy for her, which is primal though not paleo.

I devised 7 meals that rotate, served with lots of raw veg & fruit:

  • Black bean & cheese enchiladas made with rice wraps;
  • Black bean & cheese quesadillas made with rice wraps (my kid has not yet figured out that an enchilada & a quesadilla are the same thing in different formats);
  • Hummus with corn chips;
  • Nachos with black beans & salsa;
  • Rice pasta with pesto or tomato sauce & cheese;
  • Pizza made with 2 rice wraps stuck together with olive oil for crust;
  • Tapas plate with nuts, pepitas, nori, veg, & fruit;

And when she tells me she’s So tired! All the time! I try to stay quiet. I know that when I comment on the correlation between her fatigue and her food, she gets even more entrenched. I also know that it took me 41 years to figure this out.

And I’m pretty certain she’s smarter than that.


11 thoughts on “Paleo Paradox: the vegetarian teenager

    • I was just thinking that it’s paradoxical that we’re all trying to be skinny by being paleo, but paleolithic people were worshiping Venus in all her bodaciousness. But I agree it’s a bit random & non-contextual in this post!

      • I think Paleo is amazing. When I first heard of it in 2010, I thought my friends were crazy. I listened to them, but never saw any improvements. It turned out that they were all cheating (but in secret). When I did Paleo, I embraced it 100% for 6 weeks. No cheating whatsoever. And I lost 30 lbs. It was nuts. I stopped because I couldn’t afford it anymore. I never did it organically, but the price of meat was killing me. I live in a downtown area, so I could get excellent prices, but it was still too much.

  1. It is expensive. I agree it’s a major barrier. But I think I’m actually coming out even when I factor in all the things I’m not spending $ on now: coffee out, 10am muffins (& 3pm oat bars), alcohol, eating out, chiro, massage therapy, acupuncture, sleeping pills, ativan, orthotics, & food that goes funny in the fridge…

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