Raising a Vegetarian Child - How to Make Sure They Grow and Stay HealthyBy Douglas Hanna
We are currently helping raise a granddaughter and her mother insists that we keep her on a vegetarian diet.
This started me wondering whether or not a vegetarian diet is good for a child. I did some research into the subject and discovered some interesting facts:
1. Vegetarian children are less likely to develop fewer diseases than their meat-eating counterparts.
2. Vegetarians tend to exhibit lower rates of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer and diabetes.
One expert who was quoted in a Duke Medical News Health Brief says children who eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet can get all the nutrients they need to grow and be healthy.
In fact, Elisabetta Politi, nutrition manager at the Duke University diet and fitness center, was recently quoted as saying, "... not to worry. A child who (is being raised vegetarian or) decides to go vegetarian can eat a well-balanced, satisfying, nutritious and healthy diet."
The key to a good diet
"The key is to have good variety in the diet," says Politi. "First, it's good to look at foods that are concentrated sources of calories and protein. If you're lacto-ovo, this will include your dairy products and eggs. Nuts are calorie-dense and appropriate for both lacto-ovo diets and vegan diets. Soy products and vegetables are good non-animal sources of protein. Peanut butter, yogurt, cheese, fruit and nuts are popular choices for kids who don't eat meat, seafood or poultry."
This is important because one problem with a vegetarian diet is that the child may not get the required amount of vitamin B12 and vitamin D., as these are found mostly in meats. However, if you make sure you supplement your child's diet with more fruits and leafy green vegetables, as well as the protein-rich foods mentioned above, you can make up for the lack of meats and give your child the vitamin B12 and D they need to maintain a healthy life.
Don't forget calcium
Another thing to keep in mind is the daily requirement for calcium. Most experts believe that all of us, not just vegetarians, get only about half the calcium recommended by major health organizations. This means that a child who is a lacto-ovo should drink at least two to three classes of milk a day. If the child is vegan, he or she should be given soy milk or calcium- fortified orange juice. You should also look for good sources of vitamin D. Studies show that when children don't get enough vitamin D from sunshine, they can become deficient - which can easily happen in the winter. Children can get the vitamin D they need from milk or if the child is vegan, from multi-vitamin supplements.
Finally, parents who are raising vegetarian children should be concerned about calories. There are studies that show when children eat a lot of plant-based foods that are high in fiber and bulky, they may not get enough calories.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that raising children on a vegetarian diet is not difficult and can have a lot of advantages. It just requires some research and planning to make sure the kids get a diet that is adequate, satisfying and nutritional.
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Douglas Hanna is retired and lives near Denver, CO. He is the author of more than 180 aritcles on a variety of subjects and is the publisher of several web sites, including http://www.hd-radio-home.com, which is devoted to the new technology of digital HD radio.