January 18, 2009

Is a Vegetarian Diet for Kids Healthy and Safe?

Pretty Kiwi

If you’re considering raising your child on a vegetarian diet, you’re no doubt aware of strong debate questioning the safety and healthfulness of vegetarian diets. While studies have concluded that vegetarians are least likely to develop diseases as opposed to their counterparts, there is some concern as to whether or not children will receive the appropriate nutrients they need on a daily basis or proper growth and development. The evidence seems to point to raising children vegetarian being a good choice for them.

Some health care providers have observed that the consumption of protein and iron can be adequate when consumed via whole grains, dried fruit and nuts and nut butters. Vegetarians show lower rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity and specific types of cancers in most studies.

Pediatricians also agree that eating well planned vegetarian meals encompasses a complete nutritional diet. While there is some concern about B12 and vitamin D, which is found mostly in meats, this shouldn’t be an issue with careful meal planning, something that is easy with a vegetarian or vegan meal planner like Vegan Family Living. Sufficient amounts of protein and iron are necessary for the growing child. Parents can make sure their kids are getting enough of these nutrients in their diet with more fruits and leafy green vegetables, tofu, legumes, dairy products, soy milk, juices, whole grain cereals rich in fiber, yogurt, cheese, and nuts. Blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, tomato paste and prune juice are good sources of iron. All of these components contribute to the daily vitamin intake necessary to maintain a healthy body.
[ad#ad-2] There was a time when vegetarians were in the minority. Now, vegetarian diets are more popular than ever before. With the recent concerns around safe livestock husbandry and disease erupting in animals who are not raised in a human way, more families are switching to vegetarian diets. When the adults in the family choose to become vegetarians, it is often the case that children will follow suit. After all, they will eat what is placed in front of them. Thus, they may remain vegetarians throughout adulthood as well. Interestingly, some children adopt a vegetarian lifestyle on their own because of their compassion for animals.

Is a Vegetarian Diet Safe for Kids?

As far as the medical community is concerned, as long as children are getting a whole foods diet and a minimum of processed junk (let’s face it, we all know some vegetarians who eat little more than bagels and juice, which is hardly adequate!) they have no qualms with parents raising children as vegetarians. In fact, with so many environmental issues coming to the forefront, being a vegetarian is probably the best way to keep your kids healthy and free from disease. One thing to remember is that a low fat diet is NOT appropriate for children. Children need healthy fats so be sure to include plenty of olive oil, avocados, nuts, whole milk (preferably raw milk) and other healthy sources of fat in their diets. Since vegan and vegetarian diets also focus on low calorie foods, make sure your child is getting enough calories by allowing them to graze, and offer high calorie foods as well.

There are still some concerns about strict vegan diets being safe for pregnant women and children. One way to ensure your diet is healthful is with proper meal planning. If you want to make healthy vegetarian meal planning easier for your family, try Vegan Family Living.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

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