Is a Vegetarian Lifestyle Unhealthy For Kids?

There’s no doubt about it: a vegetarian diet is healthy and eco-friendly. But is it unhealthy for children not to eat foods such as meat or dairy when they are growing?

Eco babies

If a vegetarian lifestyle is important to you, you might want your children to start out loving their greens from an early age, too. The pros of doing this is that they are likely to respect animal life from an early age, understand the importance of caring for the environment, plus they will be lowering their carbon footprint by not eating meat.

What’s the catch?

Your child’s vegetarian diet is not going to do them any good if they are spending hours in front of the TV or computer, or if they end up eating lots of junk food on the side. All these bad lifestyle habits can be unhealthy for them and the environment, making their vegetarian diet a bit pointless. Make sure that your child’s vegetarian diet is part of an overall healthy lifestyle. It’s also important to remember that anything extreme in one’s diet can be dangerous, even if what is extreme is the amount of fruits or vegetables your child is consuming.

Balance is key

One of the problems with letting your children become vegetarians is that they might not get the nourishment they need in order to grow and be healthy. It’s important to remember that children have higher nutrient needs than adults. There are some nutrients for which meat, eggs and dairy are the only natural source, such as vitamin B12. This nutrient aids in ensuring health of your nervous system, so it’s important that kids get enough of it.

Taking dairy completely out of your child’s diet, for example, is also dangerous, since calcium is another nutrient that is vital for children. Calcium strengthens bones and teeth, regulates heart functioning and ensures that the muscles work at their best. It could therefore be a good idea to settle on a more balanced approach with your child’s diet. Perhaps your child can be raised flexitarian or semi-vegetarian, meaning that he or she does not follow a strict vegetarian diet of avoiding all animal products, including meat, eggs, fish and dairy.

Green gains

In spite of the above, there are some nutrients for which a vegetarian diet works wonderfully. For instance, iron is not only available in meat; it can be sourced from iron-fortified cereals, beans, dried fruits and lentils. Protein is also not difficult to top up on in a vegetarian lifestyle, contrary to popular belief, as it is available from plant foods, legumes, nuts and whole grains.

Plan their meals correctly

If you are starting your babies on vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diets, it’s important to avoid food allergies from striking. Wait until they are over a year old to give them whole milk, egg whites and peanut butter. As they grow you can bring other foods into the mix. It’s important to keep track of what your children are eating, if they’re getting enough of a broad spectrum of foods and if they’re topping up on nutrient-rich meals. Children need more calories to grow, so encourage them to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day that are packed with high-calorie and nourishing foods, such as dark green vegetables, whole grains and brown rice.

Use this tip for meal planning: make sure every meal you feed your child contains a source of protein (eggs, beans, or milk products), a grain (cereal, rice, pasta) as well as a vegetable/fruit. For instance, breakfast could include iron-packed cereal, eggs and a banana, while lunch could be delicious spinach-filled pasta with a cup of milk.

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2 Comments

  • I am Vegan and plan on raising my future children as vegans. I agree that it is important to make sure your child has enough vit B12 in his/her diet. I disagree with the statement that says removing dairy from a child’s diet can do more harm than good. It is actually the opposite. We have been told otherwise by the dairy industry but the truth is that dairy product such as milk actually depletes the calcium from our bones. When we drink milk for example, the acidity levels in our body increases. Our body neutralizes the acidity by taking calcium from our bones. The calcium then leaves the body via urine. Rather eat vegetable calcium instead of animal calcium. All green vegetables are high in calcium. “Many green vegetables have calcium-absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk. Additionally since animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, the calcium retention from vegetables is higher.” – http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/osteoporosis-choose-vegetable-calcium-over-animal-calcium.html

  • People seem to think that the only source of protein comes from animal products. This is not the case. Animal protein is actually the unhealthiest form of protein. Among other things animal protein can weaken your bones, disturb kidney function, raise your cholesterol.

    There is however many other healthier cruelty free ways to get protein.

    Top sources of protein that does not come from animal products

    1. Vegetables – the proper foundation for all diets.
    • 1 avocado – 10 grams
    • 1 cup broccoli – 5 grams
    • 1 cup spinach – 5 grams
    • 2 cups cooked kale – 5 grams
    • 1 cup boiled peas – 9 grams
    • 1 cup cooked sweet potato – 5 grams

    2. Legumes, also vegetables, get their own mention. Specifically lentils and beans, the foundation of many diets for centuries.
    • 1 cup soybeans – 28 grams (1 cup tofu – 22 grams, 1 cup tempeh – 30 grams)
    • 1 cup lentils – 18 grams
    • 1 cup refried beans – 15.5 grams
    • 1 cup garbanzo beans (and hummus) – 14.5 grams
    • 1 cup pinto, kidney, black beans – 13-15 grams
    • 1 oz peanuts – 6.5 grams

    3. Nuts and seeds – a staple in most vegetarian and vegan diets.
    • 1 oz. cashews – 4.4 grams
    • 1 oz. sesame seeds 6.5 grams, 3 tablespoons of tahini – 8 grams
    • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) walnuts – 5 grams
    • 1 oz. pistachios – 5.8 grams
    • 2 tbsp almonds – 4 grams
    • Nut butters – peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter – 2 tablespoons has about 8 grams of protein

    4. Non-dairy milk – Soy, almond, ancient grain. 1 cup gets you 7-9 grams of protein.

    5. Grains – Ancient grains, sprouted grains, multi-grains – a major part of the diet.
    • Quinoa is versatile and delicious. 1 cup – 9 grams.
    • Amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, wheat germ, oat bran are other grains with a high protein content.
    • Seitan, or flavored wheat gluten, has about 52 grams per cup, but it may not be a good idea to eat a lot of it.
    • Oatmeal – 1 cup = 6 grams.
    • Sprouted grain bread products – buns, tortillas, bread. Pack a sandwich or a wrap and you’ll get 7-10 grams from the bread alone.

    http://www.naturalnews.com/036270_vegan_protein_legumes.html

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