Vegetarian Kids

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Will not eating meat affect childrens’ development?  Can children be vegetarian and be simultaneously  safe and  healthy? If so what are the nutritional needs for young vegetarians?

The original USDA food pyramid created in 1992 was divided into six sections one of them being meats.  In 2005 it was updated to MyPyramid still contain in a group reserved for meats and beans.   But in 2011 the US government rolled out MyPlate.  MyPlate is divided into five sections and instead of meats or meat and beans it has a section for protein.  A well planed vegetarian diet can have all the necessary protein to meet the requirements of the new MyPlate guidelines.  Being a vegetarian may even be beneficial for example diets high in fiber and low in fat may  reduce blood cholesterol and may help maintaining a healthy weight.  A vegetarian diet may also reduce risk of heart disease, gallstones, strokes, and some  types of cancer.  Although with children, limiting fats for example is not recommended.

Even though starting your kids out early on a vegetarian diet may be beneficial you still want to be aware of some of the risks associated with this diet. Vegetarian children tend to fill up fast on fiber and not consume enough calories.  Its also harder for vegetarians to get some nutrients such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, protein, iron, zinc and others.  Vegetarians can get these nutrients from dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, wheat germ,  eggs, dried beans, nuts and vitamin-fortified products, such as cereals, breads, and soy and rice drinks, and nutritional yeast.

A vegetarian child can be simultaneously  safe and  healthy.  And in some cases even be healthier then children who eat meat.  It is just important to remember when having a vegetarian child to consult your doctor or a dietitian to ensure that you plan a well rounded diet for your child.

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Resources:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/healthy_eating/vegetarianism.html#

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129137062

http://www.cpnonline.org/CRS/CRS/pa_vegediet_pep.htm

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