Should Children be Vegetarians?

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Some children are vegetarian because they were raised that way, others go on it because their friends are on it and some because they want to eat correct. Whatever the reason, Children who want to be vegetarians need to "fill in the blanks" of their low-protein diets.

Parents of children who are eating vegetarian diets need to be concerned about their children's growth and development. Growing children, even teenagers, need about twice as many calories and three times as much protein per pound of body weight as adults do. This is due to the fact that children's diets have a dual purpose. One is to maintain bodily functions and the other is to support growth.

There is not a great deal of research and statistics on vegetarian children and their diet habits, but a poll by independent market research firm Harris Interactive in 2005 showed that 3% of Americans ages 8 to 18 are vegetarians and that figure is up 1% from a previous poll.

The American Dietetic Association confirms that a well-planned vegetarian and semi-vegetarian diet can meet all the nutrient requirements for growth and development in infants, children, and adolescents. It's not hard to get all of your daily needs from nonmeat sources, nutritionists say, but it takes thought and planning by the parents.

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Skipping the main course and eating just the starchy side dishes, such as potatoes, bread and rice, is one common mistake that often happens in adolescents and young adults and fails to satisfy nutritional requirements

In general, vegetarian diets can be healthy for children as long as you are diligent about providing alternative foods to meet their nutritional needs. Children following vegetarian diets must still get plenty of protein, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron and zinc. These can be found in tofu and soy milk, dry beans and lentils, nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.

Vegetarian diets, if well-planned, are healthful and nutritious for all age groups and can help prevent and treat chronic diseases. A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all vital nutrients, including protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12. However, use of supplements or fortified foods may be helpful to boost intake of important nutrients in certain cases.

The American Dietetic Association contends that carefully planned vegetarian diets, including vegan diets, are healthful and nutritionally sufficient for individuals of all ages, including pregnant or lactating women, infants, children, adolescents, and athletes.

A vegetarian diet is healthy choice for all ages as long as people, especially children and teens have thoughtfully planned out their diet with the help from their parents or a nutritionist.

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