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Vegetarian diets have become more prevalent and popular,mainly due to the scandal surrounding the way farm animals are treated. Many parents may wonder if their children can safely follow a vegetarian diet and still get all the nutrients they need for growing up in a healthy and strong manner.


To ensure a required nutrient intake, care must be taken when feeding children a vegetarian diet, especially if the diet does not include dairy and egg products.

Most experts agree that a properly structured vegetarian diet is healthy. Before your child or your family decides to take up a vegetarian diet, it's important to note that all vegetarians are alike.

Good for the Environment too?

Livestock farming contributes significantly to climate change. Stop eating meat and your “carbon footprint” will be smaller.

The emissions from livestock are due to a number of factors including enteric fermentation (digestive process) by ruminants such as cattle and sheep, manure, deforestation and desertification.

Cows' flatulence, alongside animal excrement, makes the headlines due to their both being extremely damaging. The farming of animals aso generates gaseous emissions through the manufacture of fertilzers (to grow feed crops), industrial feed production and the transportation of both live animals and their carcasses across the globe

Source: Vegetarian Society


These amounts are a guide only

* Vitamin B12 - Infants need 0.3 to 0.5 micrograms (mcg); children need 0.7 to 1.4 mcg; teens need 2.0 mcg (RDAs)

* Vitamin D - Infants, children, and teens need 5 mcg (AIs)

* Calcium - Infants need 210 to 270 milligrams (mg); children need 500 to 1300 mg; teens need 1300 mg (AIs)

* Protein - Infants need 12 to 14 grams (g); children need 16 to 46 g; teens need 46 to 59 g (RDAs)

* Iron - Infants need 6 to 10 mg; children need 10 to 15 mg; teens need 12 to 15 mg (RDAs)

* Zinc - Infants need 5 mg; children need 10 to 15 mg; teens need 12 to 15 mg (RDAs)

In the seventh edition of his world famous book, BABY AND CHILD CARE, the late Dr. Benjamin Spock advised parents to feed children a vegetarian diet with no dairy products after the age of 2. That advice has caused controversy among pediatric experts. They all agree, however, that vegetarian parents should give their children a variety of foods that provide enough calories and nutrients to enable them to grow normally.

Most pediatric experts say that a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is a healthy choice for most children, including infants.
Feeding young children a diet filled with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains helps them to learn healthy eating habits that may last for a lifetime. A vegetarian diet may help to reduce the risk of developing medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Dietary deficiencies, they note, are most likely to occur only in very restrictive diets. Some Experts explain that once an infant is introduced to solids, protein-rich vegetarian foods can include tofu, cottage cheese, and pureed and strained legumes (examples of legumes are beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils).

Breast fed infant vegans should receive a source of vitamin B12 if the mother's diet is not supplemented and a source of vitamin D if sun exposure (which provides vitamin D) is not adequate.

Children on a vegetarian diet may need to be careful of adequate intake of certain vitamins and minerals. Below is a guide to the daily intakes for nutrients of possible concern for vegetarians. For certain nutrients, the recommended levels are called Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) and for others, they are called Adequate Intakes (AIs). Please note : These are as with most recommended amounts, a guide only.

Most babies eat a lacto vegetarian diet for the first year of life. Infants are either breast fed or drink formula, and then after the first 4 to 6 months they're gradually fed some foods, but meat is usually one of the last items on their menu. So whether a family is vegetarian or non-vegetarian, there's really no difference in a baby's eating habits during that first year or so.


However, strict vegan diets may not offer growing toddlers enough essential vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and zinc. Vitamin supplementation is recommended for young children whose diets may not provide adequate nutrients.

As toddlers grow, they typically become more picky about which foods they'll eat and, as a result, some may not get enough calories from a vegetarian diet to thrive. For vegan toddlers, the amount of vegetables needed for proper nutrition and calories (for example, iron from spinach or calcium from broccoli) may be too bulky and fibrous for tiny stomachs.

Some Diet experts are of the opinion that during the very choosy toddler stage, it's important for vegetarian parents to make sure their children eat enough calories. Calories are very important during this time in a child's life.

You can get enough fat and calories in a vegan child's diet, but you have do it carefully and planning is key when you're excluding some food groups.

Vitamin and mineral supplements may be necessary for these children.

Sources by Request:
Source: Vegetarian Society -

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The Vegetarian Society Web Site
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