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2 April 2009 SanTan FAMILY FUN
VVegetarian children: Healthy or hazardous?egetarian children: Healthy or hazardous?
by Miriam Van Scott and peanut butter, for example, but there
About 3 percent of American children ages really isn’t. A serving of peanut butter has 8
8 to 18 describe themselves as vegetarians, grams and 200 calories, whereas a 3-ounce g
according to a recent Harris Interactive poll, serving of chicken breast is 21 grams and s
meaning they don’t eat meat, poultry or fish 100 calories. People must know how much
but may consume eggs and dairy products. protein they need and where to get it from if
Many kids choose this flesh-free diet because they are going meatless. Seeing a nutritionist t
they have moral qualms about the way or dietician is almost essential for vegetarian
animals are raised and slaughtered for food. kids.”
Others feel it’s a healthier lifestyle. But is a But Hall reassures parents that if carefully
vegetarian lifestyle nutritionally safe for kids? planned and monitored, a vegetarian diet can
Physicians and nutritionists differ on the work well for children and teens.w
risks and rewards of raising children on a “As long as they get their daily needs
meat-free diet. met with the right foods high in protein,
Because eating a diet heavy in red meat iron and calcium, along with all the
has been linked to increased risk of cancer, other recommended daily allowances from
diabetes and heart disease, some believe the other food groups, vegetarianism can be very
long-term benefits of vegetarianism outweigh healthy,” reports Hall.
the dangers of meatless diets that might be
NO MEAT: Is an all vegetarian diet good for kids? Doctors and nutritionists
She does, however, warn parents against
lacking in essential nutrients. Others worry have differing thoughts. vegan diets, which preclude all animal
that children who go vegetarian won’t get the products including milk, cheese and eggs.
vital building blocks their growing bodies need. “I would not advise a child to be on a vegan
But one thing experts agree on is that proper monitoring is absolutely essential to diet,” says Hall.
raising healthy kids. But standard vegetarianism – even in young children – can be a wise dietary
“I caution people about vegetarianism in children because there is such a high choice and also provide a great learning experience for families.
risk for protein and iron deficiencies,” says Certified Nutritionist Amy Hall. “My ”If done the right way, vegetarian diets can be very healthy, especially because
husband is a pediatrician, and if a child really wants to be vegetarian, he makes higher-fat animal proteins are being eliminated,” Hall explains. “And, if a child is
them see a nutritionist. Unless you measure a kid’s body composition and muscle old enough to make the choice to be vegetarian, parents and children need to get
mass, it’s hard to estimate their daily protein grams.” educated on nutritional needs.”
Hall notes that vegetarian diets, if not properly structured, can cause both
long- and short-term problems for children. Miriam Van Scott of Kerby Estates is a freelance writer and Chandler transplant from the
“Kids who don’t get enough protein are almost always hungry,” Hall warns.
Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached at
“And a lot of vegetarian people are actually overweight because carbs are
replacing protein in many cases. People think there’s a lot of protein in beans
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