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PHYS ED EAT YOUR GREENS THE BODY Lifelong dietary habits are learned in childhood, so what about the vegetarian option?

Can a vegetarian diet provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals necessary for a child’s growth and development? And is there a social impact nowadays of being vegetarian at a young age?

Both the UK’s Vegetarian and Vegan Societies agree with reports from the British Medical Association that a plant-based diet is both healthful and key to a long life. From birth, a mother’s milk will meet all of the infant’s nutritional needs and babies being introduced to solids will typically start with iron enriched cereals, vegetables, fruits – a wholly plant-based diet anyway. While protein is needed for growing children, this can come from vegetable proteins such as grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. However, children do need folate, iron, zinc, thiamin,Vitamin B12, a source of Vitamin D, and essential fatty acids.

So, Eds Up asked expert nutritionist, Desri Goodwin and vegetarian mother of two, Gucci Westman for their advice . . .


Desri is the Founder of Splash About children’s safety swimwear company, runs Equilibria in South West France, and is an Expert Nutritionist

What is your view on the key health and lifestyle benefi ts of a vegetarian/vegan approach to diet?

We are not all vegetarian, only my son is. We eat a high raw fruit and vegetable diet – at the moment my husband and I are virtually totally “raw” and feeling good! Our son has been vegetarian since he was 12 years old – he is now 20. He changed when I was in the middle of curing myself from some serious health issues and he watched the results. He read some of the books I was reading and wanted to move into a cleaner diet. He does eat fi sh, eggs and mainly goat’s or sheep’s milk cheeses. We all try to eat as organically as possible and are very aware of getting our “portions” of fruit and veg every day. We supplement with green powders all the time plus sometimes enzymes, usually multi vitamins (choose carefully!) and super foods such as macca and algeas.

What about protein, essential fatty acids, iron, zinc, thiamin and vitamins needed for growing?

People always ask about protein but we don’t need as much as we may think and there is plenty in the foods we eat such as nuts, seeds, and plant foods. We are certainly not protein defi cient. If the diet is varied, and full of nutrient dense food – stop the white stodge and replace it with food that counts –

P.20 What is your view on cheese and dairy products?

I am convinced that dairy products are not what we should be consuming. They are mucus forming in the extreme and if you read some of the reports on milk, they are not nice. I opt for organic goat’s cheese now and again. Although, of course, I also have pizza with runny mozzarella on it now and again too!

How did you learn about getting the balance right?

I learned by reading, exploring the internet, talking to people who had lived this way for years and asking for help. I experimented with myself and learned more about what worked for me. I then formalised my training with a clinical nutritionist’s course and certifi cation. That, with the 10 years of living like this and the accumulated knowledge from learning, has given me a very wide base of knowledge.

What has been your personal experience with such a diet?

I found it healing, energising, rejuvenating, exciting, diffi cult, unsocial, emotionally unsettling and eventually emotionally healing. Raw vegan is a very extreme way to live but vegetarian is (in the UK compared to France where I spend a lot of time) so incredibly easy now. Most restaurants provide a wide

add a good green powder (including barley grass, wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella, for example), use sprouted seeds (alfalfa for example, which is so easy to grow, cheap as chips and pure nutrition!) then you won’t go far wrong.

Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D are more diffi cult. We don’t get enough sun or are not out in it enough when we do. If you were eating lots of cultured food such as sourcroute, kamboucha, unwashed vegetables (be careful with this!) then you will probably be getting some B12. If you eat eggs it will help too. Even so, it would be wise to supplement. It is a good idea, especially if you are bringing your children up on this diet to consult a nutritionist or health consultant as it is important to get it right.

range of dishes, supermarkets are packed with inviting fresh fruits and vegetables and lots more organic. There are farmers’ markets galore, it is a joy to be vegetarian in Britain now.

How did your son deal with growing up being vegetarian?

It was hard for him for a long time, he learned to be strong and quiet about it. Just, “this is the way I eat”. He has been vegetarian for so long now (his choice) that it is fi ne – if he is going out to dinner and suspects everything will have meat in it (as happens so often in France) he will eat something before he goes and then have the potatoes or whatever there is with no fuss – and people have accepted his way. Friends obviously adapt their meals to suit him too, or if they ask beforehand he will suggest something simple they can add or offer to take something along with him so that everyone can share. People he meets are often intrigued (and can be scathing) which is why he stays quiet most of the time though he can’t resist passing on some of his knowledge to friends when he sees them struggling away on the Dukan diet or eating stodge and fi zzy drinks as a staple diet and being tired all the time.

What are your top tips to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals?

• Supplement Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D through a really good absorbable, natural-as-possible multi vitamin.

• Take fi sh oil or Udo’s oil (a blend of oils) if you don’t want fi sh.

• Eat a very varied, high raw diet with some very fresh organic free-range eggs and sustainably fi shed oily fi sh about twice a week.

• Learn about eating a balanced diet. For example, learn about balancing grains and beans for complete protein, check where the calcium is coming from and that you are providing the right foods for maximum absorption.

• You will also need to do the same with iron and other minerals as you should not just leave it to chance. Your children are growing and need their bodies, bones and brains nourished. And of course you need to be in peak condition to look after them not to mention feeling your best just for you.

• Try out recipes like my raw quiche (pictured) – made with a base of walnuts (from the trees we pass on our walks), fl ax and onion and dehydrated in a dehydrator, topped with a rainbow of various fi nely sliced vegetables and topped with a creamy sauce using nutritional yeast (not raw), cashews, water, basil, lecithin, 5 asparagus spears and some miso for a lovely and health giving cheesy fl avour. Bon appetit!

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