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Fair to kids? 09/26/10

While it is easy to choose to be a vegetarian as an adult, is it really fair to impose on children?

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In an article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald recently, the paper spoke to dietitian Mark Sudat, who regularly consults parents concerned about the health of their kids.

Generally, parents contact him either when parents are concerned that their vegetarian diet will not be healthy for their children, or alternatively, their child has decided to become vegetarian and they are concerned that they won’t know how to ensure their child has a healthy diet.

The simple truth, is that just like any other diet, as long as it is well planned and contains a variety of different food groups, you’re not likely to have any issues. A meat eater who eats fast food and completely ignores fruit and vegetables in their diet, should be far more worried.

There have been many studies and statements attesting to the fact that you can get all your needs from a vegetarian diet. The Canadian Paediatic Society say, “A well-balanced vegetarian diet can provide for the needs of children and adolescents” and that “Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets with appropriate attention to specific nutrient components can provide a healthy alternative lifestyle at all stages of fetal, infant, child and adolescent growth.”

In addition, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine states, “Children who are raised on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes will have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and many obesity-related illnesses compared to their counterparts raised on the average American diet.”

Meanwhile the American Dietetic Association declares that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain disease.”

One very good point that Surat makes is, “why do we make such a fuss about vegetarian teenagers, especially those who are taking a real interest in planning their diets properly?” The truth is, if your child has decided to turn to a vegetarian diet by choice, they are probably far more aware than many other teenagers of what they are eating and are more likely to take an interest in the food they are putting into the body. Similarly, vegetarian parents are also likely to be more conscious of what they are feeding their kids.

What is important however, is that eating meat should be a choice. If you discover later in life that you would like to eat meat, that’s your choice. It is far worse if you discover that you have been fed meat your entire life, without understanding the full implications of eating meat, and then decide to become a vegetarian.

*Note: It is always best to consult a qualified dietitian if you have any questions, queries or have any concerns about your vegetarian diet.

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Laura Cooke is the editor and creator of the Veggie Bunch website and community.

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