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Should Kids Be Vegetarians?

by on 08/11/2013 4973

In recent years, many people are making the choice of turning vegetarians.

With abundant information available online about vegetarianism and with us living in a more health-conscious society, the decision to be a vegetarian can be a good choice in ensuring a healthier body.

Parents who are considering being vegetarians often worry if this choice will be in their children’s best interest. The worry of whether their children will get the full nutrients is of main concern, as children need a wide range of nutrients in order to grow normally.

However, with a carefully planned vegetarian diet, you can ensure your kids get enough and all the right nutrients they need. Before switching to a vegetarian diet, it’s wise that you discuss with your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician so that you can thoroughly understand your children’s nutritional needs as they grow.

If you have young children, then your children will be vegetarians because of family values and/or religious reasons. In older children or teens, they may choose to be vegetarians for several reasons like supporting a cause such as against animal slaughter. Either way, you still need to make sure that they are getting the right amount of nutrients.

Here are some of the health benefits of being a vegetarian if you feel an omnivorous diet is still better and healthier:

  1. Fruits and vegetables have low saturated fat content. They contain little or no cholesterol at all.
  2. Foods from plant sources are high in fiber. Fiber is very important as it can prevent heart diseases, diabetes and limit your weight gain. 
  3. Plants are high in vital B-vitamins that are rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemicals help every organ in our body to work better. 
  4. Fruits and vegetables have lower calories than meat. 
  5. Plants are considered safer from food-borne illnesses as they are easier to be washed thoroughly than meat. 
  6. Foods from plant sources are also healthier for the planet as they consume less energy to be produced and require less farmland than it is to maintain livestock.


If you’re not a strict vegetarian (consumes foods strictly from plant sources only), there are several types of vegetarian you can choose to be so that you’re able to have a more balanced vegetarian diet in order to ensure a better nutritional need for your children.

The types of vegetarians are:

  1. Ovo Vegetarian: Eats eggs but not meat
  2. Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: Eats dairy and egg products but not meat
  3. Lacto Vegetarian: Eats dairy product but not meat and eggs
  4. Pesco Vegetarian: Eats fish, eggs and dairy products but not meat

For families with growing children, the pesco vegetarian diet will best as it is more balanced and covers the major nutrients that children need. Plants have less calcium contents so children can get it from dairy products like milk and cheese through a pesco vegetarian diet.

Children need different amount of nutrients as they grow. By understanding what your children need, you can better plan their vegetarian diet.

  • Infants – Children at this age (vegetarian or not) get their protein and nutrients from breast milk or formula. Once they are old enough to take solids (6 months or older), you can feed them with iron-fortified cereals and foods that are protein-rich like pureed tofu, soft cheeses, yogurt and pureed legumes like beans and peas
  • Toddlers – It can be quite challenging to have a strict vegetarian diet for kids this age as not only they tend to be picky eaters, they also need as much nutrients as they can in order to ensure a normal growth. If you’re not going with pesco vegetarian diet, then you should make sure that your toddlers get their nutrients from fortified cereals and other nutrient-packed food. You can also supplement their nutrient intake with multi-vitamins
  • Older children or teens – Because children at this age tend to be vegetarians based on their own choice or following trends (their friends or favorite celebrities are vegans), you need to be careful that it doesn’t turn into an eating disorder. Remember to remind them that potato crisps or carbonated drinks are not “vegetarian food”. For this age, the lacto-ovo or pesco vegetarian diet will suit them best. Other than having the right diet plan for them, you also need to educate them about the right concept of vegetarianism

Another concern about vegetarian kids is the worry of getting enough iron for your children.

Even though foods from plant sources do contain less iron than their meat counterpart, plants have high vitamin C. Vitamin C has been known to help and encourage iron absorption. Being a vegetarian will not put you at risk of iron deficiency. In fact, many experts believe that iron from plants is better than the one obtained from meat. The only case where a vegetarian is iron deficient is when his diet is poorly planned.

If you choose vegetarianism for your family and you have small children, it is not a bad decision as being vegetarian has proven to be very, very beneficial in the long run. It may take a little work and planning at the earlier stage to ensure your children get all the nutrients they need, but it is definitely an effort worth investing in.

So happy going green!