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Food and Nutrition Topics..

You are here : home > Food and Nutrition > The Balanced Diet > Raising Children as Vegetarians

Raising Children as Vegetarians

Raising Children as Vegetarians

Going vegetarian is fast becoming a global trend that is being embraced by a growing number of people across cultures. Many people today are consciously making the choice, driven by medical, ethical and environmental reasons, to avoid meat and other products derived from animals in their diet and their lifestyle. They add to an already existing class of people who are vegetarians by virtue of their religious, cultural or social circumstances.

Is it the right choice for children?

If you are vegetarian, you may also want your children to follow suit. However, due to widely diverging opinions and constantly changing views regarding nutrition, you may not be so sure. You may wonder whether a vegetarian diet would be able to fulfil the dietary requirements of your growing children adequately.

Types of vegetarians

Vegetarians typically confirm to one of the following groups:

  • Vegans: Vegans are people who believe in eliminating the use of any animal derived product from their life. This includes not just meat, fish, and poultry, but eggs, dairy products, and also honey, wool, silk etc.

  • Lacto-vegetarians: Vegetarians of this class exclude all kinds of meat, fish, and poultry, including eggs. However, they include milk and dairy products in their diet.

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: This class of vegetarians excludes meat and fish, but consumes eggs and dairy products.

The advantages of going green

Earlier, at least in the West, a vegetarian diet was considered a fad favoured mainly by eccentrics; today its health benefits are quite universally accepted. While the debate on the health benefits of complete abstinence from animal-derived foods rages on, most health experts agree that turning vegetarian has its benefits.

Medical studies suggest a strong correlation between vegetarian diets and a reduced incidence of many diseases. The incidence of hypertension and heart disease is also significantly lower amongst vegetarians. Doctors now agree that avoiding meat and other high-fat animal foods helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Besides, a diet rich in plant foods is also said to be a sure safeguard against the risk of cancer.

Ensuring a balance

Paediatricians and nutritionists agree that children do perfectly well when brought up as vegetarians as long as they get a balanced diet that is able to address their nutritional requirements. The fact is, just avoiding meat, fish, and eggs, may not be enough. If your child routinely binges on junk food such as potato chips and aerated drinks, do not expect vegetarian food to work great wonders!

Strict vegetarians may also need to take care to ensure that their diet is nutritionally complete. Vitamins B12 and D, for instance, are found only in foods derived from animal sources. Proteins and iron are more easily accessible through non-vegetarian food items than vegetarian. Parents of vegetarian children thus may need to complement their diet with supplements or fortified food items to make up for the any lack or deficiency from natural vegetarian foods. Here is a beginner's nutrition list:

  • Plenty of helpings of fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Protein in the form of lentils, pulses, nuts, soya milk, tofu and dairy and eggs

  • Iron in the form of beans, lentils, cereals, dried fruit and green vegetables

  • Vitamin B12, in the form of dairy products, eggs, or vitamin B12 fortified soya milk or cereal

  • Vitamin C from fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables and fruit juices

  • Vitamin D from dairy products and eggs or fortified food such as margarine or cereal

  • Calcium from cow's milk, yogurt, cheese, green vegetables, beans, lentils, sesame, almonds and fortified soya milk

  • Zinc from nuts, pumpkin and other seeds, pulses, tofu and cheese

  • Fat from healthy plant or dairy based sources

  • Adequate fibre from wholemeal bread or cereals

Explain reasons for your choice

The responsibility for parents may extend to more than ensuring the golden balance in their children's diet. Raising children as vegetarians may involve helping children "fit in" without seeing themselves as different from their peers and the society they are growing up in; this is rather more typical in predominantly meat-eating cultures, such as the West, than in traditionally vegetarian societies such as in India. It is important that parents use tact and discuss the issue with children, explaining the reasons for their choice.

"Why are you vegetarian?" is a question, that children may often encounter from friends and peers. It is important that parents teach their children how to respond to such queries without inviting defensive reactions. Educating them on the right way to handle such queries may also help them to formulate their own ideas and strengthen their own belief in their choice. Once they are convinced and have children of their own, you can be sure they will bring them up as vegetarians as well.

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Pseudo name.10 years ago
i am a lacto-ovo vegeterian and my hubby is a hardcore non-veggie. i believe in being a veggie and want to bring up my children as vegeterians till they are teenagers and then give them the choice what they want to be. till i am responsible for bringing them up, i want them to be veggies. but my hubby eats nonveg infront of them and makes faces it is so delicious so my innocent children also want to eat. the 4 yr old does understand and agree to being vegeterian but cant control eating chicken. atlast, i had to allow them to eat nonveg. how to make them veggies in such circumstances?
Susmitha.10 years ago
well i dont know if this will answer ur doubt, for i sail in a different boat. we being lacto-ovo veggies, have a teen who loves chicken. but i have left it to her to decide, while all the while stressing on the importance of how it is necessary not to enjoy this food while it contrasts with our beliefs and also the practicality of it. she is at an age where she can understand the importance of hte latest studies. also i have started cooking paneer and if ur anywhere in delhi or north of india, u may be familiar with chaap(made from soy), in chicken style. she relishes it a lot. finally the d-day has arrived she has made the decision on her own to give up non-veg and turn lacto-ovo veggies like us. the purport being, dont disagree or say no, let them or rather help them decide subtely all the while talking about it when necessary.
Peudo name.10 years ago
thanks susmitha. nice suggestion. i will try this.
Connie.10 years ago
i myself was raised a complete non veg but thankfully my family, in spite of the food choice,was a strong supporter of animal welfare causes(except animals for food. as a result i grew up loving animals a lot. once adult enough to realise the significance of animal food and what goes on behind each plate of pork chops, i consciously cut down heavily on non veg and try to stick to veg diet as a choice. but i still can not resist items cooked by my mother. hopefully i will be able to get over them in due course of time. iam bringing up my son to love and respect animals and am sure, he too will be able to make a choice on his own once a bit grown up. at present because of the pressure from family ( his father is a voracious non veg who derides veg diet)my son takes fish but thankfully rejects chicken and other meat products
Pseudonym.10 years ago
i have been lacto vegetarian all my life. my husband used to eat meat when we married. but witin 7 months he gave up meat. i have four children all strictly vegetarian. even since the nursery age they will not eat anything without checking or having the ingredients checked. i pray to god that people realise that it is not necessary to eat meat. it has not been easy as a working mother but i have done my best. being veg means cooking food at home every day as we do not have any veg restaurnts nearby. but it has been worthwhile. children are very happy and proud. so i do not care about the comments i use to get( i do not let my children eat anything means meat). i hope they carry on and when they have their children they bring them up as vegetarians.
akto.10 years ago
i have a mixed diet family and most of the time we eat each other's brains out on what to eat and where to go to eat. i think it's a waste of time looking for the right option - spoils the taste of food thinking about it. why do people expect so much more from food these days than they ever do from people?
Diksha.10 years ago
food is food. if some items was so bad for us, they would be classified as poison. but however, there are always some things that are more desirable. just as classic literature is better than modern mysteries, veg food is better than red meat. may be people who really enjoy non veg can have it in moderation considering the consequences on health. with time, they can be persuaded to turn completely vegetarian.
Paris.10 years ago
nothing. i've been basically doing ,
name.10 years ago
Delmy.10 years ago
up to anything. been i haven't ,
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