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Vegetarian diet safe at all ages

Posted Nov 10 2009 3:27pm


It is increasingly clear that vegetarian diets, whether exclusive, or predominantly so, are becoming more common.  It is also clear that they are essentially healthy diets in every respect, political ideology aside.  What has been of concern is the impact of vegetarian diets on children.  It appears that with some thought and planning, even a strict vegan diet can supply young children with all the nutrition needed for healthy growth and maturation.  Certainly, this view was not always the case.  Also, it is not likely that extreme vegetarianism will become the pre-dominant dietary choice – at least not in the near future.  However, it is reassuring to know that vegetarian choices are good not only for adults who so choose, but also for parents who may choose this for their children.  So eat those veggies, follow some common sense guidelines regarding essential nutrients, and choose the diet that best fits your dietary preferences . . . ben kazie md

It’s hard to pin down just how many people are eating vegetarian diets. For one thing, definitions vary. Some people call themselves vegetarian even if they occasionally eat fish or chicken, while others have stricter views. For another, statistics vary depending on how surveys are done. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that about 1.5% of adults followed a vegetarian diet in 2007, about the same number as in 2002. In 1994, the group estimated that 1% of American adults were true vegetarians, eating diets free of meat, fish and seafood. Today, about 3% of American adults (between 6 – 8 million people) avoid those foods, according to the vegetarian group’s 2009 poll of more than 2,000 people. There are also a growing number of people — kids included — who still eat meat but are eating less of it and choosing more typical vegetarian foods instead. Sales of processed vegetarian products, such as soy milk, soy yogurt and vegetarian breakfast sausages, totaled about $1.4 billion in 2008, according to the market research firm Mintel, up 15% from 2003. Close to one-third of adults say they ate a soy-based meat substitute in the last year, Mintel reports.

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Parents of preschoolers and school-age children often wonder whether a vegetarian diet is appropriate for their youngsters. Well-planned vegetarian diets — even a vegan diet — can supply all the nutrients that children require for their growth and energy needs. Parents should pay special attention to children’s calcium and iron intake. If your child doesn’t eat any meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods, be sure to find good food sources of protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D and zinc.

Is a Vegetarian Diet OK for Kids? –

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association 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 diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods. This article reviews the current data related to key nutrients for vegetarians including protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12. A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients.

Vegetarian Diets –


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