The immense popularity that vegetarianism is rapidly gaining gives rise not only to myths and controversies around it, but also to questions. And if the answers to some of them are quite obvious and can easily be found in the relevant literature and history, others sometimes cause confusion and, of course, require an exhaustive consultation of specialists. One of these is the question of the appropriateness of the transition of children, especially very young, to a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarianism and children: pros and cons
Among the reasons that encourage adults to switch to a vegetarian diet, the desire to save the lives of animals is not in the last place. All the arguments in favor of this power system very often revolve around him. True, they are often backed up by the emerging results of scientific research on its advantages, historical facts, and so on.
With children, everything is different. They can become vegetarians at will, when they completely refuse to eat meat from birth or for reasons of conviction. Needless to say, in the latter case, they are vaccinated by their parents. Is it correct? Yes and no.
According to doctors, this makes sense if the issue of planning a child’s diet is taken responsibly and the child is provided with food from which he will receive all the necessary vitamins and minerals for normal growth and development. It will then be possible to judge the latter by the general state of his health, as well as the condition of his skin, teeth or hair. Accordingly, if it turns out to be unsatisfactory, it means that there was negligence or ignorance of the basics of compiling a vegetarian diet. Therefore, you should not continue to adhere to it.
However, if all goes well, the benefits of a vegetarian diet for kids are sure to be seen:
- 1 vegetarian children eat more vegetables and fruits than meat-eating children, who often refuse them;
- 2 they do not have an increase in blood cholesterol levels and, therefore, the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases;
- 3 they are not overweight.
How to properly formulate a vegetarian diet
A balanced menu should be the basis of a vegetarian diet. It is interesting that it not only saturates the body with proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and microelements, but also plays an important role in the process of its vital activity. In other words, it ensures the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal tract, on which immunity depends and due to which many diseases are excluded in the future.
Of course, it is easiest to plan such a menu in the case of children who eat eggs and dairy foods. Moreover, in this form, a vegetarian diet is supported by doctors.
True, when compiling it, they still recommend following simple tips.
- You should always remember about the rules of the food pyramid. Meat and fish excluded from the diet should be replaced with other foods high in protein. It can be eggs, legumes, seeds, nuts. True, they can only be given to older children. Even crushed nuts or seeds will not work for babies, at least until they learn to chew. Otherwise, everything may end in disaster. By the way, at first it is better to offer legumes in the form of mashed potatoes.
- It is imperative that you choose your milk or formula carefully. Deficiency is considered one of the main problems of vegetarian children. Therefore, if there is such an opportunity, you need to take dairy foods enriched with it. For vegetarian babies, along with formula with cow’s milk, you can also offer those made with soy, since an additional source of protein will not harm them.
- It is also important to pick up a sufficient amount. Of course, it is found in vegetables and grains, but not in such quantities as in meat. In order to somehow correct the situation and improve the process of its assimilation, you need to regularly (a couple of times a day) offer the child – citrus fruits, juices, bell peppers, tomatoes.
- Don’t overdo it with whole grains. Of course, it is healthy, as it is rich in fiber. But the fact is that it fills the stomach with it even before the child feels full. As a result, bloating, nausea, and even pain cannot be avoided. In addition, high amounts of fiber interfere with the absorption of copper, zinc and iron. Therefore, in half of the cases, nutritionists advise replacing it with fortified premium flour, white pasta, white rice.
- It is imperative to include it in the diet, because a small organism bears colossal energy losses, therefore, it cannot do without dishes with this macronutrient in sufficient quantities. This can be done by dressing salads with vegetable oils or adding them to sauces, ready meals. Moreover, fats not only bring benefits, but also improve the taste of food. In addition to vegetable oil, butter or margarine is suitable.
- It is undesirable to mix proteins and carbohydrates in the same dish. In this case, they are less absorbed, and the child may feel colic, indigestion or suffer from.
- You also need to remember about water. Our body consists of it, it takes part in the metabolism and the process of energy production. In order for all this to work without interruptions, you need to give it to children on a regular basis. Fruit drinks, compotes, teas or juices can replace water.
- And finally, always try to diversify your diet as much as possible. Monotony can not only quickly get bored, but also harm a small growing body.
Vegetarian diet for children of different ages
We all know that children of different ages need different amounts and quality of food. This is explained by their physiological characteristics, age, lifestyle and others. And if everything is more or less clear with the traditional menu, then again there can be questions with the vegetarian one. In such cases, the recommendations of nutritionists come to the rescue on drawing up a menu for children of different ages.
The main food product for babies from birth to one year old is breast milk or formula. And the main problem that they may have during this period is a deficiency of vitamins D and. It can be prevented by adding vitamin complexes with their content to the diet of lactating vegetarian mothers or by choosing appropriate mixtures. Needless to say, their choice should only be made by a qualified doctor.
Later, it will be possible to offer fruit and vegetable purees with beans, cheeses, yoghurts, as well as cereals enriched with vitamins and microelements and, especially, iron, as complementary foods to the baby.
Children from 1 to 3 years old
A feature of this period is the weaning of many children from the breast or the rejection of formula milk. Following it, the risk of a deficiency of nutrients, especially protein, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins of group B, D, may increase, which is fraught with delays in mental and physical development. To prevent this from happening, it is necessary not only to provide the baby with a varied diet, but also to talk with the doctor about the need to use special vitamin complexes.
In addition, you need to be prepared for the fact that at any moment the character of the baby can complicate the situation. After all, all children at this age are picky and love some foods, refusing others. Moreover, vegetarian children are no exception. An increase in the portion eaten does not always bring results, and it does not always turn out to be real. However, this is not a cause for frustration. To help out parents in such a situation can be imagination and original ideas for decorating children’s dishes.
Children 3 years and older
The diet of a child at this age practically does not differ from the diet of an adult, with the exception, perhaps, of the calorie content and the amount of necessary nutrients. You can always check with your pediatrician or nutritionist.
Another thing is the desire of the little man to show his independence and steadfast position in life. It is they, by the way, that encourage children in families of meat-eaters to categorically refuse meat after several years of its use, especially in adolescence. Whether this is good or bad – time will tell.
In this case, doctors advise parents only to try to convince the child, and in case of failure, to support him in every possible way. For example, helping with a balanced menu or arranging 1 vegetarian day per week. Moreover, in fact, there is a huge number of delicious dishes made from “permissible” foods.
What problems can arise
In order for the transition to vegetarianism to bring maximum benefit to both the parents themselves and their children, it is necessary to prepare in advance for the possible difficulties that they may face.
In the case of vegetarian babies, this is Kindergartens, or rather, a list of dishes that are offered in them. Of course, they are dietary and very healthy, but they are designed for children who eat meat. Therefore, broth soups, cutlets, fish and porridge with meat gravy are not uncommon here.
It is impossible to abandon them completely without leaving the child hungry. The only exceptions are medical indications. Then the baby will cook food separately.
Private gardens for vegetarians are another matter. There, all the wishes of the parents will be taken into account, and the kids themselves will receive the maximum of useful substances from a variety of dishes, which are part of a balanced vegetarian diet. True, you will have to pay for this. And sometimes a lot of money.
Vegetarian schoolchildrenBy the way, they can also face such situations. But in extreme cases, they can only rely on the option of home schooling and sacrifice, accordingly, society, the opportunity to learn how to interact with other people, and gain invaluable life experience.
Summing up all of the above, I would like to note that a child and vegetarianism are completely compatible concepts. Moreover, there are many examples proving this in practice, and supported by the words of famous pediatricians. You can and should be equal to them, but only if the child himself feels great on the new food system and does not experience any health problems.
Therefore, be sure to listen to it and be happy!