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Is Raising a Vegetarian a Good Idea? (page 2)

Is Raising a Vegetarian a Good Idea?

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Updated on Oct 10, 2008

Iron: Iron deficiency is quite common among children in general, and vegetarian children and their parents must take special care to ensure adequate iron intake, since iron from vegetable sources tends not to be absorbed by the body as well as iron from animal sources. Tanner recommends "Get the whole and enriched grains in, and iron-fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried fruits."

Vitamin B-12: Vitamin B-12 is found naturally only in animal products. For vegetarians, Vitamin B-12 can be added to the diet through fortified soy or nut milks, as well as nutritional yeasts and fortified breakfast cereals.

Zinc: Zinc is present in a wide variety of foods, particularly in association with protein foods. A vegetarian diet often contains less zinc than a meat based diet, and so it is important for vegetarians to eat plenty of foods that are rich in this vital mineral. Good sources for vegetarians include dairy products, beans and lentils, yeast, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals. Pumpkin seeds provide one of the most concentrated vegetarian food sources of zinc.

Calories: The nature of vegetarian diets, along with their (typically) lower fat content, can make it harder for the caloric intake to be high enough for rapidly growing children and adolescents. This makes it especially important to get enough concentrated fats in. Full-fat dairy products, avocados, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and seed butters can provide concentrated sources of calories.

Deciding to raise your child as a vegetarian should be a well-thought-out, well-informed decision. As Mangels points out, "Vegetarian children aren't any different from other children – they need all the same amounts of nutrients." The challenge to parents is making sure their child is getting enough.

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