Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Healthy Vegetarian Kids

Note: Keyword analysis #3 Raising vegetarian kids, healthy vegetarian kids, cooking for vegetarian kids, or a dozen other ways of saying basically the same thing.

Yes, for the 1000th time, yes, you CAN raise healthy vegetarian children. If I encounter one more person who puts on a vaguely disapproving expression and begins muttering things about protein and iron and "little bodies" and "strong bones" and then finishes up by saying something like "of course it's fine for the parents to do what they want, but growing kids need real/proper/decent/nutritious food" I am going to scream.

My brothers and I were raised on a purely lacto-ova vegetarian diet, and we have remained vegetarians in adulthood. One brother is 6'1" and the other is 6'4". We are all healthy and mentally acute (well most of us anyway!). We did not eat vitamin pills or supplements to get here, and we did not suffer significant social stigma in the lunchroom. Our mother fed us healthy, fresh, planet-based meals with a few dairy products on the side. I have never, in all my blood donating years, failed an iron test.

Sure, you might say, it's always possible to find an outlier to any situation, and maybe most vegetarian kids are shrimpy, sick, and stupid. Studies show that this is not the case. In fact, one study looked at the diets of teens and found that the vegetarians were actually HEALTHIER than their meat-eating peers. Vegetarians, over all, tend to eat less fat, less sodium, and more fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition, protein, iron, and B vitamin levels were found to be within acceptable standards. When you start looking at the research, the theory that vegetarianism is not healthy just doesn't hold water.

Now of course it is possible to become malnourished by eating nothing but French fries. Then again, it is possible to become malnourished while eating nothing but chicken nuggets too. In fact, any sensible person should spend time thinking about what they eat, and come up with a healthy balance of foods. All I'm trying to say is that a well-considered vegetarian diet can be just as healthy for children and adults as a meat-eating one. I'm living proof.

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