Vegetarian Nutrition for Kids
Is being vegetarian healthy for your kids? With all the food information out there on toxins in our foods, food processing, preservatives, coloring, high heating, packaging, low salt or low sugar, fat free or gluten free, no carbs, high proteins, surely diets based on plant based food are best right? Actually no. When we look at the science behind what our bodies need, a plant based diet couldn’t be worse for optimal nourishment, especially of a growing baby or child.
Despite arguments to the contrary, the fact remains that we humans are omnivores. We can eat- and thrive- on most anything edible. The exact proportions of animal vs. vegetable food that we consume varies from person to person as we’re as unique on the inside as well as out. When we look to history and traditional people (who weren’t subject to most if not all our current illnesses) it’s almost impossible to point to a society or a culture that has thrived and prospered without eating any animal products. Even apparently vegetarian cultures like the Masai eat blood and oftentimes plagues provided an abundance of insects that could be dried for later dining in times of need for any population living off the land. (The only group I can think of that does it successfully is Tibetian monks, and then they don’t reproduce). All this considered, kids are still another matter and when their nutrient needs are considered, plants alone will not do it.
Plant based diets might sound perfectly ‘natural’ but many plants have mineral blockers, enzyme inhibitors, protein digestion blockers, poorly absorbed minerals, digestive irritants, are often inflammatory, tend to be high in sugars and nearly always deficient in nutrients critical for growth and development.
The Nutrients Plant Based Diets Miss
Then diets free of animal foods include low levels of, or less available nutrients, such as:
– vitamins A and D (fat soluble activators), resulting in poor mineral use
– body ready essential fatty acids – AA EPA DHA – necessary for brain and cognitive development, immune support and anti-inflammation
– CoQ10, necessary for fighting free radicals and aiding cardiovascular health
– cholesterol, necessary for brain development and cellular communication
– body-ready B6 for several conversions of happiness neurotransmitters and detox pathway. B6 helps B12 and folic acid convert harmful homocysteine – a risk factor for cardiovascular disease
– B12 – you simply can’t absorb a reasonable amount of bioavailable B12 from plant foods – and soy further increases the need for b12, and because vitamin B12 is found only in animal source foods, strict vegetarianism has long been associated with a greater risk of deficiency of this vitamin.
– body-ready zinc and iron. Heme iron, the most absorbable form of iron, is found only in animal foods.
– the amino acids (the smallest building block of animal proteins) carnitine, taurine and carnosine, necessary for fighting free radicals inflammation and helpful for cardiovascular health, aiding in fat metabolism and cellular energy production and protecting the eyes and brain.
Animal Meats Are A Healthy Way To Help Our Kids Grow
Several researchers have found that animal foods are so important in ensuring proper growth, height, strength and intelligence, they actually conclude it unhealthy not to include animal foods in children’s diets. We agree that anyone who values their health should be against factory farming. However, we still need to strongly recommend parents provide the best quality animal foods available for feeding their babies at this critical age. Get your animal foods from pastured farms and you will be supporting animal husbandry that is humane, healthy and the happiest for the animals. Plus, you’ll be supplying superior nutrient content for your child. In fact, reasonable amounts of grass-fed meat, wild fish, free-range eggs and other non-contaminated animal protein sources consumed as part of a diet high in fiber with vegetables, fruits and omega-3 fats, aren’t associated with any bad outcomes at all.
Why Vegetarianism Isn’t for Everyone Especially Kids
Most wise experts agree that there is no single diet that is best for everyone, so a vegetarian/vegan diet may work for some, but not the majority; most people will achieve better health if some high quality animal proteins are included in their diet. With the cost of ethical meat being slightly higher than the norm, probably means if more people purchased their meat based on ethics they might also consume less meat and add more plant based meals into their diet. That ‘s something one would assume vegetarians and vegans would encourage? Nothing is good or bad, just in or out of balance, and mostly that balance is a quality decision! Those decisions are especially important when it comes to kids!
Ultimately, you must listen to your body as it can provide you with information about what type of diet is best for you. However, if you’re truly caring for your kids at the most critically developing time of their lives, including high quality animal proteins as part of their balanced diet can be one of the biggest gifts of health you could give them.