With rising concerns about the environment and animals, more and more people are switching to plant-based diets. However, digging out a reason for kids shoving away animal products is often not easy.
While some families with strict vegetarian diets pass on the habit to their children other kids express repulsion towards the taste and smell of animal and dairy products thus completely keeping them out of their diet.
But in the crucial period of rapid growth, can a vegetarian diet furnish your kid with everything they need to grow? Will it be able to reflect growth at par with children on non-vegetarian diets? Here’s what you need to know.
Understanding vegetarian diet
A vegetarian diet is often not understood well. Before proceeding into the depths, it is important to know that a vegetarian diet doesn’t just imply the exclusion of meat, eggs, and poultry. Depending on what people choose to consume and keep at bay, the following classification of the diet has been made:
- Lacto-vegetarian- This is inclusive of all the dairy products and exclusive of meat, eggs, fish, and poultry.
- Ovo-vegetarian- This diet only allows eggs and excludes all other animal and animal-derived products.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian- As the name suggests, it excludes all animal products except dairy and eggs.
- Vegan- Vegan is exclusive of the meat, eggs, poultry, fish, and dairy products. People on vegan diets sustain completely on plant-based products.
Nutrients vegetarian kids might fall short of:
Vitamin B12 is important for metabolism, red blood cell production, and protection from anaemia. However, the body gets the maximum amount of vitamin B12 from animal products like liver, fish, meat, and eggs. Therefore, children on a vegetarian diet that doesn’t include any such items are at a greater risk of developing deficiency diseases.
Nevertheless, fortified cereals, milk, soy, and a proper dose of vitamin supplements can cater to the dietary requirements and support healthy development.
Omega-3-fatty acids are vital for brain development and maintaining heart health. But most of it comes from seafood and eggs. Therefore, kids who do not consume eggs and fish might show symptoms of deficiency.
However, certain plant-based foods like flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, soybean oil, and chia seeds also supply ample amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Increasing the proportion of these in diet based on their efficiency of conversion to the forms our bodies use is imperative to provide a wholesome diet to the kids.
Calcium and Vitamin D
A combination of calcium and vitamin D is recommended to bring about the proper development of bones and teeth. Milk, dairy products, and eggs are known to be the richest source of calcium.
Vitamin D, which helps in the absorption of calcium is primarily found in liver, egg yolks, red meat, and oily fish in addition to being synthesized as a consequence of our skin’s exposure to the sun. Kids grow faster and they require sufficient calcium and vitamin D to support growth.
Therefore, besides incorporating alternative sources for these nutrients like broccoli, soy, collard greens, and fortified cereals in your vegetarian kid’s diet, it is advisable to add a vitamin D supplement to rule out the possibility of deficiency.
Iron is an important component of haemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen inside your body. Important animal sources of iron include red meat, fish, eggs, and poultry. Dried fruits, dark leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, whole grains, lentils, and peas are some plant sources containing iron.
Since iron is best absorbed from animal sources, a vegetarian diet demands consuming more plant-based iron products to compensate for the lack. Vitamin C in the form of supplements or from natural sources like oranges, lemons, and strawberries can help enhance the iron absorption capacity of the body.
Before proceeding, you must check out our iron and vitamin C gummies, a perfect package to keep up your iron levels.
As we read above, a vegetarian diet can accept diversity too. The requirements for certain nutrients might vary based on what is being excluded from the diet. If your kid happily consumes dairy products, then they are already grabbing loads of calcium from them.
Ovo-vegetarians get the boon of being nourished with sufficient Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, a lot of protein, and unsaturated fats. Besides, we also saw how there are plant-based alternatives for almost all the nutrients we fear vegetarians missing out on.
However, it cannot be denied that a completely vegan diet, devoid of any animal or dairy products might not harness the maximum growth potential in children.However with sincere consultation with a paediatrician and dietician, if healthy alternatives in adequate quantities and multivitamin supplements are made a part of your kid’s diet, they can enjoy unhindered growth along with the benefits of piling saturated fatty acids and cholesterol at unhealthy levels in their body, thus paving the way to a healthier life. Vitamin B12