Should You Ever Put a Child on a Vegetarian Diet?

In today's world, food has become much more than a way to satisfy hunger. People believe, and not without reason, that food can improve health and appearance. Therefore, nutritionists and dieticians often talk about how certain foods are better than others. If we don't go too far in our food experiments, there's nothing wrong with trying different diets. However, this is only true for adults, as children react very differently to alternative diets.

Dr. Irene

pediatrician, otolaryngologist, phoniatrician

Traditional diet

Eating habits have been formed over hundreds of years. They depend on natural conditions, the characteristics of local flora and fauna, religious beliefs, climate, and other factors. Hundreds of years of trial and error in every culture have formed the diet most successful in raising healthy children and active adults. Recently, however, more and more people are exploring alternative diet trends.

The body of an adult is fully formed, so different diets can be tried safely, in most cases. However, children are still growing — so any diet must take into account how it will affect the child.

Other considerations

When considering putting their child on a vegetarian diet, parents should keep a few things in mind. First, animal milk contains highly digestible calcium that is necessary for the normal formation of bones and teeth. And meat products are a source of iron, which is absorbed from meat much better than from plants.

These nutrients are especially needed during early childhood and puberty, as the child’s body grows and develops. Try to avoid giving your child exotic fruits and vegetables — stick to local familiar fruits and vegetables. And make sure your child is getting enough carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats — all three are crucial for development.

A smart approach

When switching your child’s diet, you need to consider several factors:

Local products — vegetarianism is more popular in areas where there is a wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and spices all year round.

Life itself — a study found that vegetarians in Europe are more susceptible to diseases associated with imbalances of nutrients, compared to vegetarians living in countries where the denial of animal food is part of the tradition. One of the main reasons cited was the practice of treating fruits and vegetables during transport and storage and washing them thoroughly before eating them. This destroys the layer of microflora rich in nutrients.

The peculiarities of the intestinal microbiota, which not only help us to digest food but also synthesizes essential vitamins and amino acids. The composition of the microbiota depends largely on a person's diet.

The habit of eating refined foods, the use of preservatives and antiseptics in the transportation and processing of food, and the use of chemicals in agriculture contribute to the depletion of the microbiota. Microbiota is transmitted from mother to baby, so we can talk about "generic" microbiota specific to a certain family.

Everyone is free to choose a lifestyle for themselves and their children. It is important to approach this question responsibly. When making this decision, you must be aware of your responsibility for the health of your children. It is a good idea to regularly consult with a nutritionist to discuss your plans.

24 September 2021

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