Vegetarian children

A vegetarian children diet can provide the nutrients needed for a child's growth and development. Research into vegetarian children has shown that they are similar to meat eaters in height, weight and skinfold measurement. They are also less likely to be obese. Vegan children tend to be lighter and leaner and may be shorter. Nutritional deficiencies are generally no more common in vegetarian children than among those who do eat meat, although in some cases iron levels may be lower.

Vegetarian childrenVegetarian children often eat fewer convenience foods and dairy products, and more starchy foods such as pulses, fruit and vegetables. Vegetarian girls may start menstruation at a slightly later age which may be protective against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers later in life. Vegetarian diets in children may be beneficial in protecting against disorders such as bowel problems, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer by establishing healthy dietary patterns which may be carried on into adult life.

Vegetarian children diets are not usually recommended for children under 18 years of age due to sporadic eating habits and the relatively large volumes of food needed to meet the recommended intakes for nutrients such as calcium, iron and zinc.

Under fives

A diet that is healthy for an adult may not be appropriate for a very young child and high fiber, low fat diets may not be sufficiently high in certain nutrients. Young children need energy and nutrient-dense foods such as cereals, vegetable oils, bananas and avocados. Large intakes of high fiber or watery foods typically found in vegetarian and vegan diets may not be advisable in very young children.

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