Sunday, February 3, 2008

Vegetarian Kids

My son has vegetarian tendencies!

He said this to me after a family gathering, "Momma, Great grandma showed me the turkey's heart. Why do we cut up turkeys and eat their hearts? That's sad, " he said to me. "And what about the turkeys at the Farm Park(which is little petting zoo)? Does someone cut them up and eat their hearts?"

Oh my, this sounded awful to me! I told him those turkeys at the Farm Park are for the kids to see. They do not get cut up. Some turkeys we do eat, but that's how we get protein. Then I told him some people don't eat meat. They're called vegetarians.

So if your kids have vegetarian tendencies and refuse to eat meat at some point, here's what I found on the topic.

According to, "If well planned, a vegetarian diet can provide all of the nutrients that your child needs to be healthy. In addition, since vegetarian diets are generally high in fiber, low in cholesterol and low in saturated fats (all characteristics of a healthy diet), they may actually be more healthy than most American diets and may lead to a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type II diabetes."

Here are the different types of vegetarians:

  • semi or partial vegetarian: avoids red meat only

  • ovo-lacto-vegetarian: avoids meat, seafood and poultry, but does consume milk products and eggs

  • lacto-vegetarian: avoids meat, seafood and poultry and eggs, but does consume milk products

  • ovo-vegetarian: avoids meat, seafood and poultry and milk products, but does consume eggs

  • vegan: avoids all foods that contain animal products, including meat, seafood and poultry, milk products and eggs also has an easy to understand look at what your child might be missing if he/she stops eating meat:

  • Energy/Calories Vegetarian diets may have less calories than diets that include meat and dairy products. Although it isn't necessary to count calories each day, you should ensure that your child is receiving enough calories for their optimal growth. In general, if your child is eating a well balanced and varied vegetarian diet, is gaining weight and developing normally and is active, with a lot of energy, then he is probably getting enough calories.

  • Vitamin B12 This vitamin is only absorbed from animal products, so your child will need to take supplements or eat foods that are fortified with Vitamin B12 (check nutrition labels), including fortified soy milk and some meat substitutes. Also, nutritional yeast as a great way to get B-12.

  • Vitamin D This vitamin is present in fortified milk, egg yolks, and fish. Your body also makes Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, so most children do not have problems with Vitamin D deficiency. If your child is not exposed to the sun very often, then you should consider Vitamin supplements or a soy milk that is fortified with Vitamin D.

  • Iron In general, the absorption of iron from meat, chicken and fish is much higher, around 15-30%, than other sources, which have absorption rates of only about 5%. This means that even though some vegetables and fruits contain iron, it is usually not absorbed as readily as the iron from meats. Check the nutrition label to choose foods high in iron, choose foods that are fortified with iron (cereals, bread, rice, and pasta) and consider a vitamin supplement that contains iron.

  • Calcium Calcium is a mineral that is mostly present in your child's bones. Having a diet with foods that are high in calcium to meet daily requirements is necessary for the development of strong bones. It is also an important way to prevent the development of osteoporosis in adults. Many vegetables contain calcium, especially broccoli, sweet potatoes, great northern and navy beans, and leafy greens. You can also give your child soy milk or orange juice that is fortified with extra calcium.

  • Protein You can make sure that your child gets enough protein and amino acids by eating a good balance of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruits.

  • Zinc Your child will need to take supplements or eat foods that are fortified with zinc to get enough of this important mineral, since the best sources of zinc are meat and yogurt. Zinc is also found in whole grains, brown rice, legumes, and spinach.

The Vegetarian Resource Group has more in depth information on vegan kids.

Have your kids ever said they don't want to eat animals? Let me know by posting a comment.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Anonymous said...

My oldest son is almost 7 and in the last 2 months has almost completely stopped eating meat. He has not talked about the animal cruelty part he just says he doesn't like it anymore. It gets frustrating to have him not eat dinner and be upset every night. I'm not sure if I should cater to his sudden lack of interest or just keep encouraging him to eat.

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