Raising Vegetarian Children
This article aims to give you the unbiased facts about raising vegetarian children.
Why is it that so many people are horrified to hear that parents (such as myself), are raising their young children as vegetarians? We are constantly asked, “How can you deprive your children, they NEED meat?”
Frankly this sort of questioning comes from ignorance. Over the last decade, there has been enormous amounts of scientific based evidence, showing without a shadow of a doubt, that a diet free from animal flesh, is indeed a very health choice for the human body.
I am also a big advocate for not giving cows milk to children, for ethical reasons and also importantly for health reasons. You can see why milk is not the healthy drink the dairy industry would have you believe it is here, in my article Why Cows Milks Is Bad For Us.
Yes A Vegetarian Diet Is Suitable For Children.
Even though a balanced, vegetarian diet is completely healthy according to the numerous pediatricians and dietitians that I consulted, parents who choose to bring up their children as vegetarians still cop plenty of flack from other well-meaning, non-vegetarians.
Many meat eaters are absolutely convinced that these young vegetarian children are missing out and lacking important protein and nutrients. They feel that we vegetarian parents, are unfairly pushing our belief systems onto our children without giving them any choice in the matter. Do these meat eaters ever look in the mirror and realize that they too are pushing their own meat eating beliefs onto their children? I think not.
Well-meaning, meat-eating parents do exactly what they say vegetarian parents are guilty of doing, and that is, they force their children who have said that they don’t want to eat meat to eat it. They insist their children eat up their lamb roast, chicken drumsticks and veal chops, so that they can grow up big and strong.
Interestingly enough, many young children if left to their own devices, would choose not to eat meat! Have a read of this study done on Why Young Children Choose to be Vegetarians – from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
If you make the choice to raise your children on a vegetarian diet, there is no need to feel concerned or guilty, as you will be able to provide your childrens growing bodies with ample protein and nutrients. Of course you must be diligent and give them a healthy, well balanced and preferably organic, vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet that consists predominately of packaged, processed and high sugar foods, will absolutely cause children to lack in essential nutrients.
Raising Vegetarian Children Is Better For Our Planet
Raising children on a vegetarian diet is not only a healthier and more humane choice, but it also benefits the health of our planet. Less meat production = less methane and waste produce from farms and abattoirs. Factory Farming is a huge source of pollution – read Eating Meat The Unhealthy Truth.
The more vegetarians on earth, the less land needed to graze livestock on and the more space there is available to grow high yielding, vegetarian crops. These grain and vegetable crops are capable of feeding so many more people than meat production can. Plus, vegetarian crops if grown bio-dynamically and organically, actually keep the soil and ecosystem healthy.
Meat Is Not Good For Kids Contrary To The Hype.
The multi-billion dollar meat industry has cleverly brain-washed parents into believing that their meat eating childrens diets will always be superior to a vegetarian child’s. These parents are led to believe that just about any type of meat is good for kids; including highly processed sausages, bacon, cold pressed meats etc.. see more in Eating Meat The Unhealthy Truth.
The sad truth is that unless the meat comes from bio-dynamically, or organically farmed animals, that are also killed in a completely humane way (most organically reared animals still end up at the local abattoir), then feeding your children meat may actually be causing them more harm than good.
Conventional meat products, come from animals that are fed and treated with a whole variety of ingredients that are anything but healthy. Take chickens and antibiotics, this article by the Australian Chicken Federation Inc. does indeed prove that Australian chickens are fed antibiotics and more . Read Here
In the largest study ever done to date, as to whether vegetarians are less likely to develop cancers than meat eaters, the results came up positive. Vegetarians are less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters. Have a read of the report on this study in the Guardian UK. You can see the full detailed study here at the British Journal of Cancer.
How To Raise Healthy Vegetarian Children.
Firstly stop letting others make you feel guilty that your are depriving your children of choice and their own free will. I mean honestly, when it comes to babies and young children, it is the responsibility of parents to determine what is best for them to eat. If young children were to choose their own food, they would probably sit down to dinner of chocolate and ice-cream!
It is important to remember that a vegetarian diet is not automatically healthier . You need to go to the effort of making sure you are giving your children a HEALTHY, BALANCED, VEGETARIAN DIET. If you can make it a predominately organic vegetarian diet even better! Read Why Organic Food Really is Healthier.
That being said, vegetarian parents tend to be very diligent in making sure that their children are getting high quality, balanced and nutritious foods. Whereas unfortunately, many meat eating families tend to think that meat offers their children a lot more nutritional benefits than it actually does.
See the well respected Dr. Sears article- 12 Frequently asked questions about the Vegetarian Diet.
Also there is some great information in this article- Raising Vegetarian Children by La Leche League International.
Ensuring Vegetarian Children Get Enough Complete Proteins.
It is very important that vegetarian children get adequate amounts of protein, iron, calcium and vitamins each day. When it comes to just the ‘protein factor’, yes it’s true, meat eaters easily get plenty of protein from animal flesh and vegetarians do need to pay a little more attention to their diets to ensure that they too, are getting the daily recommended intake of protein.
Protein is vital to our health and we need to ensure we include ‘complete proteins’ in our diets. Complete proteins supply the body with all the essential amino acids needed for the body to grow and develop properly. This is especially important in babies and children, whose bodies are growing and developing at such a fast rate.
Vegetarians need to ensure that their bodies are also getting these ‘complete proteins’ and not just simple proteins. This is easy enough to do if you provide your children with a daily diet rich in a variety of organic/bio-dynamic, eggs, whole-grains, seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruit.
*With the exception of the list below, most vegetarian foods do not provide complete proteins when eaten alone, but combining them together in a meal will create a complete protein, as well as providing essential vitamins, iron & calcium and good fats.
Here is a list of vegetarian foods that contain “Complete Proteins”. Please note some of these are not suitable for vegans
- organic/bio-dynamic, free range-eggs – the best way to ensure cruelty free eggs, is to have your own backyard organically fed, happy, free-roaming, chooks!!
- organic/bio-dynamic cheese, butter, yoghurt and milk – though I am not a big fan of dairy products for two reasons the inhumane treatment of animals and because cows milk is unhealthy for us. Read here
- organic/bio-dynamic soy beans, tofu, tempeh, soy milk and other soy products. Be sure that any “faux” meat products you feed your children are free of GMO soy and artificial additives and preservatives. Note – when it comes to soy products the jury is still divided, some say it is excellent for health and preventing some cancers, while others say it mimics a female hormone and may cause cancer. I feel the healthiest and safest option is to give your children unprocessed organic tofu or tempeh a few times a week.
- organic/bio-dynamic quinoa – have a read about this wonderful grain in my article “Quinoa Health Benefits.”
- organic/bio-dynamic hemp protein – read more here Hemp Seed Health Benefits and Hemp Milk Recipe.
Raising Vegan Children What You Need to Know
If you are raising your children as vegans, it is very important to research how you are going to ensure they are getting adequate protein, calcium, omega 3’s, iron, B12 etc. I highly advise you to seek out a pediatric dietitian who specializes in this area to get a basic understanding of the right amounts growing children need each day of the above essential nutrients and how you can included them in a vegan diet.
Vegan parents please remember that most grains, legumes and vegetables do not offer a complete protein and this is why you should make sure your children are getting a variety of both grains and legumes every day, especially if they are not having eggs, dairy, soy or quinoa. Also Nutritional Yeast is an excellent source of B12.
Some great additions to a vegetarian or vegan diet are quinoa and the omega 3 & calcium rich, chia seeds. Be sure to add into your diet, some organic coconut oil as a good fat.
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