Vegetarians: Keep in Mind

Being vegetarian has an advantage. More so if you are a Lacto-ovo vegetarian (one who consumes milk products as well as eggs)! Veganism- they typically reject milk and milk products and eggs- does pose some health concerns.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who consume dairy products or eggs, usually present with few nutritional concerns, according to Jatinder Bhatia, M.D., FAAP, a member the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Nutrition. “Studies show that the growth of (lacto-ovo) children are pretty equal to those who eat regular diets,” Dr. Bhatia said.

Now if you are a vegetarian, what are the concerns? There are concerns that you may develop some nutritional deficiencies.

1. According to the AAP Pediatric Nutrition Handbook, iron is by far the nutrient most commonly deficient in vegetarian and vegan children. This is in part because iron sources in meatless diets are nonheme and plant-based, which are less bioavailable than the heme iron found in meat.

Solution: You may have to be careful to consume more items that are iron-rich, like apple, guava, jaggery (commonly available in developing nations).

2.Another common deficiency is vitamin B-12, which is found only in animal products. Therefore, youths who do not eat dairy products, eggs or meat should take a supplement or consume foods fortified with the vitamin.

3. For example, low calcium and vitamin D intake in childhood, possibly due to a vegan diet, can lead to a lifetime of weak bones and an increased risk of fractures. Adequate consumption of certain vitamins and minerals, therefore, is crucial during these formative years. This may not be a problem in lacto-ovo vegetarians, though!

And advantages of being a vegetarian: Plentiful, indeed!

Here is a summation:

Despite potential nutritional deficiencies, however, a well-balanced vegetarian diet can hold many health benefits over traditionally meat-laden American fare. Vegetarian children take in fewer calories and consume a diet lower in fat and higher in carbohydrates, Dr. Schneider said. Vegetarians also consume more calcium, folate and other nutrients than non-vegetarians, and a plant-based diet can mean vegetarians consume more whole grains, vegetables and fruit, and fewer processed snacks than do their meat-eating counterparts.

“They’re not going to McDonald’s for the burgers and fried chicken,” Dr. Schneider said. “They end up with a relatively healthier diet.”

Vegetarian families often take more time and effort to plan nutritious meals, and generally tend to emphasize healthy lifestyle choices, Dr. Barsky said. “They know how to approach the diet and they eat more organic foods. They give their children less junk food, make sure the kids are physically active. Most have already done the research about how to best feed their child.”

With input from: AAP News (April 2008)

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