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Nutritional needs of vegetarian children

By Paul Nelson  |  Posted Jan 27th, 2009 @ 6:34am


A new study says one out of every 200 children is a vegetarian. But what should the parents of these kids be mindful of when they sit at the dinner table?

If you walk into O'Falafel Etc. on 2100 South, you might run into 10-year-old Sage Brandt eating with his family. He'll be eating something vegetarian.

"I just got used to it with no meat in the house when I was growing up," he said.

His 5-year-old sister, Calista, also avoids meat, and here's why: "Because," she says.

Their father, Sage's Café owner Ian Brandt, started limiting the animal products he ate when he was 15 and became a full-blown vegetarian when he was 21. His children eat fruits and vegetables, but he avoids depending on soy to be the sole source of protein, opting for brown rice and beans.

Ian Brandt said, "I just believe that eating whole foods is the foundation of health instead of processed foods. It's very dangerous how a lot of vegetarians still seek out processed foods."

Pauline Williams is a registered dietitian at Primary Children's Medical Center. She said, "You can be a vegetarian and eat very high fat, very high calories, and you can actually be a vegetarian that gained too much weight."

Williams says kids run the risk of being both overnourished and undernourished. She says parents of children who don't drink dairy need to make sure their kids are getting calcium and vitamin D in some other form.

Williams said, "There are a lot of calcium fortified soy milks. There are calcium fortified orange juices."

She says there are new recommendations for vitamin D, so all children probably should be taking a vitamin D supplement anyway. As for protein, Williams says beans, tofu and soy milk are good sources for vegetarian children. But, she warns vitamin B12 can be found only from animal products.

"If you're going to take out animal products from the diet, you want to look for products that have those B vitamins added to them," she said.

Williams says some kids consider themselves a vegetarian without really thinking about what that means, and it's a term that broadly defined. Some people consider it just as avoiding red meat, but they still eat chicken and fish.


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