How does a vegetarian diet affect children?
Parents only want the best for their children – even when it comes to what’s on the table. If mom and dad are vegetarians, they often want to feed their offspring the same way. But don’t the little ones also need meat? A study provides new clues.
KGetting Indians to eat healthy fruits or vegetables can be a real challenge. Brussels sprouts, broccoli and carrots probably do not appeal to a small child’s taste buds. Nevertheless, more and more children and young people in Germany are eating vegan. According to the VeChi Youth survey in the 14th nutrition report of the German company for nutrition from 2020, almost 66 percent of the respondents were between six and 18 years old.
More and more parents are deciding from the start to make only vegetarian or vegan dishes for their offspring. There are no exact statistics on that. But a study by Canadian pediatricians, published in the journal Pediatrics, at least sheds light on how healthy this diet is for young people. To do this, they assessed the medical data and diet of a total of 8,907 Canadian children aged between six months and eight years. The data were collected between 2008 and 2019.
But before we tell you the result of this study, there is one more question for you:
Nutrition in children: There were few differences between meat eaters and vegetarians in the study
Many adults’ fears that they would rather harm children with a vegetarian diet seem unfounded. However, vegetarian boys and girls under the age of eight were slightly more likely to be underweight. Doctors therefore emphasize the importance of paying special attention to how much nutritional value a meal actually contains for the child. Many vegetables tend to have fewer calories than a piece of fish or meat.
Vegetarian parents, however, do not have to worry about the lack of vital vitamins or trace elements in their offspring. On the contrary, says pediatrician and study leader Dr. Jonathan Maguire in a press release:
Plant-based eating patterns are recognized as healthy eating patterns due to increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, whole grains and reduced saturated fats.
The blood samples from the children surprised the researchers
Blood samples were regularly taken from the boys and girls who participated in the study. Of the 8,907 children, 248 said they and their parents said they were vegetarians. It turned out that the vegetarian children had the same blood values in terms of vitamin D, iron and cholesterol as those whose diet included meat. The result surprised the researchers. Meat is considered one of the most important sources of iron for children. Pumpkin seeds, sesame, flaxseed and nuts such as pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts or oatmeal, on the other hand, are good sources of iron for vegetarians.
However, the vegetarian diet for the little ones has a catch: Six percent of the vegetarian children were classified as underweight in the study. For comparison: Among the children who sometimes end up with a sausage or steak on the plate, only three percent of the study participants. All in all, however, this is no cause for concern, according to Dr. Maguire: “Children who ate a vegetarian diet showed similar growth and had similar biochemical nutritional values as children who ate a non-vegetarian diet.”
Previous studies have shown that vegetarian children are often taller
However, the results date from 1991, when far fewer children were fed vegetarian. However, this difference in size only became visible in later childhood: up to the age of three, vegetarians tended to be slightly smaller than those who ate meat. However, the difference in size between the two groups was too small to be considered clinically significant.
In addition, the doctors and authors of the current study point out that they have not investigated how the children exactly broke themselves. Therefore, it is difficult to draw general conclusions about the nutritional value of vegetarian eating habits. Before parents decide to feed their child vegetarian, they should inform themselves thoroughly, the researchers advise.
If you’re just missing a tip on how to get your daughter or son to eat the vegetables too, like this: