Vegetarian diet for youngsters

Donovan Grant

Monday, April 30, 2018

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My teen seems to have taken an interest in the vegetarian diet. Is it healthy for children to be on this diet? My child is 14 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighs 109 pounds.

More and more teenagers are choosing to adopt the vegetarian diet, removing meat, poultry and sometimes eggs and dairy products, as is the feature of the vegan diet. Often the parents' main concern is whether they will get sufficient nutrients from their food choices.

A vegetarian diet can be practised and enjoyed by people of all ages. In addition, several studies have shown that vegetarians are normally at a lower risk than non-vegetarians for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even obesity. Overall, I think practising a vegetarian diet is a good step towards a more eco-friendly world with a view to improve personal health and reduce global hunger. That being said, I would suggest that you have a serious discussion on this matter with your child

In many cases the desire to be a vegetarian is short-lived. My own eight-year-old son was a vegetarian for one whole month. It is also important to find out what are the factors that are driving your child to be a vegetarian. Is it health, or is it just to be hip?

In addition, you will also have to know whether the child will want to eat fish, eggs, dairy, or whether they only want to eat food from plants. In addition, are you able to provide vegetarian food for your child that will be both tasty and nutritious? What will they do for lunch at school? Is there any other person in your family that is vegetarian that you have to cook for? If not, it is likely that you will have to prepare separate meals for your child.

Depending on what you are preparing for your child, there might even be cost factor issues. All these factors will have to be clearly worked out.

It is also important to note whether the change will happen overnight or gradually. A gradual change might be better than a drastic change.

I must tell you that the secret to a vegetarian diet is variety. A varied vegetarian diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Also, some vegetarians choose to eat fish, dairy products and eggs

It should be noted that the age between 13 and 19 is a crucial time for growth and development. The needs of the teenage vegetarian will be the same as any other teenager. They will need an adequate supply of protein, iron, calcium and vitamin B12.

Good sources of protein for vegetarians include legumes, tofu, nuts, nut butter and yoghurt. Calcium is needed to help build bones during their teenage growth spurts. Dairy products, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and vegetable juices are good sources of calcium. Iron is also necessary in the life of a teenager and good sources of iron include raisins, spinach and molasses.

Vitamin B12 is usually the vitamin of most concern to vegetarians. However, if the vegetarian diet has eggs or dairy products, their vitamin B12 needs should be met. In addition, some cereals are also fortified with vitamin B12.

It is very important to make sure that your child's diet also has enough calories to maintain his/her activities and weight.

You may need support to prepare vegetarian meals. However, this could be a good and interesting experience for you and your child. Good luck!

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver. com.

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