Is a vegetarian diet insufficient for my child? Will the lack of meat cause nutritional deficiency? This article has the answers
By Ashwin Dewan
Absence of protein, low calcium content, insufficient nutrients – these are some of the many myths associated with vegetarian food. Some parents are also concerned about the absence of meat and eggs affecting their child’s growth and development. If you are one such parent, this article will sort out your concerns.
Before we discuss the myths and facts, let's look at the benefits of vegetarian food for your child.
People are slowly and gradually switching over to a vegetarian diet. Some of the reasons are listed below.
Vegetarians are at lower risk of obesity. The increased intake of fibre from plant-based foods protects them from heart disease and even cancer. According to the The Independent, for every 10 grams of dietary fibre consumed, the likelihood of having a polyp in the colon is reduced by 10 per cent. Some good sources of fibre-filled, antioxidant-rich vegetables include spinach, cabbage and onions.
Reduces the chances of having high cholesterol. Meat contains animal fat, which is detrimental to health. A vegetarian’s diet is devoid of bad fats, which keeps cholesterol in check.
A vegetarian diet comprises whole foods and is low in fat content, contributing to stable blood sugar levels.
Veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support healthy hair, skin and nails.
Fermented varieties of vegetarian food like idli, dosa and kimchi are good for gut bacteria.
Myth 1: Vegetarians do not get enough protein as compared to non-vegetarians
Fact: There is no need for you to worry in this context as it is not difficult for vegetarians to fulfil their protein needs even if they do not consume eggs and dairy products. According to Eatright, there are many plant-based sources of protein such as legumes (beans, lentils, peas and peanuts), soy products, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Often, it is believed that vegetarian food is lacking in protein. This is not true. There are a number of vegetarian foods that are rich in protein as discussed in the below article.
Myth 2: A vegetarian diet is low in calcium
Fact: This myth is particularly applied to vegans, who have removed milk products from their diet. When we think of good calcium sources, the first thing that comes to mind is milk and milk products. But, dairy is not the only option for building and protecting bones. Vegetables especially the green, leafy ones like spinach and rhubarb are high in calcium content.
Additionally, your child can get his dose of calcium through calcium-fortified foods like non-dairy milk, orange juice, and tofu.
Myth 3: Not a balanced diet
Fact: Many people have the misconception that a vegetarian diet is not a balanced one. However, this is not true. WebMD says the key is to eat a variety of foods. For example, it may be difficult for vegetarians to get enough iron, which can be solved by eating iron-rich vegetarian foods such as brinjals, peas and lentils regularly.
Myth 4: Meat is required for healthy development in children
Fact: What is the first food item that comes to your mind when you think of healthy development? Meat is undoubtedly on top of the list. So, what can you do if you are a vegetarian?
Many vegetables contain proteins in the form of amino acids. Vegetarians can eat a balanced diet rich in all nutrients to meet their nutritional needs.
Myth 5: Carbohydrates in vegetables make us fat
Fact: Refined carbs, like those found in sugar and flour, can make your child fat because they are calorically dense. The carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables, however, are not refined carbohydrates. According to SFGATE, most vegetables are very low in calories. In a 1-cup serving, carrots contain 52 calories, okra contains 33 calories and cabbage about 25 calories.
There are many myths surrounding a vegetarian diet. The onus lies on you, as a parent, to give your child a vegetarian diet that contains a balance of nutrients. Remember, if planned properly, a vegetarian diet can be healthy, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits.
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