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Vegetarianism

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Vegetarianism
There are many types of vegetarians; some of the most common are Vegans, Lacto-vegetarians, and Lacto-ovo- vegetarians, Pesco-vegetarians, and Pollo-vegetarians. Vegans live on only plant foods; some of these things include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and many more. Lacto vegetarians eat vegetables they also include dairy into their diets. Pesco vegetarians add fish into their diets, and Pollo vegetarians eat poultry such as chicken, duck, game, and birds. Pollo vegetarians exclude omit red meat out of their diets.
There are many health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. As said by the Harvard Women’s Health Watch in Should I Become a Vegetarian?, “If you stop eating red meat, you’ll eliminate a risk factor for colon cancer… if you eat more fruits and vegetables, you’ll gain some protection against cancer.” And, “…vegetarians are 24% less likely to die of coronary heart disease.” There is a long list of the benefits of a vegetarian diet. It is mainly because being on a vegetarian diet reduces a lot of cholesterol, and saturated fats, which, come from animal origin. It’s no secret that a low-fat diet that is high in fruits and veggies is beneficial and that a vegetarian diet can help get that. But is it really what’s best for children? After all, children need a well balanced meal with plenty of protein for proper growth. Can they get that on a vegetarian diet? What about vegetarianism during pregnancy and breast-feeding? There are many known benefits of the vegetarian lifestyle in adults, but most of these are unknown in children. This paper will begin to answer these questions.

Children have nutritional needs greater than that of adults. A poor diet can have long-lasting effects that can last their entire lives. As TAB Sanders and Sheela Reddy say in Vegetarian Diets and Children, “Several hazards of a vegetarian diet have been identified. These include iron deficiency anemia, vitamin B-12 deficiency, rickets, and a bulky diet that can restrict energy intake in the first few years of life” (par 21). Getting children the proper nutrition on a vegetarian diet depends on what type of vegetarian the child is. Some diets are more restrictive than others. The more restrictive it gets, the more risk there is. A vegan diet is the most restrictive and has the most risk, since a vegan diet eliminates all foods of animal origin. Higher fiber foods are very filling and the younger children tend to “fill-up” too quickly on these and have a hard time getting enough calories for proper growth. Their diet needs to be carefully planned and maintained to make sure they get all the nutrients they need (Pediatric Advisor). Tanya Di Genova and Harvey Guyda talk about a court case in their article “Infants and Children Consuming Atypical Diets: Vegetarianism and Macrobiotics, “As recently as 2005, despite the significant available literature on the potential risks of alternate diets, strict vegan parents were taken to court and charged with neglect after one of their children died of malnutrition. Their other four children were all found to be below the lowest appropriate percentile for height and weight for their age. These parents avoided taking their children to see physicians and the children were not immunized” (par 17). It is very important for vegan parents to get the appropriate resources to have their children on a well-rounded diet. If not, obviously it can have disastrous consequences.
There hasn’t really been much research on the long-term outlook of children on vegetarian diets. Most of the case studies are of children who were not closely monitored and had vitamin deficiencies. These families also refuse medical help and prefer herbal remedies. A well-planned and maintained vegetarian diet can satisfy vitamin requirements in children. As long as these diets are properly maintained their entire childhoods and they are taught how to properly take care of themselves as they reach adulthood, then it is assumed that these children will have good long-term outlooks. However, not closely monitored, it can have devastating consequences. The choice is on the parents to make the right choices for their children and families and find out what works best for them.
Vegetarianism while breastfeeding can have the same risks as in children. It is highly advised that these women continue taking prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding and the babies are also advised to have additional vitamin D supplements (pediatric advisor). Nevertheless, there are cases where the babies have died or been seriously sick from vitamin deficiencies. Tanya Di Genova and Harvey Guyda talk about a case of a vegetarian mother who was breastfeeding, “In 2002, a vegan couple from New Zealand was accused of child abuse after ‘failing to provide the necessities of life’ for their six-month-old child. Their son died of medical complications due to vitamin B-12 deficiency after the parents left the hospital against medical advice to treat their son with herbal remedies. In addition, seven infants exclusively breastfed by vegan mothers developed nutritional vitamin B-12 deficiency” (par. 16). Breastfeeding babies need protein, just like any other baby, at around 7-8 months. Instead of giving them pureed meats, they can have protein alternatives. Some of these alternatives can be pureed peas, beans, or lentils, cottage cheese, soft tofu, and yogurt (Pediatric Advisor). Breastfeeding, vegetarian mothers need to make sure that they are eating plenty of healthy foods, just like children they need to take care of themselves. They are not only affecting their own health, but also the health of their babies. If they don’t, the consequences can be disastrous.

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