Feeding infants and young children is key to their development and adequate growth, so when talking about diets without food of animal origin in the smallest there is always controversy and debate, but is it healthy for babies and toddlers to carry a vegetarian diet?
Vegetarian diets for children
We always think that vegetarian diets are advisable for the health of the organism, but when it comes to children the vision is different and several cases of children with health problems and who carried vegan diets have generated controversy on the subject.
The most recognized was the case of Chiara, a girl of only two years who had to receive intensive care because of different deficiencies and health problems caused by a poorly controlled vegetarian diet.
After that, another case of a 14-month-old baby with severe malnutrition weighing like a three-year-old baby was known when he should at least double that value. In this case, the baby also had a vegan diet and that has added so that all today look with evil eyes to those vegetarian parents who decide that their children carry equal food .
What should be healthy for children and adults today is considered to be harmful among the youngest in the family, but is it all the fault of vegetarian eating? What happens if you plan it correctly?
A proper vegetarian diet is not harmful to children
As you can imagine, children do not adopt a vegetarian diet of their own choosing, but at such early ages parents decide to feed them. Thus, a large part of the conflicting cases, such as those shown above, are due to a lack of parental diet planning and, often, little awareness of the importance of certain nutrients for growth and development.
The American Dietetic Association believes that a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthy at all stages of life and can help prevent disease, but should always be properly planned and in this way, will only offer advantages in adults and children, including babies.
It is clear that while the baby receives breast milk, it is the mother who must carry a well-planned and balanced diet so that the child receives key nutrients for growth such as omega 3, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine and zinc.
When the child stops receiving breast milk, it is essential to supplement with vitamin B12 , something of great importance in all vegetarians to prevent nutritional anemia and problems associated with it. Also choose good sources of iron and accompany with vitamin C to promote their proper absorption, for example: offer lentils or green leaves together with an orange juice.
On the other hand, there are many plant foods rich in calcium and we can facilitate their absorption ensuring a good share of vitamin D if the baby is exposed to the sun on a daily basis about 15 minutes minimum. Although vitamin D and omega 3 supplements are also common in vegetarian children , but their administration depends on medical assessment.
Likewise, proteins are key to proper growth and development and they can be obtained by a young child complementing plant proteins to obtain all the amino acids that the body needs.
What is important is to remember that a vegetarian diet well planned in an adult is not suitable or suitable for infants and young children, as they have special needs and therefore, their food deserves a specific planning .
An omnivorous diet deserves special attention in the first months of life and a vegetarian or vegan diet requires more care even though it avoids food groups with nutrients that the body needs to grow and develop properly.
As we have said, a vegetarian diet in infants and toddlers can be very healthy, but it always requires proper planning for it.