The vegetarian diet during childhood

The vegetarian diet during childhood

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A well-planned vegetarian diet, in addition to meet nutritional needs it may have some extra benefits like high fiber and low fat. However, the contribution of some vitamins and minerals can be compromised.

In the lacto-ovo-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian diet, neither meat nor fish are consumed, but milk and eggs or one of both, while in the vegan or strict vegetarian diet, only products of vegetable origin are consumed . Some people just cut out red meat but still eat chicken or fish.

Up to 6 months, breast milk is the ideal food for the baby, since it covers all their needs. If the mother's diet is not supplemented with vitamin B12, the infant should take supplements, as well as vitamin D, depending on the country, the season of the year and the skin tone. Formula-fed vegan and ovo-vegetarian infants often drink adapted and fortified soy milk, as dairy is not included in their diet. This adapted soy formula can sometimes cause allergies, making it necessary to look for other alternatives, such as that made from rice.

From 6 months, once complementary feeding is introduced, milk, maternal or artificial, should continue to be the basis of the baby's diet. The introduction of iron-fortified foods is extremely important at this time, since the infant's iron stores are usually lowFurthermore, iron from plant-based foods is more difficult to absorb than heme iron. It is also important to take into account the protein intake, trying to include protein of high biological value, such as eggs and dairy products. In the case of strict vegetarians, they should include in their diet appropriate amounts of tofu and other derivatives of soybeans, as well as other legumes, nuts and seeds to achieve an optimal protein intake.

Zinc is another mineral that can be deficient in vegetarian babies. It can be obtained from nuts and seeds, but they are not recommended until a certain age, so fortified foods are often used to ensure the necessary contribution.

When milk is no longer the main food of the baby, it is important that the meals that are offered have a high density of nutrients. For vegan kids, getting enough energy solely from plant-based foods can mean servings of vegetables that are too big for their little stomachsTherefore, ensuring the correct caloric intake can be a difficult challenge to achieve.

In the case of children and adolescents, the ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet seems the most appropriate option, given the high nutritional needs at this stage of growth. A vegetarian diet may be deficient, especially in zinc, iron, and vitamins D and B12. However, eliminating red meat from the adolescent's diet offers many advantages, especially at this stage, when there is usually a rejection of fruits and vegetables.

This type of diet establishes very healthy habits that will be maintained until adulthood., especially if they have been followed since childhood. On the other hand, it is advisable to be attentive to the vegetarian adolescent, since, by following a restrictive diet, it may not provide enough caloric content, and, in the case of eating disorders, vegetarianism can even hide the symptoms and make it difficult to diagnose.

Well planned, an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet is not only a healthy but balanced alternative for all ages.

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