Vegetarian Diets for Children and Pregnant Women
Pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants and children benefit from a vegetarian diet. All are especially sensitive to dietary dangers, so it makes sense for them to avoid the fats, drugs, hormones, pesticides and other pitfalls of meat and dairy foods.
Special Needs During Pregnancy
All pregnant women need to consume extra protein. There is plenty to be found in plant foods such as tofu, grains, beans, seeds and nuts, and these foods do not come with the cholesterol and saturated fat found in animal products.
For calcium, pregnant women should eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli. The calcium from most green vegetables is actually more absorbable than the calcium in cow’s milk. Another reason to avoid milk: the protein in it can cross the placenta and even enter a woman’s breast milk, possibly sparking the production of antibodies that lead to insulin-dependent diabetes.
Expectant mothers should also consume plenty of iron, folic acid and vitamins, including vitamins D and B12 – all of which are provided by a well-balanced vegetarian diet and prenatal vitamins.
Vegan women are generally healthier than their meat-eating and dairy-consuming counterparts and are therefore already well on their way to trouble-free pregnancies.
It is never too early to learn healthy eating habits. Wholesome plant-based foods make for strong, healthy bodies and a great head start in life.
In the seventh edition of his world-famous book Baby and Child Care, America’s most respected paediatrician, the late Dr Benjamin Spock, recommends that parents raise their children on a vegetarian diet. “We now know that there are harmful effects of a meaty diet”, wrote Spock. “Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer … I no longer recommend dairy products … [T]here was a time when cow’s milk was considered very desirable. But research, along with clinical experience, has forced doctors and nutritionists to rethink this recommendation.”
Feeding your kids meat will adversely affect their health in both the short and long terms. Hormones, dioxin, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides and other contaminants such as antibiotics – including some that are arsenic-based – are ingested by farmed animals. The toxins, which become concentrated in their flesh and fat, are passed on to people who eat them as part of a meat-based diet.
The saturated fat and absence of fibre in a flesh-based diet can make your child overweight and lethargic in the short term and, in the long term, can contribute to many chronic diseases that begin to develop in childhood, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Research also shows that feeding your children meat may adversely affect their mental abilities, but a meat-free diet can give children an academic edge. Researchers have found that although the average IQ of American children is 99, the average IQ of American children who are vegetarian is 116.
A healthy vegetarian diet provides children with all the protein, calcium and vitamins they need to grow up strong and healthy, without all the fat, cholesterol and toxins found in meat.
Scientific studies have shown that vegetarian children are healthier, smarter, more energetic and even taller than their meat-eating friends.
But Kids Need Meat to Grow Up Strong, Right?
Meat does not make us strong – it makes us fat, slow and sick! Meat is packed full of fat, cholesterol and contaminants, so feeding our children a balanced vegetarian diet will keep them feeling and looking their best. Most kids and adults eat too much protein, and because they get it from animal products, they also get a whopping dose of disease-causing fat with it. In addition, too much protein causes the body to lose calcium, which means that eating meat and drinking milk will weaken your child’s bones.
All the protein and other nutrients needed for growth and health are found in plant products, so do not feel pressured into feeding your child meat by well-meaning relatives or uninformed doctors.
How Do Kids Fare on a Meat-Free Diet in the Long Term?
Vegetarian foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals are the optimal foods for children, forming the foundation for dietary habits that support a lifetime of good health. Scientific studies have shown that vegetarian children are healthier, smarter and more energetic than their meat-eating friends. And if you want your child to grow up to be tall, a meat-free diet is the way to go: according to a well-respected American doctor, Dr Charles Attwood, “[C]hildren on a diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, when consuming adequate calories, not only grow normally, but have actually been shown to attain greater height than meat-eating children”.
Feeding your children milk can lead to intestinal problems, obesity, chronic ear infections, asthma and even diabetes. Scientists report that 33 per cent of Indians, including 70 per cent of Southern Indians, are lactose-intolerant. This means that the body cannot break down the sugar found in milk, which can lead to abdominal cramps, bloating and diarrhoea.
Many children are allergic, sometimes violently, to the protein in cow’s milk and buffalo’s milk. Sniffles and intestinal distress dismissed as colds and colic can be signs of lactose intolerance. Doctors often find that chronic ear infections and respiratory problems are aggravated when milk is part of a child’s diet. Drinking milk has also been linked to asthma and intestinal bleeding and is suspected of triggering juvenile diabetes, a disease whose serious side effects can include blindness. Some children’s bodies reject cow’s milk and buffalo’s milk protein as a foreign substance and produce high levels of antibodies to fend off this “invader”. Unfortunately, these antibodies also destroy the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, leading to diabetes. Plus, because so many people are lactose-intolerant, feeding children cow’s milk or buffalo’s milk may result in stomach pain, gas and diarrhoea.
Children can get all the calcium they need from plant foods such as green, leafy vegetables and fortified orange juice and soya milk – without the risk of developing serious health problems that could plague them for a lifetime.
Researchers have shown that babies who drink their mother’s milk for at least the first six months are stronger and healthier than babies who are fed formula.
What About Baby Formula?
Big companies such as Nestlé want us to believe that feeding our children baby formula is healthier than breastfeeding so that they can sell their product, but this is not true. Baby formula is an unnatural substance that is often made from cow’s milk, which can make your baby sick and malnourished. Just think of how strange it is that companies tell us that feeding children the milk of another animal is better than feeding them the milk from their own mothers’ breasts! Researchers have shown that babies who drink their mother’s milk for at least the first six months are stronger and healthier than babies who are fed formula. The best nutrition that we can give our babies comes from our own milk, not from a powdered formula.