A lot of people wonder if children should be vegetarians. A lot of people that think they're "growing kids" and shouldn't be "deprived" of "proper" nutrition. I have heard and read versions of this multiple times and wanted to address this. Below is a summary of an article I read in Vegetarian Times in their May/June issue. The article is entitled "Raising Veg Kids".
A vegetarian child is a healthy child. Going vegetarian is akin to quitting smoking or avoiding substance abuse; that is how healthy vegetarianism is to a body (whether child or adult). A lot of children have a high risk of becoming obese. One in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their life. The ADA has stated that "vegetarian diets in childhood and adolescence can aid in the establishment of lifelong healthful eating patterns and can offer some important nutritional advantages". Here are some nutrients that people are concerned vegetarians don't get enough of:
Protein: There is plenty of proteins in grains, vegetables, beans, and bean products (i.e. tofu and soymilk). A normal variety of these foods eaten over the course of the day, provides all the protein a growing child needs.
Calcium: Green leafy vegetables and legumes are rich in calcium. Certain greens have more: broccoli, collards, kale, bok choy, and brussels sprouts. There is also calcium in fortified foods (i.e. fortified orange juice or fortified soymilk).
Iron: Greens and beans are rich in iron. A daily multivitamin supplement can also help.
Vitamin B12: Is not found in any unfortified plant foods, although it is present in dairy and eggs. It is easy to find in fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soymilk, and multivitamins.
One thing to know is that it is easier for a child to stick with a healthful vegetarian diet when the rest of the family is on the same path. It will help the whole family stay slom and healthy for many years to come.