By The Editor
What is the biggest challenge when one decides to be a vegetarian? There are many, but the most challenging is saying “NO” to meat that has been a part of one’s diet from childhood. And talking about childhood, one may be prompted to ask, what about starting this healthy diet from childhood? Can a vegetarian diet support the physiological and dietary needs of a growing child? Is it good for a growing child to become a vegetarian?
It is indeed hard to believe, but vegetarianism among children has already gone mainstream starting from the last decade. Surprisingly, a growing number of American kids aged 8 to 18 have already embraced this kind of lifestyle. Can we thank the likes of Carrie Underwood and Christian Bale for putting up a good example for young kids to follow? Or is this a response to the growing obesity and overweight problems among American kids that is now climbing to almost 50 percent?
The answers to these questions are close to home. But, whatever are the reasons, it is a fact that from the 2 percent of the kid population (1.4 million kids) ten years ago, it has now grown to 3 percent (about 2 million). This may also be an influence of more parents becoming vegetarians. It is easier for kids to accept vegetarianism as a way of life when the parents and the rest of the family are practicing vegetarians.
In the same way that vegetarianism poses challenges to an adult making a transition, it is the same for kids. When one thinks that kids pick up the habits of their elders, especially their parents, it is easier to presume that they can be more easily swayed to eating what s set in front of them. Even picky kids can be easily motivated to eat their vegetable meals when they do not know any better. Cooking and presenting the fruits and vegetables in the most “kid-appealing” ways can help them get attracted to their food and “kid-appetizing” taste can give them a positive experience. The rest will be easy.
The real challenge is when these kids start growing and gets to learn more about the “outside world” and what it can offer on top of the veggies they munch and nibble every meal time. Learning and comparing is inevitable as they become exposed to what their friends and classmates eat in school and parties. Is it as easy for a kid to become a vegetarian? Compound that with their nutritional needs.
Even vegetarian adults face the challenge of nutritional deficiencies specifically for iron, Vitamin B12, Omega-3 fatty acids and most especially the essential amino acids. These deficiencies can potentially stunt the growth of children as well as cause many metabolic disorders. These are most especially important because they are growing fast and need building blocks to grow tissues.
The parents have a big role to play in encouraging their children to become a vegetarian. For one, they need to practice what they preach. It has to be a lifestyle and that means being a vegetarian when stocking food items in the house, being a vegetarian when eating in restaurants and being a vegetarian even when no one is looking.<(p>
If the family is predisposed to some weight-related health problems or obesity runs in the family lineage, it is good to start the kids on the right track. If the kid is already overweight and is already manifesting some health problems, the diet need to be checked before more serious complications set in.
How hard is it to make one child become a vegetarian? It is as hard as making one adult make a lifestyle change. But, there are solutions if parents are bent on saving one’s child from becoming overweight, sick and socially and psychologically unstable. Parents need to learn more about meal planning through research of substitutes and nutritional contents. And more importantly, keep your kids happy with delicious meals to partake through creative cooking.