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How To Make Sure Your Vegetarian Child Eats Right

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Most 9-year-olds haven't taken a firm stand on social issues, but one of my patients was proving to be the exception to the rule. The young lady refused meat, saying she just could not bring herself to eat animals.

The girl's mother wanted to be supportive (mom confided that when she thought too hard about where her own meat meals were coming from, she became a little queasy, too). At the same time, mom was concerned about the wisdom and safety of the vegetarian lifestyle.

Kids choose to be vegetarian for a variety of reasons. Some grow up in this lifestyle because of their parents' cultural, religious or social backgrounds. In my experience, young people who seek out the vegetarian lifestyle are most often thoughtful teenage girls who find the idea of eating animals offensive.

Children certainly can eat a vegetarian diet and remain healthy, perhaps in some cases healthier than their counterparts who consume high-fat, meat-heavy diets. The American Dietetic Association notes that vegetarians tend to have lower cholesterol and lower body mass indexes, as well as lower rates of heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

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