Vegetarian food for children can be a healthy option and guarantee all the nutrients needed for development. Knowing more!
Vegetarianism is increasingly common among Brazilian families: according to a IBOPE Survey held in 2018, more than 30 million people are vegetarians, which corresponds to 14% of the population.
Even with its growing popularity, it is still very common to have doubts about the viability of a vegetarian diet for children. Is it healthy? Are you lacking in nutrients? Can it jeopardize development?
Today, most nutritionists and doctors agree that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be very healthy from an early age. But special attention should be paid to children and adolescents, especially if the diet does not contain dairy and eggs.
We spoke on the subject with specialist Bárbara Andrade, CEO of Invite food. Next, you will better understand the benefits and care required in encouraging a vegetarian diet in childhood, or even reducing the consumption of animal foods at home.
Inside History: What are the general benefits of a diet without animal products?
Barbara Andrade: In general, diets without animal products provide more antioxidants, nutrients and fiber, as well as improve digestion.
Another advantage is that a plant-based dietfruits, grains and legumes offer lower fat content, thus reducing the risk of clogged arteries and arteries that can cause a heart attack.
In addition, choosing not to consume dairy can reduce inflammation in the body and even improve symptoms of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
DDH: Can a child develop healthy on a vegetarian diet? Are you not short of protein and nutrients?
Barbarian: Consumption of legumes, seeds and grains can provide enough protein for everyone. Grains, such as rice, and legumes, such as beans, contain all the essential amino acids for development, so it is recommended to consume them daily.
A child should consume an average of 0.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. Therefore, if a child weighs 20 kg, he only needs 14 g of protein per day, which can be obtained in two bean pods.
Families who choose a vegetable food easily achieve satisfactory levels of protein and nutrients through a balanced diet. If there is resistance in children to consume certain foods or to seek more diversity, it is possible to add soy, pea and rice proteins to increase recipes and obtain a greater protein intake. Today, these foods are increasingly easy to find in specialized stores, or even products enriched with proteins without animal origin, as is the case with the products we develop at Alimentos Convitta.
DDH: What is flexitarianism? What are the health benefits of this practice and for society as a whole?
Barbarian: O flexitarianism proposes to reduce the consumption of meat and animal by-products for the benefit of health and the environment, even if the family does not completely exclude these foods from their routine. The proposal is to adopt a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle, without necessarily adopting a label or certain rules.
The health benefits are the same as those of a plant-based diet, varying with the ratio of what is practiced and the environmental benefits are significant. In a day without consuming meat and animal by-products, a person saves on average 14 kg of CO² emitted into the atmosphere, 24 m² of land used for livestock farming and 3,400 liters of water, which corresponds to 26 baths of 15 minutes. If every family adopts flexitarianism once or twice a week, we will see positive changes in the environment over time.
DDH: Should families who choose to reduce or exclude animal protein from their children’s diets be extra careful? Is nutritional supplementation necessary?
Barbarian: Bee vegetarian food for kids, it is necessary to be aware of the levels of some nutrients that are more common in foods of animal origin. For example, omega-3, found in flaxseed oil, as well as iron and calcium, both of which are abundant in dark green vegetables, spirulina, cane molasses and legumes. The only nutrient not found in the plant kingdom is: b12 vitaminwhich can be obtained through supplementation or fortified foods.
Another point that deserves attention in a vegetarian diet is calorie intake. This type of diet usually provides fewer calories and more fiber and water, which increases satiety. The solution to this point can be to: more calorie plant foods such as nuts and oils, depending on the child’s needs and the distribution of macronutrients.
For these reasons, it is always important to have pediatric monitoring of eating habits and, if necessary, also a specialist in infant nutrition.
DDH: What foods can be offered as a source of important nutrients for flexitarian or vegetarian children? What is the advantage of each of them?
One of the benefits of a vegetarian diet is the stimulus for a variety of dietary sources. Beans, chickpeas, lentils and quinoa are sources of protein, iron, calcium and zinc. Peanuts and nuts are sources of healthy fats, protein and fiber. Oats are rich in B vitamins, fiber and beta-glucans. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and parsley provide iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin C, omega 3 and folate. Orange fruits and vegetables contain vitamins A and C, potassium and lycopene. And red fruits, such as blackberry, acerola and strawberry, are examples that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
DDH: Regardless of whether or not you consume foods of animal origin, what are the key points to ensure a healthy childhood diet?
Barbarian: Variety of natural foods and a low supply of ultra-processed foods are very important points. While less processed foods contain vitamins and nutrients, ultra-processed foods, in turn, are often low in nutrients and rich in fats, sugars and chemical additives that can affect the child’s physical growth and spoil the child’s taste, causing complications in the child. . health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure throughout life.
It is important to offer exclusive breast milk during the first 6 months of life and beyond, the introduction of food should preferably be done with in-kind foods. As a result, the child’s taste buds get used to these foods and he learns to appreciate more nutritious foods.
O environment in which the child lives directly interferes with her eating habits. When there are ultra-processed foods at home and at school, such as soda and stuffed cookies, it becomes harder for her to establish the healthy eating habit, which is why it’s important that there’s a consensus in the places she goes.
Variety is an important point to ensure various nutrients. The more varied the items that make up the child’s plate, the more nutrients are available. That is why it is important to add different fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
If the child has a resistance to eating these foods, it is possible to: increase traditional recipes such as cooking beets with the beans, adding fried cabbage to the omelet and incorporating cooked cassava into the bread dough. Or even prepare them in a fun way, for example by cutting star and heart shapes.
Barbara Andrade graduate in gastronomy and business management, nutrition student and CEO of Alimentos Convitta. With 15 years of experience in the food industry, he is a lover of healthy food and wants to collaborate on people’s health and a more sustainable world through Alimentos Convitta.
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