I recently attended Chicago’s annual VeganMania at the Broadway Armory. It was a great event, and I will be posting a video about it next week. One of the exhibitors there was Tambra Riddle, a certified Doctor of Naturopathy with a Master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition and author of the book My Teenage Rejection of Death Products. Her story focuses on both the ethical and nutritional aspects of being a teenage vegetarian in a society where opting for a plant-based diet is seen as negative. Speaking to her caused me to wonder about what would happen if more children in the United States were vegetarian.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that vegetarians and vegans enjoy a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, and lower body mass indexes, as well as lower overall cancer rates. The ADA concludes that vegetarian or vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
It’s what you add, not subtract
A vegetarian diet for kids allows for all the adequate nutrients that a meat-based diet does, but without all the cholesterol, hormones, and saturated fat. But it is very important to ensure that kids get all the proper nutrients they need. A vegetarian diet does not simply mean cutting out meat products; it’s all about what you substitute. “Vegetarianism can be conducive to a healthy lifestyle, but you have to balance out what you omit,” says Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on nutrition.
Vegetarian kids are cool too
As far as the social stigmas about meat go, kids can be most influenced by what their friends at school are eating. Pre-teens can get derailed from a healthy lifestyle when they feel pressured by their classmates to down sugar and fried stuff. PETA provides a whole host of ethical entrees and treats for kids that their friends might even enjoy too.
Here’s a kid’s video about being kind to animals and the Earth by eating organic!