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In a very general sense, a vegetarian is someone who doesn't eat meat. But that definition is too simple. There are several kinds of vegetarian diets:
Many people are semi-vegetarian—most of the diet is vegetarian, but sometimes they may eat meat, poultry, seafood, fish, and/or eggs.
There are many reasons why some people choose vegetarian diets:
If properly planned, vegetarian diets can provide all the nutrients you need. In addition to that, being a vegetarian can actually be better for you. In general, vegetarians:footnote 1
Good health could be related to a diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Keep a balance
As a vegetarian, you can still eat a balanced diet.
You may be worried that you won't get all the nutrients you need with a vegetarian diet. But as long as you eat a variety of foods, there are only a few things you need to pay special attention to.
Like everyone else, vegetarians also need to make sure they get the following nutrients:
A well-planned vegetarian diet can be healthy for children. Young vegan children tend to be slightly smaller but still within normal growth ranges. And they tend to catch up to other children in size as they get older.
If you are raising a child on a vegetarian diet, consider the following:
With careful planning, a vegetarian diet can be very healthy for teens. In fact, it can be a great way to get them into a lifelong habit of healthy eating.
If your teen decides to become a vegetarian, teach him or her how to plan meals to get all the right nutrients every day. Teens need calcium and vitamin D. And iron is especially important for teen girls who are menstruating. Talk with your doctor about how much of these vitamins and minerals your child needs. Ask if your teen needs to take a daily supplement.
You may want him or her to talk to a registered dietitian to learn how to plan a healthy vegetarian diet.
It's important to find out why your teen wants to follow a vegetarian diet. Some teens adopt a vegetarian diet as a way to lose weight, and "being a vegetarian" can hide an eating disorder like anorexia.
CitationsCraig WJ, et al. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(7): 1266–1282. Available online: http://www.eatright.org/About/Content.aspx?id=8357.Health Canada, et al. (2012). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from birth to six months. A joint statement of Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada. Available online: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/index-eng.php.Health Canada, et al. (2014). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from six to 24 months. Health Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php. Accessed April 28, 2014.
Current as of: December 17, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAnne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope MD - PediatricsRhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes EducatorColleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian
Current as of: December 17, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator & Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian
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