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Do children need meat to be healthy?

Move over, meat!

by Sue Sanders

It possible to have children grow up healthy being vegetarians?

“Yes, as long as children get certain nutrients,” says Herschel Lessin, MD, of The Children’s Medical Group, with offices throughout the Hudson Valley. He suggests that parents write down everything their children eat and then talk to a registered dietician, just to make sure that they’re getting all that they need. “You want to make sure children are getting the right amount of protein and amino acids, as well as iron so they don’t become anemic,” he adds.

Registered Dietician Ilyse Simon of Kingston also believes there are many benefits to raising children on a vegetarian diet. “Kids who are raised as vegetarians from birth eat more vegetables and eat a wider variety of foods than non-vegetarian kids – and they have a broader palate.”

Simon advises, “If you decide – or your child decides – to become a vegetarian, you need to be sure that you get enough protein. You can’t take out a food without putting in new foods, like tempeh, tofu or beans – beans are amazing. I’m a big believer in balanced eating.”

Simon warns, however, that being a vegetarian isn’t a license to over-indulge in junk food. “Although foods like Boca Burgers have their place, they shouldn’t be the sole protein source of a vegetarian diet – they’re highly processed. You should treat vegetarian junk food like any junk food: enjoy it once in a while, but eat mostly less processed foods.”

Sue Sanders is a mother of one living in New Paltz.

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