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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
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.