With the health craze that has grasped the 20th century, many diets have emerged touting to be the answer to common health problems facing modern day societies such as obesity and cancer. Among those that have stood the test of time, even becoming mainstream, is vegetarianism. With time, vegetarianism – the practice of omitting meat and meat products from one’s diet and largely depending on vegetables for nourishment – has evolved to include other categories namely flexitarians and vegans.

Flexitarians refer to people who include some form of animal product(s) in their diet and they include:

Ovo-vegetarians – do not consume other animal products apart from eggs.

Lacto-vegetarians – do not consume other animal products other than dairy.

Pescitarians – do not consume other animal products aside from seafood.

Veganism on the other hand refers to the total omission of all meat products not just from one’s diet, but life as well in a bid to safeguard the life and rights of all living creatures.

The nutritional concern with vegetarianism in recent years has risen after children of vegetarians and especially vegan parents were found to be malnourished, some even dying. Many practicing vegetarians came out to say it is a perfectly safe diet for children. But is it?

According to many international nutritional organisations, full nourishment from a vegetarian lifestyle (more so with flexitarians) is possible, provided a well balance of nutrients is achieved. Nutritionally speaking, the best recommended meal for a baby is breast milk given exclusively for the first six months and if possible for at least two years even when weaning. Note that if a vegan pregnant woman does not supplement her intake of some nutrients such as the B group of vitamins, then a child may suffer from deficiency diseases. A sound nutritional plan is, therefore, a MUST.

Once weaning for a vegan baby starts, nutrients such as iron and the B group of vitamins among others need to be supplemented as they are insufficient in breast milk and animal produce are a no-no. Vigilance then for the understanding of a child’s nutritional needs, quantities and sources is required for optimum health development.

Published in November 2016