Are Veggie Kids Healthier?
"There's not a lot of data about the immediate health benefits of a vegetarian diet," explains Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, a nutrition advisor for the Vegetarian Resource Group. "But vegetarian kids tend to be leaner, and in a society where close to one-third of the children are overweight, that's important."
Because vegetarian children tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, they often get more vitamins and minerals than their meat-eating peers. Dr. Mangels points out that the potential long-term benefits of a plant-based diet are more dramatic. In general, vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and a diminished risk of high blood pressure.
Vegetarian parents also seem to be more aware of what their children are eating because they are conscious of their own food choices. That's not to say that any vegetarian diet is healthy. As Yang points out, "It's just as easy to eat poorly on a meatless diet."