Getting The Necessary Nutrition From A Vegetarian Lifestyle
The vegetarian diet (life-style) is perhaps the best option in today’s world where toxins are increasingly affecting our children’s health. Toxins accumulate up the food chain and are particularly concentrated in fish. Those who eat meat are wise to eat free range and in moderation. Those who eat fish are wise to eat very little and none while pregnant. Avoid the largest species (shark, sword fish, king mackerel and tuna) which have the highest concentrations of mercury. Farm raised fish (e.g. tilapia and others) tend to have higher pesticides due to the food they are fed.
The major nutrient that is missing in the vegetarian diet is Vitamin B-12. We need B-12 for normal production of red blood cells to prevent anemia, and for various biochemical enzyme reactions. Vitamin B-12 is almost exclusively found in animal products, so I highly recommend that you take a vitamin B-12 supplement if you are a vegetarian or a vegan. Since everyone is deficient in vitamin D, I recommend everyone, regardless of diet type, take vitamin D-3 starting with 1000 IU a day as a newborn, to 5000 IU a day for teens and adults. If you do not eat any fish (and sadly most fish is so toxic, I think it’s best to avoid it) then take an omega-3 supplement. To make enough DHA (what the brain needs) from flax seed oil or ground flax seed, you will need to take ten times the amount of fish oil.
Zinc, iron, and iodine can be beneficial, and if your child is not eating large quantities of the green leafy vegetables, you will want to supplement calcium. Many worry about the protein intake but a well structured vegetarian diet that includes lots of whole grains, legumes (beans and lentils), nuts, and nut butters will provide enough protein and if you can add dairy (or breast milk for the younger ones), protein needs should be met easily.
In summary, make sure your vegetarian diet includes lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. Eggs and dairy are great if your child can tolerate them and you are not opposed to them. Go organic and local if possible. Add Vit D and a multivitamin/mineral supplement that includes B-12, and consider omega-3 fish oil and probiotics.