Since the age of 0, babies have actually become vegetarians. Because, during the first six months they only consumed breast milk (ASI). Can the vegetarian diet continue until childhood? Humans are actually not classified as all kinds of eaters. According to Bambang Sumantri, Chairperson of the Vegetarian Family of Maitreya Indonesia (KVMI), with the existing tooth structure, humans are actually categorized as herbivores. Unlike tiger teeth that are pointed, so they can cut flesh. Not only that, added Bambang, who has been a vegetarian since the age of 17 this year, human intestines that are long enough to make animal food last longer in it. “It took 4-5 days for the meat to be clean from the intestines,” he said. That way, a suitable vegetarian diet is applied, including for children.
Lakto-Ovo Said Dr. Hendry Widjaja, MHA, a doctor from Medika Gria Hospital, Jakarta, babies from the beginning can already undergo a vegetarian diet. According to the doctor who is also a vegetarian, since the age of 0 months, babies actually do not need animal food sources. Until the age of 6 months, the baby’s nutritional needs are fulfilled by breast milk. Once they are introduced to solid food (starting at 6 months), a vegetarian diet can be applied through the right combination. “Of course, the lakto-ovo vegetarian diet, because they are still in the process of growth. After adolescence, they can only apply to become vegans or pure vegetarians, “said the Head of KVMI’s Education and Training Section. Lakto-ovo vegetarian is a fairly loose diet rather than vegan or pure vegetarian.
In lakto-ovo vegetarians, children can still consume eggs, milk, and other processed products, except meat and fish. A vegetarian diet can indeed be lived by all ages. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) agreed to this. In a paper entitled Feeding your Baby the Vegetarian Way, as quoted by New Beginnings, 2000, ADA states that if properly planned, babies on a vegetarian diet can get all the nutrients needed for their growth process. Dr. added Hendry, so far there is no significant difference between children who are on a vegetarian diet and non-vegetarian children, both in terms of growth and intelligence. The Pediatrics Journal of Medicine also mentions the same thing.
Grow well Research on vegetarianism in children was carried out in 1989. The researchers found that of the 404 children studied in a community in the Tennessee region, there were no significant differences in the growth of vegetarian and nonvegetarian children. Indeed, at the age of 1-3 years, children who undergo a vegetarian diet in the area are slightly smaller than American children in general. However, once they turn 10, their growth returns to equal. If averaged, the growth of vegetarian children is the same as other children. This broke the assumption that vegetarian children were smaller, thinner and pale. However, experts worry about the possibility of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in vegetarian children, especially vitamin B12, which is widely found in animal-based foods. For example, children who have difficulty eating vegetables can experience iron deficiency.
Vegetables generally contain iron which is important for the formation of red blood cells. However, if parents can combine food well, there will be no nutritional deficiencies. As a rule, explained Dr. Hendry, whose two children underwent a vegetarian diet, there are four compositions of food that should be given to vegetarian children. “Groups of grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. With the right combination, children’s nutrition can be fulfilled well, “he said. Virginia Messina, MPH, RD, and Mark Messina, Ph.D, the authors of the book The Vegetarian Way , said parents must have basic knowledge of vegetarian nutrition so that children get proper and balanced nutrition. According to them, the nutritional needs of children who are quite high are vitamin D, iron, calcium, and zinc.
Other nutrients that vegetarian children also need are protein, vitamin B12, and riboflavin. Calcium can be obtained from milk and processed products. The possibility that children who apply the lakto-ovo vegetarian diet lack calcium, iron, or vitamin B12 is very small. Because, sources of calcium can be obtained from food sources such as tofu, dark green leafy vegetables, bok choy, broccoli, beans, soybeans, and cereals. Iron is also obtained from plant-based foods. The type of iron in vegetable sources is classified as nonhememic and is not easily absorbed by the body. Unlike iron from animal sources, such as red meat, which is classified as hem and easily absorbed by the body. To get around the absorption process, experts recommend that iron-rich foods from vegetable sources be consumed along with foods high in vitamin C.
Doctor Consultation The vegetarian diet in children is not recommended by Dr. Dida Gurnida, Sp.A (K), MKes., Nutrition and metabolic consultant from Hasan Sadikin Hospital, Bandung. “It’s best not to apply the vegetarian diet to children. Because, they still need animal protein, “he said. According to the pediatrician who graduated from the Padjadjaran University FK, the absence of animal sources is not good for digestion. The intestine will not know animal source foods. The child’s growth process is also not good. Keep in mind that animal-based foods help the combustion process become better energy. Dr. Dida further suggests applying a general pattern of balanced nutrition consisting of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Fats and proteins come from vegetable and animal sources. Responding to the human digestive system that is not suitable for animal food, he only replied, “Food sources should not be consumed too much.” Efforts to apply the vegetarian diet to children should be consulted with a specialist doctor first.