Kids Health: Vegetarian guidelines for kids

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015
VIDEO: Kids Health: Vegetarian guidelines for kids
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Vegetarianism has gone mainstream. And, a growing number of children are deciding to go meat-free.

Vegetarianism has gone mainstream. And, a growing number of children are deciding to go meat-free.

Emily and Lyla Allen are no strangers to a kitchen.

"We've been interested in food for a very long time, and we started our blog when we were 9," said Lyla.

Now, at 12-years-old, the sisters, known as the Kitchen Twins are selling their kale chip snack kit in hundreds of supermarkets.

After a farm trip a few years ago, they chose to become vegetarians.

"There was this adorable cow, and her name was Molly. She had the longest eyelashes and she was going to be a meat cow," said Lyla.

About 3% of kids between 8 and 18 are believed to be vegetarian.

And, that share may grow among the socially conscientious Millennials and Generation Z.

Dietitian Rachel Lenhoff of Children's Hospital says parents shouldn't panic if their kids want to give up meat.

"It is possible to get all the nutrition that you need in a vegetarian diet," she said.

Lenhoff also says there are many good sources of protein.

With guidance from mom Cricket, who was already a vegetarian, the twins made the switch while keeping favorite dishes.

Lyla and Emily said, "We make vegetarian tacos with quinoa, and casserole bakes with them. We make vegetarian sloppy joes with lentils."

Eggs and cheese are also on the menu. Both have protein, and cheese has calcium.

Vegetarian kids may need a multi-vitamin to boost their Vitamin B-12 and iron.

Lenhoff urges parents to avoid the pitfall of what she calls "vegetarian junk food" - too much pasta, pizza, and mac and cheese.

She says, "The most important thing is just to continue to encourage a variety of different food groups, lots of different foods."

"It's not as difficult as maybe it seems," said Cricket.

A major dietitians' group says vegetarian eating does have benefits - less cholesterol and fat, and more fiber.

And, studies show that brings the risk of heart disease as an adult way down.

For more information on healthy eating for kids, visit the section of Clinical Nutrition on The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia website.