Vegetarian Kids: Are They Better Off?

We all want what’s best for our families.

Whether we’re talking about a spouse who may need to lose a few pounds or kids who are having trouble concentrating at school and have been diagnosed with ADD, we’ve got to consider what everyone’s eating as a fundamental part of both behavior as well as overall physical health.

When we become open minded and accepting to the fact that unfortunately, we can’t turn to our pediatricians and assume they’ll give us the best recommendations for what the kids need to be eating, we take matters into our own hands and begin exploring different routes.

            What is the best diet for growing kids to follow to ensure they don’t miss out on crucial developmental phases, consume a proper macronutrient balance to support balanced energy levels all day long and also have some wiggle room for that piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party?

            For some, the path leads to implementing a vegetarian diet.

            It’s easy to read all the hype about why meat is bad for you and bad for the planet as well as how eggs are too high in cholesterol and the healthier approach is to live on a solely plant based diet.

            As such, it may make sense to try to implement a vegetarian regime with your kids’ best interest at heart, but how healthy is it really for kids to grow up avoiding animal protein in favor of that provided by plants?

            To begin with, it’s important to consider that the idea that all meat falls under one category and that the production of all of it is done to the detriment of our planet is inaccurate.

            Inhumane, factory farming in unnatural environments is, without a doubt, harmful to the planet.

In the U.S. alone, animals raised on factory farms generate more than 1 million tons of manure per day, which is typically stored in huge, open-air lagoons, often as big as several football fields, which are prone to leaks and spills.

When lagoons reach capacity, farmers will often opt to apply manure to surrounding areas rather than pay to have the waste transported off-site where it can then contaminate water supplies and omit harmful gases into the atmosphere when over-applied to land.

During digestion, cattle, sheep, and goats emit methane, an infamous “greenhouse gas” and key contributor to global warming and in order to prevent the spread of disease in the crowded, filthy conditions of confinement operations, and to promote faster growth, producers feed farm animals a number of antibiotics.  

But more than 75 percent of the antibiotics fed to farm animals end up undigested in their urine and manure. Through this waste, the antibiotics may contaminate crops and waterways and ultimately be ingested by humans[1].

But this is factory farming.

And factory farming couldn’t be further away from a Hunter Gatherer approach in which food is sourced solely based on what is naturally available locally, seasonally and in the wild.

When we are conscientious about sourcing our meat only from farmers and ranchers who raise cattle solely on grass and who do not practice unethical treatment of the animals or make earning top dollar the top priority over everything else, including animal welfare and the welfare of those who eat the animals, it turns out we’re actually helping the planet.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, all of U.S. agriculture accounts for just 8% of our greenhouse emissions, with by far the largest share owing to crop farming; only about 2% of U.S. greenhouse gases can be linked to cattle and that good management would diminish it further. The primary concern is methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

However, methane from cattle can be mitigated in several ways. Australian research shows that certain nutritional supplements can cut methane from cattle by half simply by implementing good pasture management and even including robust dung beetle populations, both of which have all been shown to reduce methane[2].

Research by the Soil Association[3] shows that if cattle are raised primarily on grass and if good farming practices are followed, enough carbon could be sequestered to offset the methane emissions of all U.K. beef cattle and half its dairy herd.

Similarly, in the U.S., the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that as much as 2% of all greenhouse gases (slightly less than what’s attributed to cattle) could be eliminated by sequestering carbon in the soils of grazing operations.

And what about the argument that there are simply too many people on the planet to envision a world in which there would be enough meat to feed everyone?

According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal this idea is ‘ironic since a billion of the world’s poorest people depend on livestock[4].

Most of the world’s cattle live on land that cannot be used for crop cultivation, and in the U.S., 85% of the land grazed by cattle cannot be farmed, according to the U.S. Beef Board.

The bovine’s most striking attribute is that it can live on a simple diet of grass, which it forages for itself. And for protecting land, water, soil and climate, there is nothing better than dense grass. As we consider the long-term prospects for feeding the human race, cattle will rightly remain an essential element.

If protecting the planet was the main impetus to consider being a vegetarian, consider all of the above before going sans grass fed meat and wild fish; neither are remotely the same proteins as their factory farmed counterparts by any stretch of the imagination.

In terms of health and diet, if you’re not feeding the kids wild salmon, grass fed bison or pasture-raised poultry, where are they getting their protein?

Thinking you’re covering your bases by providing tempeh, tofu, edamame and protein-powders?

Please think again.

The Huffington Post published an article highlighting the many dangers of consuming soy including links to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, infertility, cancer and heart disease[5].

According to the article, drinking just two glasses of soymilk daily provides enough compounds, which reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc, to alter a woman’s menstrual cycle.

What’s worse, if you feed soy to your infant or child, these effects are magnified a thousand-fold. Infants fed soy formula may have up to 20,000 times more estrogen circulating through their bodies as those fed other formulas.

Just one example of the long term consequence of this is illustrated by a study for the National Cancer Institute completed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which reported that soy-eating men experienced nipple discharge, breast enlargement and slight decreases in testosterone; some men would see also see visible testicle shrinkage or massive breast enlargement.

And what of all the health benefits that soy is touted to have?

A study published on the US Library of Medicine National Institute of Health concluded that there’s little evidence to support a beneficial role of soy and soy isoflavones in bone health, cancer, reproductive health, neurocognitive function, and other health parameters[6].

Take a step back for a moment and consider the most basic, common sense premise to what we humans, of all ages, might fare the best eating.

Fresh local veggies in abundance, every day.

Wild proteins.

Natural fats.

Nothing in packages.

Nothing made of white sugar.

If we ate like this for millions of years, evolved to where we are today and only within the past couple of hundred years began to see new age illnesses and diseases that never existed before and still, to this day, don’t exist in modern, hunter gatherer societies, how could it be that things like soy milk, or tempeh or food products forced down our throats are necessities and subsisting on natural, fresh foods in balance is somehow risky or dangerous?

If you’d been willing to try a vegetarian approach, or even at your wits end and about to try medications to address your child’s behavior, why not give real, healthy eating a try, if not only even for a month?

It can’t possibly be riskier than the alternative!

I was vegan for two years. My journey to a Paleo lifestyle didn’t happen overnight.

But I can tell you, from the bottom of my heart, that after a lifetime of being ill, following a Paleo regime has proven to be the healthiest choice I’ve ever made; both for myself, my family, my clients and my own small impact on the planet.

And I’m celebrating today, which happens to be National Filet Mignon Day, of all things, with my own simple recipe for one of the most premium cuts from a locally raised grass fed animal.

Listen to what your body’s telling you.

Find your balance, and feed yourself wholly.





[1] “Farm Sanctuary.” Farm Sanctuary. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015

[2] “Actually, Raising Beef Is Good for the Planet.” Wall Street Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015

[3] “We Are Soil.” #SoilMatters. Soil Is One of Our Most Important Resources, but It’s in Crisis. Will You Help Us Take Action to save It? N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015

[4] “Cow Economy Faces a Pinch.” Wall Street Journal. N.p., 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Aug. 2015

[5] Mercola, Dr. Joseph. “The Health Dangers of Soy.” The Huffington Post., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015

[6] Barrett, Julia R. “The Science of Soy: What Do We Really Know?” Environmental Health Perspectives. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, n.d. Web. 13 Aug. 2015.