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General Medical Questions
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Question : My son is 4'7' and weighs 83 pounds. His predicted height is 5'5'. We are a vegetarian family who eat eggs, dairy and soy. Could this affect his growth negatively?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Henry H. Bernstein, D.O., is a senior lecturer in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In addition, he is chief of General Academic Pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School. He is the former associate chief of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital Boston.

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October 17, 2011
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A:

We all need to have the right amount of calories and a good balance of nutrients to grow normally. You can find these in both animal and plant foods. But as you know, vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry or fish.

A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet nutritional needs and promote normal growth. As a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, your son eats plant foods along with dairy products and eggs. This is good. Not having enough calcium, vitamins D and B12 would be a problem for his bone growth.

We all need protein to build strong bones and reach our maximum growth. So it is especially important that your son eats a diet rich in protein. Dairy products and eggs are full of protein. Other good sources of protein for vegetarians include legumes, nuts and soy.

During the past 10 years, more and more American families are vegetarians. The different types of vegetarians are:

  • Vegans eat only plant foods, no eggs or dairy products.
  • Lacto-vegetarians eat plant foods and dairy products, but no eggs.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat plant foods, dairy products, and eggs

There can be health benefits. But be aware that there can also be nutritional deficiencies with vegetarian diets. If your son isn't growing at the expected rate, he may need to eat more calories each day.

Speak with your son's pediatrician or a nutritionist about your concerns. They can help you plan a vegetarian diet for your son that supports his growth and energy needs.

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