Q: I'm planning on raising my 1-year-old son to be a vegetarian, but I've been hearing about the risk of behavioral problems with this type of diet. Should I reconsider?
A: No. Some doctors believe that diets very high in soy (as many vegetarian diets are) can lead to such problems as attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity because of phytoestrogens in the soy. Not only are these dire predictions not supported by science, but millions of people worldwide are vegetarians (myself included) and have no behavioral problems whatsoever.
Some people also argue that vegetarian diets, particularly vegan ones, are risky for children because they may be low in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and zinc; they say that fish, such as wild salmon, should be added to their diet. I agree that fish have many nutritional pluses, but they also may be contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals such as mercury. Simply put, a soy-rich diet is vastly more healthy than the standard American diet. So is one rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and pasta--the diet I recommend for all children from the age of 9 months up.