A Child Who Loves Her Broccoli

Can a child grow to be a healthy adult without ever eating meat? CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports on one couple who have raised their child to be a vegetarian.

The last edition of pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock's best-seller, Baby and Child Care, was published after his death. The book contained advice that a lot of people found controversial, including claims that children should be brought up as vegetarians.

One child, Tahlia Cott, may perhaps represent Spock's ideal.

In most ways, Tahlia is a typical three-year old. She loves playing house and watching Sesame Street, and there are certain foods she likes to eat, such as rice and broccoli.

She expresses her feelings about meat in terse terms:

"I don't like it," Tahlia says.

But Tahlia is not a picky eater. Her mother feels the same way, and has raised her daughter from birth as a vegetarian. Like her mother, Tahlia does not eat red meat, poultry, or fish.

"At lunch she eats fruit, salad, a cheese sandwich, maybe a tofu hot dog," says Lisa Furman Cott, Tahlia's mother.

The number of kids eating tofu is rising. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more children are being raised as vegetarians.

One reason Lisa and her husband, Eric, feed their daughter a vegetarian diet is to prevent illnesses such as heart disease and cancer that run in their families.

"We know we are at risk for it. We've been told that," Lisa says.

The Cotts made their decision despite opposition from family, friends, and some physicians. However, they believe their daughter's diet has already shown a benefit.

"We found that since she's been young, she's rarely gotten earaches or any of the illnesses that all the kids in her day care have gotten," Eric Cott says.

Tahlia is not the only family member to have reaped the benefits, her parents say. The Cotts' dog, Mia, is on a meat-free diet, and has been doing well.

Dr. Spock endorsed a restrictive vegetarian diet that included no eggs or dairy products, which he recommended for all children over the age of two. The Cotts do not limit their daughter's diet to that extent, and allow her to eat eggs and milk products.

But many parents may wonder, how do you feed a child who's a vegetarian?

To answer this, Dr. Senay has put together an example of three healthy meals most children would enjoy that are relatively simple for parents to make:

Breakfast: A bowl of cereal with milk and one fruit, such as a sliced banana.

Lunch: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an apple, a glass of milk, and vegetables, including sliced carrots, green and red peppers, and a yogurt dip to go with them.

Dinner: Macaroni and cheese with green bans and a glass of milk.

Tahlia's parents make sure she is getting all the nutrients she needs by carefully planning her meals, and by giving her supplements. If a parent haphazardly feeds a child a vegetarian diet, it can lead to poor growth and anemia.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that if parents are still concerned, a multivitamin with iron can add nutrients to a vegetarian child's diet.

Parents should consult their child's pediatrician about how they can safely develop a vegetarian diet.

Reported by Dr. Emily Senay