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What Should I Feed My Vegetarian Child?

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Q: What Should I Feed
My Vegetarian Child?

A: Contrary to popular belief, vegetarian children can get the nutrition needed to grow properly, but they need more than pretzels and pasta. A diet based around wholesome plant foods including beans (legumes), nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains is highly nutritious. However, it is possible that such diets could be low in nutrients that are more easily consumed in a non-vegetarian diet, if attention is not paid to making sure that alternate sources of these nutrients are worked in. These nutrients include: vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, calcium, and iron. To cultivate a healthy “veg head,” try the following:

  • Include your child in food preparation. Children who help with food preparation are more interested in enjoying the healthy things you prepare.
  • Keep a close eye on vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and iron. Vegans, in particular, get little or no vitamin B12 in their diet without supplementation. If you are unsure of your child’s needs for these important nutrients, consult a dietitian.
  • If your child is vegan, pay more attention to protein. Children who eat milk and eggs are unlikely to come up short on protein, but vegans need to combine their grains with plenty of beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds, soy milk, or tofu every day to meet protein needs.
  • For younger kids, offer new vegetables, fruit, and other healthy food up to a dozen times for best acceptance. Even if your child refuses a food at first, offering it several times can change his or her mind.
  • If you have a vegetarian teen, support his or her efforts by helping to prepare healthy vegetarian fare. Don’t let your teen fall into the “junk food vegetarian” track.
  • Consult reputable resources, such as KidsHealth.org, for more information on kid-friendly vegetarian diets.

Copyright © 2009 Aisle7. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Aisle7 content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Aisle7. Healthnotes Newsletter is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Aisle7 shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. AISLE7 is a registered trademark of Aisle7. 

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