Saturday, 14 April 2012

Is A Vegetarian Diet Safe For My Child?

If you are already a vegetarian or are planning to become a vegetarian and have children you may be concerned about whether a child can get enough nutrients on a vegetarian diet. It is commonly thought that a growing child needs meat and that children should not be vegetarian.

This is a fallacy. A child can eat a balanced vegetarian diet that provides all the nutrients needed for healthy growth. All that is required is some knowledge and planning on your part.

The main problem that emerges with a vegetarian diet where children are concerned is the same as with any other diet. Children's appetites are small in comparison to those of adults but their nutritional needs are high.

Children need small, frequent meals. Those meals need to be packed with nutrients. Otherwise they are just eating empty calories that can lead to obesity and other health problems.

Children are hungry when they come in from school for very good reasons. They are highly active and need to eat something right then and there. You should aim to keep a range of vegetarian snack ready.

Peanut butter on a slice of whole meal bread is ideal. It contains protein in the bread and the peanuts, which are both also a good source of zinc and calcium. If you select a brand of peanut butter that does not have sugar added to it this is healthy vegetarian snack.

Children are often reluctant to eat vegetables. They often seem too much like hard work to a small child. But few children will refuse a raw carrot cut up into sticks or grated carrot.

Pulses and grains are often unpalatable to children. But they can be mashed and formed into burgers that children love. Tomato sauce is always a favorite but avoid commercial sauces that have sugar added.

When you need to make children's food sweet use honey, unrefined sugar or pureed fruit. If a child does not become accustomed to sweet food it will not crave for the high levels of sugar that are found in many processed foods.

Iron is an important nutrient. In a vegetarian diet it is often derived from whole grains and leafy green vegetables. Where children are concerned it is often a good idea to include eggs in a vegetarian diet. They are a good source of iron.

Dairy produce such as milk, butter and cheese are valuable to the vegetarian child. Milk and cheese contain calcium, while butter contains essential fatty acids.

If your child cannot tolerate cow's milk then try goat's or sheep's milk which are often more digestible. The vegetarian child needs these sources of animal protein far more than an adult vegetarian.

It is not wise for a child to eat an entirely vegan diet. A child's body is still growing and it needs these animal products. If you source your eggs and dairy produce from farms that have high animal welfare standards then you need have no moral qualms.

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