The advantage to being questioned about the adequacy of one’s diet is that it forces you to take a closer look at the food choices you make for yourself and your family. While those who aren’t vegetarian assume they automatically have more balanced meals, look at most people in modern society and you will find a great deal of sickness and malnourishment.
Adult vegetarians are sometimes subject to interrogation by those who don’t share their diet of choice. For parents, it can feel like the Inquisition. Everyone demands to know if the vegetarian diet is adequate for babies and growing children. It is.
The fact is, whatever your diet, there is no substitute for careful planning to ensure you get all the required nutrients. For instance, even omnivores don’t usually meet their iron and zinc needs. Anyone can suffer malnutrition when they eat carelessly.
To provide all your child’s needs, it’s imperative to know the most important nutritional requirements for growing children. Let’s start with protein because it is often of the greatest concern. Actually, it’s difficult not to get the protein you need. There are so many vegetarian protein sources such as soy products, milk and milk products, lentils, beans, wheat germ grains and legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Preschool children should get at least one serving of protein a day. The standard serving size for them is one tablespoon (regular spoon) per year of age. So a three-year old gets a serving of three spoons. Older children up to 9 years can have two servings of protein (18 tablespoons).
In the first 3 years of life, children need plenty of Vitamin D. This is usually met simply by allowing them to play outdoors for at least 15 minutes in the sunshine. Their bodies will manufacture the vitamin D from the liver. The doctor may prescribe taking vitamin D fortified milk or soymilk if, for some reason, there is still a deficiency.
To make sure children get their iron and zinc, some parents feed them iron-fortified milk formula. Some children take too much milk and not enough solid food while they are growing. This can lead to “milk anemia.” Parents must gradually introduce iron-rich foods such as dried fruits, broccoli, leafy greens, wheat, peas, and beans. You may also give iron- fortified cereals, bread, rice, and pasta. To help the child absorb iron better, let him take the iron source with a vitamin C food. Vitamin C helps in the uptake of iron into the body. As for zinc, good sources are yogurt, whole grains, brown rice, legumes, and spinach.
Children need calcium. Sources of calcium are milk and milk products, broccoli, almonds, soybeans, figs, carob, sea vegetables, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, navy beans, leafy greens, and fortified orange juice. Vegetarians can get their Vitamin B12 by including nutritional yeast, fortified soymilk and meat substitutes in their diets.
You can see now that it’s important to have a variety of fruits and vegetables to supply all nutritional needs. Give a nine-year old child one serving of a Vitamin A rich food, one serving of Vitamin C rich food and up to 4 servings of other fruits and vegetables. Sweet potato, squash and cherries are high in Vitamin A while examples of Vitamin C rich foods are guava, parsley, lemon, and lime.
Grains are very important in children’s diets to provide energy, vitamins, and minerals. A nine-year old can have up to four servings. Of course, the younger the child, the less he needs. Make sure you only use whole grains, or at least those that are enriched or fortified. You can start giving grain sources at breakfast by providing cereals. I suggest making your own rather than buying commercial breakfast cereals that are so full of sugar.
The advantage to being questioned about the adequacy of one’s diet is that it forces you to take a closer look at the food choices you make for yourself and your family. While those who aren’t vegetarian assume they automatically have more balanced meals, look at most people in modern society and you will find a great deal of sickness and malnourishment. Eating a balanced meal requires some work and effort regardless of the diet that you choose. Obesity is often a type of malnutrition from overeating, poor dietary habits, and the consumption of animal foods rich in cholesterol. When choosing to eat vegetarian foods, you are getting the nutrients you need without risking suffering from diseases associated with meat eating, which are well documented in their own right. Arm yourself and your family with education about the best foods for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Children in particular need good guidance from their parents and guardians by way of example, association and proper eating habits that will carry them through their older years when they are on their own.
Children need calcium. Sources of calcium are milk and milk products, broccoli, almonds, soybeans, figs, carob, sea vegetables, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, navy beans, leafy greens, and fortified orange juice.