Monday, November 24, 2014

Vegetarian Nutrition Information for Children

My middle son has always been a little difficult to convince to eat meat. We always thought it was just a picky phase he was going through and it would pass. At 3 years old, my son completely gave up meat. While I was more than happy to encourage this healthy lifestyle choice he had made at such a young age, I was also very worried. Without meat in his diet, I began worrying whether or not he was receiving enough protein in his diet. I started researching vital nutrients he needed as a vegetarian. Here's what I found:

Protein
When my son gave up meat, his source of protein was my main concern. Protein's vital for a growing child's diet. There are many protein sources that can provide adequate nutrition for young children without the need to consume meat. Great sources for protein are nuts and seeds. Some great protein sources kids love are sunflower seeds, almonds, and cashews. Other great protein sources include pluses (such as peas and beans) and whole wheat grains. Tofu and soy products are also great protein sources. Dairy products, including milks and cheeses, are also adequate sources, as well as eggs.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the main energy source for toddlers and young children. It's vital they receive adequate levels of healthy carbohydrates. Whole grains, like those found in cereals, bread, and pastas, are perfect carbohydrates for developing children. Other sources include fruit, root vegetables, and milk. Potatoes and parsnips are great carbohydrate sources.

Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber intake is necessary for toddlers to properly digest their food and can prevent a number of digestive conditions. Great sources for dietary fiber include whole grain cereals, both fresh and dried fruit, and dark leafy vegetables--like romaine lettuce.

Fats and Oils
Fats and oils are needed in the diet as well. There are certain fats and oils that are healthy to consume in moderation. Fatty acids are the most vital for a child to consume in order for the body to build and repair itself. Plant sources are great for fatty acids. Olive oil, peanut oil, and sunflower oil are great sources for essential fatty acids. Palm oil and coconut oil are also great for growing vegetarian children.

Vitamins
It's vital young children receive all the vitamins they need for proper nutrition. Children need adequate levels of vitamin A and B vitamins. Vitamin A can be found in red, orange, and yellow vegetables, such as carrots and tomatoes. B vitamins are mainly found in pulses and green vegetables, as well as whole cereals and yeasts.

Vitamin C and D are also needed in the body. Vitamin C is found in salad vegetables and fresh fruit. Offering your child a wide variety of leafy green vegetables will provide them with the vitamin C they need.

Vitamin D is best given as a supplement or though natural sunlight. Very few dairy products contain vitamin D. It may be wise to ask your child's pediatrician whether a supplement's needed.

Vitamin E and K are also vital nutrients. Vitamin E can be found in vegetable oil, eggs, and whole grain sources. Vitamin K is easily assessable in cereals and fresh vegetables.

Minerals
There are numerous minerals needed in a growing child's diet. The most vital minerals needed are calcium, iron, zinc, and iodine. Vegetarian children can easily receive all the calcium they need for proper development with dairy products, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seed.

Iron can also be found in leafy green vegetables. Whole grain breads, dried fruit, lentils, and other vegetables are great sources for iron. It's vital your child receives adequate amounts of iron to prevent anemia.

Zinc for your child can be found in cheese, vegetables, and pumpkin seeds. It can also be found in wholegrain cereals.

Iodine is best found in dairy products and vegetables. The best sources of iodine come from sea vegetables.

If your child decides to become a vegetarian like mine did, it's best to talk with their pediatrician or nutritionist to form a diet plan that meets their needs.Now 7 years old, my son's vegetarian stage lasted about 2 years. He now eats meat, but is still very picky about the type and how it's prepared. He certainly enjoys his salads and vegis more than meat.

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