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Healthy Vegetarian Children

Updated on September 28, 2012
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney is a mom trying to evoke a healthy, happy life for herself and her family.

Vegetarian Diets for Kids

Eating healthy is very important, considering the mass population- children and adults- is considered as overweight. It is important to start healthy eating habits during childhood, so that the child doesn't struggle to maintain a healthy diet when older.

Vegetarian diets are actually quite healthy and can be easily balanced, and studies actually show that children who eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, actually grow up healthier than those who include meat in their diet. Children who are raised on meatless diets can live longer and can live slimmer lives than those who include meat as a part of each meal.

Plants can provide all the essential nutrients that children, and even adults, need to provide sufficient energy, proteins, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that can help children grow healthy.

In order to provide a healthy vegetarian diet for children, it is very important to understand balance and nutrients. It's important to understand which vegetables contain what vitamins and minerals, and it's important to understand what meat-free foods contain sufficient proteins to ensure that the children grow strong bones and muscles, as well as develop healthy joints.

Vegetarian diets have been proven as one of the healthiest diets in maintaining healthy weight and cholesterol. Vegetarian diets can also help maintain blood sugar blood pressure levels.

Although, there is much controversy about raising children on vegetarian diets, you can choose for yourself. Just make sure that if you opt to raise a healthy child on a vegetarian diet, you know all the the ins and outs for vegetarian cooking and how to provide children with proper nutrients to ensure healthy growth and development.

Vegetarian Children's Diet

When providing food for children, it's best to consider the child's age group in order to determine how much and what exactly to offer your vegetarian child. There is no one diet plan that each and every child will be able to abide by and stick with, so it is very important as an adult, to keep an eye on your vegetarian child(ren), so that you can spot and changes in behavior and health as early as possible.

Babies on a Vegetarian Diet

  • Infants: Feed on mom's breast milk for the first 12 months, supplementing with soy milk baby formula. Also, ensure about 2 hours a week in the sun for vitamin D or supplementing with vitamin D supplements.
  • Between 5-6 months: Introduce fortified infant cereals mixed with soy formula.
  • Between 6-8 months: Introduce vegetables that are thoroughly cooked and mashed (potatoes, green beans, carrots, and peas); fruits that are mashed (bananas, avocados, applesauce, strained peaches); breads (crackers, dry cereal, bread); proteins (tofu or beans)

Children and Teens on a Vegetarian Diet

  • Between 1-4 years: 4 servings of whole grains; 2-4 tablespoons dark green vegetables; 1/4-1/2 cup other vegetables; 1/4-1/2 cup legumes, nuts, or seeds; 3 servings breast milk or soy milk; 3/4-1 1/2 cup fruits
  • Between 5-6 years: 6 servings of whole grains; 1/4 cup dark green vegetables; 1/4-1/2 cup other vegetables; 1/2-1 cup legumes, nuts, or seeds; 3 servings soy milk; 1-2 cups fruits
  • Between 7-12 years: 7 servings of whole grains; 1 serving dark green vegetables; 3 servings other vegetables; 2 servings legumes, nuts, or seeds; 3 servings soy milk; 3 servings fruits
  • Between 13-19 years: 10 servings whole grains; 1-2 servings dark green vegetables; 3 servings other vegetables; 3 servings legumes, nuts, or seeds; 2-3 servings soy milk; 4 servings fruits

Suggested Meal Patterns for Children at 3 Energy Levels

Medicinenet
Medicinenet

Balanced Vegetarian Diet for Children

Children need a balanced diet in order to ensure that they have healthy growth and development, and when it comes to a vegetarian diet, it's very important to ensure that the child gets all the proper nutrients to fuel a child's energy level and overall health.

When it comes to balancing a diet for a child, it's important to keep everything healthy. Cut out or at least keep sweets and junk food at a minimum, which means limit soda, baked products, sugary cereals, and most candies.

Ensure that vegetarian children are getting all the essential vitamins and proteins that they may lack. Children can thrive and do very well on a vegetarian diet as long as the diet is kept balanced and varied. Offer all colors of the rainbow on every plate, meaning put something red, green, and yellow on the plate with every meal. Ensure that your child(dren) are getting plenty of calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, fats, and proteins, as these are very important for proper growth and development in children, and they can be be easy to fall short of in a vegetarian diet.

Protein

When it comes to proteins, which is going to be the most controversial subject in raising children on vegetarian diets, you'll want to be aware that there are tons of foods that contain proteins. Humans do no necessarily need to eat animal-based foods for protein. We can eat grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits that are high-protein content to achieve the same effect.

Do not worry about a child with a protein deficiency as long as the child is eating a full diet of vegetables and grains. Those children who are malnourished and suffer deficiencies, typically do so not because of lack of meats, but overall grains, vegetables, and food.

Try to offer at least a small serving of protein-rich legumes and beans with each meal. You'll find that baked bean, lentils, chickpeas, hummus, red kidney beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, borlotti beans, haricot beans, and smooth nut butters are great options.

It is good to include legumes and grains, beans and nuts, or peanut butter and bread, as when these combinations are eating within the same day (not necessarily at the same time), a vegetarian can achieve proper protein intake by consuming these incomplete proteins.

For those vegetarians who still eat dairy, eggs, and fish, all of these are considered complete proteins and are ideal for achieving daily proteins.

Fats

Children need more fat consumption than adults do. They have a higher energy level, and they need healthy sources of fats. You don't want to offer ice cream and tons of junk food, when you can offer healthy foods such as soybean products, avocados, and nuts.

Just be careful not to overload children on fat products, as fats can cause child obesity, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases.

Oils

It is important that children get certain oils in their diet to ensure proper brain and nerve tissue functions. Offer foods that have been cooked in or have been drizzled with soy or canola oil, as they contain linolenic acid, which is ideal for brain and nerve development and functioning.

Vitamins and Minerals

Ensure that your child gets plenty of vitamins in order to grow and develop properly.

  • Vitamin B12 is important for healthy blood and nerve functions, and although deficiencies are rare, they do happen and can actually be hard to detect early. B12 is common in cereals, soy and rice milk, and nutritional yeast. Make sure to check the label for fortified foods; look for cyanocobalamin or B12. Keep in mind that a B12 deficiency can cause brain damage in babies and toddlers and anemia in nursing mothers, so it is very important to include fortified cereals and foods in the diet, or consider a B12 supplement.
  • Vitamin D is important for healthy bone and muscle growth and development. Consuming enough vitamin D is as simple as about 15 minutes a day outside or drinking a glass of on-dairy milk fortified with extra vitamin D.
  • Calcium is another very important vitamin that children need for proper growth. Provide plenty of calcium-rich foods such as beans, dried figs, sweet potatoes, collards, kale, broccoli, mustard greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, sesame seeds, and even fortified soy milk and rice milk. By limiting salt intake and excluding animal-proteins, the body will actually retain calcium better with a diet consisting of a lot of fruits and vegetables.
  • Iron is important for proper child development. Provide plenty of beans, dried fruits, broccoli, beans, nuts, soy products, enriched grains, and green, leafy vegetables. Make sure that children have plenty of vitamin C, as it will help iron absorption when combining foods rich in iron and foods rich in vitamin C.
  • Zinc is essential for amino acids and proteins. Provide plenty of whole grains such as wheat germ and bran, whole-wheat bread, legumes, lima beans, and nuts.

Kids Vegetarian Cookbooks

Kids Can Cook: Vegetarian Recipes Kitchen-Tested by Kids for Kids
Kids Can Cook: Vegetarian Recipes Kitchen-Tested by Kids for Kids

This is the perfect book for kids who want to try their hand at creating their own tasty meatless dishes, and for parents who want recipes that are nutritious and easy to prepare. Drawn

 

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed physician. If you have any questions, please consult your child's pediatrician or a nutritionist for any specific questions or concerns relating to your child's health and vegetarian diet.

Comments

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    • Meztli profile image

      Meztli 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Nice pyramid, it's been hard for me to find more of those...

    • OnlineHub profile image

      OnlineHub 

      8 years ago from Fresno, CA, USA

      This is a valuable information about Healthy Vegetarian Children. Thanks for writing this article. 5* plus recommendation!

    • profile image

      MJoyce 

      8 years ago

      This is a very informative hub, thank you, I have bookmarked it for future reference. MJ

    • profile image

      MaryRenee 

      8 years ago

      Fantastic hub, Whitney! As a vegetarian, I really appreciated a helpful hub like this.

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      I was soooo glad to see a Vegan Food Pyramid. It's been hard for me to figure out how to balance the proteins into my diet without meat .. this pyramid was a GREAT visual for me and it did the trick. Great Hub, Thanks!

      Mekenzie

    • marijanareynders profile image

      marijanareynders 

      8 years ago from Toodyay, Western Australia

      Thanks for a sensible and practical healthwise hub. Even if I live on chocolate, I agree a healthy diet is not difficult to maintain and YES to NO MEAT on the table.

    • tracykarl99 profile image

      Tracy 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for this informative hub ~ well thought-out and interesting. I'm a vegetarian, and I never ever miss eating animal flesh. I think most children do not miss it either, if they are conditioned early on.

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 

      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      What a great topic! You just keep coming up with such great and informative stuff. My children and I are vegetarians good review. Peace :)

    • JerseyGirl profile image

      JerseyGirl 

      8 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Great Hub. I enjoyed it very much - now; off to share it with my 7 year old daughter:)

    • JenDobson27 profile image

      JenDobson27 

      8 years ago

      We'd all be better off on a vegetarian diet rather than all of the crap most of us eat! Great hub, very informational, good read.

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