A vegetarian diet is a good choice for many children. Vegetarian teens have lower rates of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and generally good health outcomes, according to research.
But a “vegetarian” diet of soda, buns and pasta is not good for anyone. If your child doesn’t eat meat, make sure he doesn’t gorge himself on french fries and other junk food instead. Pay attention to your child’s nutrition by adding vegetables, healthy fats, and important nutrients such as calcium, iron, protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega-3s.
1. Calcium. If your children consume dairy products, then they can serve as sources of calcium for them. However, you should not rely too much on dairy products. Milk is a known allergen, and studies show that high consumption of dairy products leads to hormonal imbalances and an increased risk of acne in teenagers. In addition, insulin-dependent diabetes (type 1) has been linked to dairy consumption during infancy. Rather than dairy, offer your children more plant-based sources of calcium, such as kale, kale, broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds, and fortified nut or soy milk.
How much do you need: 1000 mg per day for children 4-8 years old, 1300 mg for children 9-18 years old.
Where to find: 1 cup yogurt (200 mg) 1 cup kale (270 mg) 1 cup white beans (130 mg)
2. Iron. Iron deficiency can lead to mood swings, memory problems, and behavioral changes. Even slightly low iron levels can make children feel tired or weak. Adolescent girls are especially susceptible to iron deficiency when they start menstruating. The best sources of iron for children are dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, lentils, white beans, tomato paste, and molasses.
How much do you need: 8-15 mg per day.
Where to find: 1 cup beans (10 mg), a handful of pumpkin seeds (5 mg), 1 cup tomato sauce (5 mg).
3. Protein. Add beans to your kids’ diet – they’re loaded with protein, fiber, and cancer-preventive nutrients. Nuts, seeds, and high-protein grains like quinoa will also help. But be careful with soy, offer your kids little by little in whole or fermented forms like edamame or tempeh.
How much do you need: 30-50 g per day.
Where to find: 1 cup beans (18 grams), 1 cup tempeh (31 grams).
4. Vitamin D. It is not easy to get enough vitamin D from dietary sources. In the sunny season, children can get the required norm by spending at least 20 minutes a day in the fresh air.
How much do you need: 15 mcg per day.
Where to find: 1 cup shiitake mushrooms (1 mcg), fortified almond milk (2,8 mcg).
5. Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is originally only found in animal products, so getting it on a vegetarian diet is not easy. The most reliable source is fortified nutritional yeast.
How much do you need: 1-2,4 mcg per day.
Where to find: 2 tablespoons fortified nutritional yeast (1,8 mcg). Other sources: yogurt, milk, Swiss cheese, nori, shiitake mushrooms, and fortified cereals.
6. Omega-3. With this vitamin, everything is also not so simple. Some plant foods contain omega-3s but in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Before using the resulting vitamin, the body converts ALA into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and as a result, only 8-20% of the consumed amount of the substance is used.
How much do you need: 250–1000 mg per day.
Where to find: a handful of flax seeds (6300 mg), a handful of chia seeds (4900 mg).