What to do if your child wants to become a vegetarian

For the average meat-eater, such a statement can trigger a parental panic attack. Where will the child get all the necessary nutrients? Will it always be necessary to cook several dishes at the same time? Here are some tips to help if your child wants to become a vegetarian.


Nutritionist Kate Dee Prima, co-author of More Peas Please: Solutions for Picky Eaters (Allen & Unwin), agrees that vegetarianism can be good for kids.

However, she warns people who are not used to cooking vegetarian food: “If everyone in your family eats meat, and the child says he wants to become a vegetarian, you can’t give them the same food, only without meat, because they will not get enough nutrients, necessary for growth.”

Do your research

It’s inevitable: meat-eating moms and dads will have to do research on what to feed a meat-free child, says Di Prima.

“Zinc, iron and protein are essential for growth and development, and animal products are a great way to get them across to your baby,” she explains.

“If you give them a plate of vegetables or let them eat breakfast cereal three times a day, they won’t get enough nutrients. Parents will have to think about what to feed their children.”

There is also an emotional aspect to the relationship with a child who has decided to become a vegetarian, says Di Prima.

“In my 22 years of practice, I have encountered many anxious parents who find it difficult to accept their children’s choices,” she says. “But it is also important that parents are the main food earners in the family, so moms and dads should not oppose the choice of their child, but find ways to accept and respect him.”

“Talk to your child why he chooses a vegetarian diet, and also explain that this choice requires some responsibility, since the child must receive complete nutrients. Design menus using online resources or cookbooks to find delicious vegetarian recipes, of which there are many.”

Essential Nutrients

Meat is a highly digestible source of protein, but other foods that make good meat substitutes include dairy, grains, legumes, and various types of soy products such as tofu and tempeh (fermented soy).

Iron is another nutrient that needs to be taken care of properly because iron from plants is not as well absorbed as from meat. Good vegetarian sources of iron include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, whole grains, legumes, tofu, green leafy vegetables, and dried fruits. Combining them with foods containing vitamin C promotes the absorption of iron.

To get enough zinc, Di Prima recommends eating plenty of nuts, tofu, legumes, wheat germ, and whole grains.


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