If you are vegetarian parent, you have probably considered
putting your child on a vegetarian diet. Not only would
it save time and make meal-planning easier, but for dietary
and ethical reasons, you believe it is a better choice
for your child.
Conversely, you might not be a vegetarian yourself, but
have a child who is going through a vegetarian "phase,"
where she rejects meat, but doesn’t consume enough healthy
foods to compensate for the nutritional gap.
Whatever the case is, you may have wondered whether or
not a vegetarian diet is sustainable, healthy choice
for your child. You may have heard that putting your child
on a vegetarian diet could potentially stunt her growth.
These concerns probably prevented you from putting your
child on a vegetarian diet up to this point.
And all of these concerns are legitimate. In fact, if
a vegetarian diet is poorly planned, it can cause serious
short and long term health problems, especially
for children, who are growing and developing--and who
do not yet have sufficient stores of vitamins.
If you aren’t well-prepared to put your child on a
vegetarian diet, you definitely shouldn’t. However,
if you have done your nutritional research and you are
familiar with the nutrients vegetarians commonly lack,
then you know that these problems can easily
be overcome with some meal planning.
You also know that putting your child on a healthful
vegetarian diet can greatly improve her health
in both the short and long term. It can also
reduce her exposure to animal products that contain
hormones and preservatives, which have been linked
to developmental problems and cancer.
If you haven't researched vegetarian diets thoroughly,
but you are anxious to start your child on one now,
you should start by ensuring that you plan meals to
boost amounts of the following nutrients (that most
1. Protein. Make sure your child is consuming enough
protein by adding additional sources, such as wheat,
soybeans, isolated soy protein, and nuts.
2. Calcium. Ensure your child is consuming enough calcium
by adding calcium-fortified processed foods and leafy
green vegetables to his diet.
3. Iron. Add more iron to your child’s diet by increasing
servings of soybeans, pinto beans, tofu, and cereals.
4. Zinc. Enhance your child’s zinc intake by increasing
his servings of almonds, peanut butter, and mushrooms.
If you concentrate on compensating for all of these common
nutritional deficiencies, you absolutely can put your child
on a vegetarian diet without any negative health
Just ignore the mythology surrounding vegetarian diets and
instead focus on research and meal-planning.