Potential Dangers of Vegetarianism for Kids
Can a child get proper nutrition as a vegetarian? Here are the latest facts.
What You Need To Know
Whether your family follows a vegetarian diet, or your child has sought it out on their own, parents need to be aware of potential deficiencies in a plant-based diet so they can be sure to meet their child's nutritional needs. These potential "danger areas" include:
- Protein - Generally not a problem if kids eat eggs and dairy products. More challenging with a vegan (entirely plant-based) diet, however.
- Calcium - Be sure to include plenty of dairy products, soy, and fortified foods.
- Iron - Many kids suffer from iron deficiency anyway. Vegetarians need to eat plenty of whole grains, dark, leafy greens, and dried fruit.
- Vitamin B-12 - Add B-12 through fortified soy milk or breakfast cereal.
- Zinc - It's harder for vegetarians to get enough of this vital mineral. Pumpkin seeds are a concentrated source.
- Calories - A vegetarian diet is typically lower in fat and calories, and may not provide enough for a growing body. Whole milk and cheese, avocados, and nut butters will boost calorie intake.
How You Can Help
Meet with a nutritionist to help plan vegetarian meals that will meet your child's needs as they grow.
Plan meals once a week, and go grocery shopping with your child. Let them pick out the best produce, some whole grains they'll actually eat, and other plant-based foods that pack a nutritional punch.
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