Advantages of Being Vegetarian Putting Your Vegetarian Toddler on The Fast Track though many people have the idea that feeding a toddler a vegetarian diet is not safe, so long as parents take care to make sure that all the appropriate nutrients are met, it is quite healthy. Some benefits to a lifelong, proper vegetarian diet include a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
The main problem with vegetarianism and toddler nutrition is making sure your child gets enough nutrients and calories. Calorie consumption is important for ensuring your toddler has the energy he needs to play hard and grow. (“VEGETABLES BENEFITS”)
“It can be challenging to develop a well-rounded vegetarian toddler menu that provides enough protein and iron.” (“Vegetarian Toddler”) Since toddlers already have such a small appetite, it can be difficult to get them to eat enough vegetables or beans to receive all their nutrients. (“VEGETABLES BENEFITS”) Therefore, it is important that vegetarian children are served nutrient-dense foods.
Soybeans and tofu are a major source of protein for adults and children over four. (“VEGETABLES BENEFITS”) For toddlers, though, it should not be used as their main source of protein. “In this instance, compliment the tofu or soybeans that you serve with soymilk that has been fortified with vitamins and minerals.” (“How to Become a Vegetarian: How to Put Your Vegetarian …”) Not only will this help provide some protein, but it will also help your toddler’s nutrition by providing calcium, and vitamins A and D, which can often be hard to get in a vegan diet.
Iron can be found in many vegetarian-friendly foods. Kidney beans, lima beans, green beans, and spinach are all excellent sources of iron. “However, unlike iron derived from animal sources, iron from vegetables can be hard for your body to absorb properly.” (“VEGETABLES BENEFITS”) But serving a vitamin C rich food with those beans or spinach can make the iron easier for your toddler to absorb. Some great sources of vitamin C include tomatoes, oranges, broccoli, red peppers, and cantaloupe.
While it is possible to raise a healthy vegan, it can take a bit more work. You may need to supplement your toddler’s diet to ensure they get all the nutrition that they need. Vitamin B-12 can be especially difficult for vegans to get enough of. While vegetables contain some B-12 vitamins, the body does not easily absorb these. Your toddler’s healthcare provider can help you decide on a B-12 suitable for toddlers.
A diet that does not allow for calcium can also be detrimental to your child’s health. Calcium helps to make bones stronger and aids in proper growth and development. Choose soymilk that is calcium-fortified but be sure it is also fortified with other nutrients that your toddler needs for good nutrition. (“Advantages of Been Vegetarian – Good Reasons For … – Issuu”)
Sample Menu Items for Your Growing Vegetarian Toddler
Vegetarian child. The term almost sounds like an oxymoron we have joked about through the years, like jumbo shrimp. The words just do not seem to go together! It is not as unnatural as it may sound. Kids are almost natural vegetarians. It is imperative that you offer your growing vegetarian child a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and soy-based proteins to ensure they have the energy and nutrients needed to grow up strong, healthy, and happy. “Consider including items in your daily menu planning for a well-rounded, nutrient-dense healthy diet:” (“Sample menu for your Vegetarian Toddler | KinderFluff …”)
2.5-3 cups fortified soymilk
¼ -1/2 cup iron-fortified cereal
2-5 servings grains (1/2 slice bread,
1/4 cup cooked rice, pasta, quinoa, etc.
2-3 servings of veggies (1/2 cup salad or raw veggies,
1/4 cup cooked veggies—bear in mind that the younger your child is, cooked vegetables might be easier for them to chew and digest, then introduce raw veggies as they grow older.)
2-3 servings fruit (1/2 fresh fruit, 1/4 cup cooked fruit, 1/4 cup juice.
2 servings protein foods (1/4 -1/3 cup cooked beans/lentils, a slice or so of calcium-fortified tofu, or peanut or almond butter – be sure that nut butters are fed to children who’ve been tested and shown not to have nut allergies; if you’re unsure, wait until your child’s healthcare provider has had the opportunity to test for such allergies in your child before trying them)
Vitamin B-12 source – nutritional yeast, breast milk, formula, fortified soy milks and cheeses.
Vitamin D – sunlight, breast milk, formula, fortified soy milk
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – flaxseed oil, freshly ground flaxseed
And here are some finger-food friendly options for your growing vegetarian toddler:
- Fresh or frozen mango
- Fresh or frozen peaches/nectarines/plums
- Cubed avocado
- Tofu (put in microwave or steam for 10-30 seconds
- Fresh or frozen peas
- Pasta that is slightly overcooked
- Cubed soy or rice cheeses
- Canned beans- black, garbanzo, black eyed peas, or kidney
- Toast, cut into little pieces
Best Wishes, Coyalita
Behavioral Health Rehabilitative Specialist
See Tomorrow: “Ideas for Adding Some Variety to Your Vegetarian Lifestyle”
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