If you are both a vegetarian and parent, you may have considered placing your children on a vegetarian diet. Not only would it save time and make planning meals easier, but for dietary or ethical reasons, you believe it is the best choice for your family.
Or, you might not be a vegetarian yourself, but live with a child who is going through a vegetarian "phase," where she rejects meat, but doesn't consume enough healthy foods to make up for the nutritional gap.
Whatever the reason, you are curious about whether or not a vegetarian diet is a maintainable, healthy choice for your children. You may have worried that placing your child on a vegetarian diet could potentially stunt her growth.
These concerns may have prevented you from choosing a vegetarian diet for your child up to this point.
These concerns are legitimate. Clearly, if a vegetarian diet is not planned well, it can cause serious short and long term health issues, especially for children, who are developing and growing--and who are yet to have sufficient vitamin stores.
If you are not prepared to put your family on a vegetarian diet plan, you probably shouldn't. However, if you have done due diligence and you're familiar with the nutritional detriments of vegetarians, then you are aware that these problems can easily be fixed with meal planning strategies.
You're also aware that putting your child on a healthy vegetarian diet can dramatically improve her health in both the short and long term. It could also reduce her contact with animal products that have preservatives and additional hormones, both of which have been linked to developmental problems.
If you have not researched vegetarian diets thoroughly, but you are anxious to start your child on one now, please note that you should start by ensuring that you plan meals to boost amounts of certain nutrients (that many vegetarians lack):
1. Protein: Ensure your child is eating enough protein by adding more sources, such as soy beans, wheat, isolated soy protein, and nuts.
2. Calcium: Ensure your child is getting plenty of calcium by adding leafy green vegetables and calcium-fortified processed foods to his diet.
3. Iron: Add iron to your family's diet by ramping up the servings of pinto beans, soy beans, tofu, and cereals.
4. Zinc: Increase zinc intake by adding servings of mushrooms, almonds and peanut butter.
If you plan to compensate for these frequent nutritional deficits, you can absolutely place your family on a vegetarian diet without the negative health consequences.
Ignore the mythology surrounding vegetarian diets and instead focus on meal planning and research.
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