“Mom, what’s for supper?”
Following a well-balanced plant-based diet is not only healthy but evidence suggests that it may help prevent or even reverse some diseases. Furthermore, both the Australian and American Governments have publicly recognised the benefits of plant-based diets.
If your children refuse to eat meat because they struggle with texture or you are raising your kids vegetarian, it is possible for them to receive all their nutrients with a well-balanced diet. Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, chairman of the American Academy of Paediatrics’ committee on nutrition, has stated that “Vegetarianism can be conducive to a healthy lifestyle, but you have to balance out what you omit”.
Tips to raise your child vegetarian:
The main concern with a vegetarian diet is that your child will not receive enough protein. Meat is a complete protein as it contains all 8 essential proteins, plant-based proteins such as soya are able to provide the same quality of protein in your child’s diet. Examples of soya-based protein include tofu and Fry’s. For more information about the health benefits of soya, click here.
Leafy green vegetables are especially good sources of iron, and according to the Vegetarian Resources Group may even be better on a per calorie basis when compared to meat. If your child is vegetarian, your paediatrician may want to test for any iron deficiency but a diet filled with these non-animal iron sources will ensure this does not happen.
Fish is the main source of omega-3 fatty acids but there are plenty of other ways to get this essential nutrient in your child’s diet without the meat. Sources include flaxseeds (put it in anything you cook or bake), beans, leafy greens, hummus and winter squash. For information on vegetarian sources of omega-3 click here.
If your child is eating a vegan diet, it is important to ensure that they are getting enough calcium in their diet. Include foods fortified with calcium: 100% fruit juice, soya milk, tofu, and breakfast cereals.