Maintaining your vegetarian diet or switching to one with children at home can be done in an smooth manner once you equip yourself with the right tools. Critics of a vegetarian diet focus on a few nutrients that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet, but with proper education on a balanced and nutrient rich diet you can have some of the healthiest kids around.
A very important nutrient to be conscious about when choosing a vegetarian diet for your children is iron, which if lacking in the diet, may lead to cognitive defects so be sure they are getting enough and are monitored on a regular basis for deficiencies. It is therefore important to mention to the child’s doctor that they child is vegetarian. The other nutrients are protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids. For the record, I find that lacto-ovo vegetarianism is the easiest way to do this and the type with the lowest risk of causing undernutrition for your child. This means that you would include eggs and diary to your diet. Consult with a nutritionist or naturopathic doctor who works with vegetarians to make sure you are providing the most adequate diet for your growing child.
Where can vegetarian kids get their nutrients?
Iron: dried beans, seaweed, pumpkin seeds, sea vegetables, green leafy vegetables, molasses, dried fruits, and lentils.
Protein: sprouted seeds and lentils, seitan, tofu, tempeh, edemame, eggs, corn, buckwheat, chia seeds, hemp seeds, amaranth, beans, grains, soy products, nuts, nut butters, quinoa and dairy products.
Calcium: dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, kale, mustard greens, beet greens, figs, sesame seeds, nuts, dairy, broccoli, molasses.
Vitamin D: sunlight exposure is a great source of vitamin D, so enjoy the summer months and expose the skin in moderation in order to make optimal levels of vitamin D in your skin. Other sources are milk, eggs, fortified cereals and dairy products, and shiitake mushrooms.
Vitamin B12: dairy products, eggs, yeast extract (Marmite), fortified foods, and some types of nutritional yeast.
Zinc: wheat germs, nuts, dried beans and pumpkin seeds.
As with any other style of eating, choosing from a wide variety of foods is best, keep it fun, be creative and get your children involved. A good quality vegetarian diet can have many benefits and be just as delicious and satisfying as an omnivorous diet, so go ahead and enjoy all the good that a plant-based diet has to offer for you and your family!
Aida Martinez Chorro is a naturopathic doctor and homeopath who loves working with children and their families. She uses safe and natural interventions to help children with autism, digestive conditions, as well as working with those who want to be proactive about their aging brain and who have family histories of dementia. But what she’s really passionate about is giving families the results they want to see and helping them lead happier lives together.
She practices at the North Toronto Homeopathic Medicine and Wellness Centre in the Yonge and Lawrence neighbourhood. You can find out more information by calling 647-887-8117, by visiting www.draida.ca, or on Facebook at Natural Health Solutions by Aida Martinez Chorro, Naturopathic doctor.