Vegetarian eating for young people
What’s a vegetarian?
Vegetarians are people who don’t eat meat or meat products. There are a variety of reasons why people become vegetarian, be they ethical, environmental, health or cultural. If you’re vegetarian, you may want rear your child to eat in the same way you do.
While a vegetarian diet can provide all the nutrients a healthy child needs for growth and development, special consideration needs to be taken as your child has higher needs for proteins and certain vitamins and minerals to meet their daily requirements. For this reason, a strict vegan diet is usually not recommended for young children, as small deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can have a huge impact on development.
There are a number of different ways of being a vegetarian, with the main ones being:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians. Don’t eat meat, but includes dairy foods (such as milk and eggs) and plant foods.
- Lacto-vegetarians. Avoid meat and eggs, but include dairy foods and plant foods.
- Vegan. Avoids all foods of animal origin – meat, dairy foods, eggs, and gelatin.
While there are some vegetarians who only eat ‘white’ meat (chicken and fish), they are not actually vegetarians but are instead people who don’t eat red meat.
Vegetarian diets for very young children
Introducing a vegetarian diet to a very young child is not difficult or complicated as long as you ensure that his protein needs are met once you’ve introduced solid food to his diet.
- Milk. Try to continue breastfeeding until 12 months – if you are bottle-feeding make sure that you use a fortified infant formula.
- Introducing solids. In the early days, your baby will begin eating the same solids as other omnivore babies. Start with rice cereal and then move on to pureed vegetable and fruits.
- Offer variety. Introduce dairy foods and eggs, and then start to add the non-meat proteins into his diet – soft cooked beans and lentils, tofu, tahini, nut pastes.
Find vegetarian recipe inspiration in Kidspot Kitchen.