Nutritional deficiencies in a vegetarian diet
Protein is vital for tissue building and repair in the body.
- Proteins are made up of amino acids. All animal proteins are complete because they contain all the amino acids needed to make a complete protein.
- The only plant food that has all the amino acids needed to make up a complete protein is soy – it is the only complete vegetable protein.
- All other plant foods only contain some of the amino acids needed to make up a complete protein.
- Eating a variety of plant foods each day should provide enough of the different amino acids to build the complete proteins our bodies need.
- To ensure a diet that meets their protein needs, vegetarians should eat nuts, legumes and wholegrain cereals.
Plant foods that are high in protein are:
Iron is essential for the making of red blood cells in the body. Lack of iron can lead to anaemia (lack of iron in the blood) which causes a loss of energy. The daily requirement of iron needed for children up to 11 years is 6-8mg per day.
Iron from animal foods (meat) is more easily and efficiently absorbed than the iron from plant-based sources, so to ensure that your child meets his daily requirements, you should try:
- Offering plant foods which contain iron every day. Eating plant foods every day which contain iron, such as: dried beans and cooked peas; dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli; dried fruit such as apricots and raisins; eggs; and nuts.
- Combining plant foods containing iron with foods that contain vitamin C. The combination helps the body to absorb the plant-based iron more efficiently. A breakfast of orange juice (vitamin C) and cereal (iron) is an ideal way of helping the body access the iron in his diet.
- Offering iron-enriched foods. Many breads, pastas and breakfast cereals have added iron which will help his iron intake.
- Don’t let him have caffeine drinks (which he shouldn’t be drinking anyway!) at meal times as caffeine interferes with the absorption of iron.
- Keeping bran consumption low. Bran can also interfere the absorption of plant-based iron.