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How to raise a healthy child on a vegetarian diet

It can be hard raising a vegetarian child in a meat-eating world. Here's how to ensure your child thrives on a plant-based diet.

Following a vegetarian diet can have many health benefits for yourself and your children. Research has shown that people following vegetarian diets tend to be healthier than meat-eaters. However, on a plant-based diet parents often wonder if their kids are getting enough protein to grow up healthy and strong.

It’s important that you ensure that your child eats a well-balanced diet and gets all the essential vitamins and minerals they need by offering them a wide range of plant-based foods, including beans, legumes, nuts, broccoli, and whole grains.

Diversity is key

The good news is that there is now a larger range of children-friendly plant-based meals on the market with increased awareness of the benefits of plant-based eating. These days, replicating foods that children will eat and enjoy in plant-based versions is so much easier. When in doubt, remember:

  • Soy protein provides the same quality protein as meat and contains all the amino acids that are essential.
  • Omega-3 can easily be replicated with flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.
  • Vegetarian or not, breast milk is best for babies. Breast milk plus a vitamin D supplement provides all of the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months of life.
  • Look for foods with extra calcium, such as cereals, orange juice, and soymilk.
  • Ask your doctor or a dietitian to help you find the best foods your child can eat to stay healthy.
  • Regular healthy snacks are important for all children, including vegetarian children.
  • Nuts and seeds provide trace minerals and healthy fats, and they can be finely chopped and blended into soups, sauce,s, and smoothies.
  • When buying ready-made vegetarian products such as faux chicken fingers, veggie burgers, and meatless sausages, take care to read the ingredients to ensure they don’t contain added sugar and salt.
  • Supplementation of vitamin B12 may be required for children following a vegetarian lifestyle. When in doubt, speak to your healthcare provider for more advice.

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