Kids who are picky eaters are already tricky to feed. What is a parent to do if their child also chooses to not eat meat? Don't fret! A diet of variety and balance will help keep the vegetarian child's nutritional needs in check. In particular, be aware of adequate levels of vitamins B12, D, iron, calcium and protein. Here are some simple tips to aid in meeting these nutritional needs while also keeping the young palate happy.
- Snack attack! Keep snacks such as nuts and dried fruit around the house. These will provide a quick fix of iron and protein.
- Smoothies: Add yogurt, soymilk or tofu to fruit smoothies. These sweet treats make a great breakfast, snack or dessert while providing protein, calcium and other fruit-based nutrients.
- Make a complete protein by adding beans to rice or other grains. It's as easy as adding a can of beans to a box of mac and cheese.
- Beat it! Make simple egg dishes, such as quiche and frittata. These recipes can incorporate a multitude of vegetables and cheese. Serve them as breakfast, lunch or dinner! While you're at it, make an extra and freeze it for the kids to pull out to eat another day.
- Experiment with tempeh. This soy-based product soaks up flavor like a sponge and can stand in for meat in your family's favorite recipes.
- Beyond peanut butter: Add protein and other vitamins with nut butters, such as almond, sunflower or soy, in sandwiches or as a spread on fruit.
- Cool beans! Try roasted soybeans, edamame or blend chickpeas to make hummus. Any way you choose to consume them, beans are a satiating and rich snack packed with protein.
- As often as possible, cook with fresh or frozen vegetables the nutrients are more intact then their canned counterparts.
- Say cheeeeese! Just about everything tastes better with cheese on top! Sprinkle cheese on pasta, beans and cooked vegetables for a boost of calcium and protein.
- If some of your family eats meat while others don't, make a dish in which the meat can be added last. For example, make a vegetable pasta dish and pull out servings before adding chicken or shrimp for the rest of the family.
- It's a WHOLE lot better for you! Substitute white bread, pasta and other grain-based foods with whole grain versions. This instantly adds iron and fiber to the diet.
- Hot potato! Baked potatoes are super-easy to make, can be kept in the cupboard for rainy days and are full of nutrients.
- Soup's on! Make soups that include leafy greens, lentils, peas and various vegetables. Keep them chunky or blend them. Freeze half the batch in individual containers and family members can heat a bowl at their convenience.
- Keep some veggie dogs and burgers in the freezer. Remember to take them to parties and play dates so your child can feel like "one of the gang."
- Fortify it! When possible, purchase iron fortified versions of breakfast cereal, bread, orange juice and other products.
- Daily vitamins they can only help.
By Cricket Azima