What to Do If Your Kid Decides to Be a Vegetarian

Learn how to ensure your child gets necessary vitamins and minerals from sources other than meat.
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Going Meatless

As if feeding your child wasn't hard enough, now he or she has decided to cut out most (if not all) animal products. What's a home chef to do? Sometimes it's a phase, and sometimes it's not, but being supportive is most important. Use these tips and recipes to help ensure your kiddo is still getting the nutrients he or she needs while following a vegetarian diet.

 

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Protein

Cutting out meat can make getting enough protein more difficult, but not if your child embraces tofu. Well-seasoned tofu makes for a healthy plant-based protein at breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.

 

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Vitamin B12

One of the most-misunderstood nutrients in a vegetarian diet, vitamin B12 is plentiful in animal products and scarce in the plant kingdom. Thankfully, fortified cereals and nutritional yeast (aka "nooch") can provide this energy-producing vitamin.

 

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Omega-3 Fats

These essential fatty acids are vital for healthy skin, blood, skin and nerves — salmon is a stellar choice for pescatarians (aka vegetarians who eat fish). Otherwise, chia seeds are a wonderful vegetarian alternative.

 

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Vitamin D

Vegetarians and carnivores alike could benefit from more of this bone-building nutrient. Egg yolks, fortified milk and yogurt are some of the best options.

 

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Thiamine

There's an ample amount of this B vitamin in pork, but when your kid says so long to meat, then rice, beans, sunflower seeds and fortified grain products are excellent vegetarian sources.

 

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Calcium

Growing bones need calcium with or without dairy products. Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach offer a nice chunk of calcium, but an even better source is yogurt: Protein-packed Greek yogurt can help make up for a protein deficit, while regular yogurt is fortified with vitamin D.

 

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Iron

Saying bye-bye to red meat means a decrease in iron and an increased risk of iron-deficiency anemia, especially for young women. Vegetarians can reach for leafy greens, dried beans, nuts and seeds — and eat them with vitamin C rich foods to optimize absorption. Cooking in a cast-iron skillet will also help boost intake.

 

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Zinc

We all rely on zinc for a healthy immune system. If your child isn't getting it from meats, cheese and seafood, a diet rich in beans, peas, and nuts will provide plenty.

 

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