Many assume that if children eat only vegetarian food, they might be missing out on essential nutrients, such as zinc, proteins, vitamins, and other minerals derived from meat and animal-based sources. They also believe that a plant-based diet is insufficient for a kid’s right growth and development. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. A balanced and colourful vegetarian diet can meet daily nutritional requirements for people of all ages. Moreover, a well-planned meal can be delicious, nutritious, and reduce the risk of chronic conditions. It improves the quality of life while providing iron and protein- two crucial factors for proper growth and development.
Before we read about the minerals and nutrients that a balanced vegetarian diet for kids provides, let’s understand what a vegetarian meal is.
A vegetarian diet means not eating any type of meat, fish, and poultry. While some people choose to become vegetarian for ethical issues, some adopt this lifestyle for environmental reasons. There are different types of vegetarian diets, each comprising different components, such as:
When you plan a vegetarian diet for a child, make sure to include sufficient proteins for healthy growth and development. Also, protein-rich meals build, maintain, and repair tissues. Plant-based and vegetarian sources of proteins are cereals, soy milk, nuts, pulses, dairy products, and whole grains. You can also include sattu to meet your kids’ daily protein needs. Sattu protein content comprises Bengal gram, roasted chickpeas, and other nutritional pulses and cereals.
Iron makes hemoglobin, which transmits oxygen around the body to cells. Iron stores in the human body start to deplete at six months, and a low iron level means more tiredness in kids. A healthy vegetarian diet must include great sources of iron, such as green leafy vegetables, dry fruits, whole grain cereals, dal, and quinoa. Add lemon juice to curries or give your kids a glass of lime juice for breakfast to ensure better consumption of iron.
Calcium is a key component to build strong bones, teeth, and muscles. Give your child a balanced vegetarian diet with daily calcium requirements by adding sweet potatoes, beans, leafy greens, yoghurt, and milk. You can also include orange juice and calcium-fortified milk alternatives to meet your kid’s daily needs.
Zinc is essential for your child’s cell growth, healthy skin, development, and immune system. It also improves mental abilities, speeds up the healing process, and reduces the risk of chronic ailments. Pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, lentils, white beans, whole grains, and chickpeas are excellent sources of zinc. Moreover, a kid’s body can absorb zinc more easily if you give him a powdered form of nuts and milk products.
Never ignore vitamin D as it strengthens muscles and bones and prevents related diseases. To meet the daily requirements of this nutrient for your kids, give them green leafy vegetables as they contain an ample amount of vitamin D. Also, encourage them to play outdoors in the sun for at least 5-10 minutes daily as it is the most natural source of vitamin D.
Contrary to beliefs, your little ones can get healthy fats from non-animal or non-meat sources too. Some of the healthy vegetarian sources of fats are milk, almonds, butter, walnuts, vegetable oil, and ghee. You can also opt for A2 desi cow ghee as it provides healthy fat essential to regulate blood flow, reduce bad cholesterol, and prevent heart diseases. Yes, your young kid may not have these health issues now, but the right diet and fat consumption will mitigate the chances of these problems in the future.
Vitamin B12 keeps exhaustion at bay, improves nerve functions, and builds red blood cells. This vitamin is commonly found in dairy products. Add dosa, appams, idli, and dhokla to your breakfast or lunch menu as they are also good sources of vitamin 12.
A healthy child is a happy child. So, ensure your children get the right amount of nutrients daily through vegetarian meals. Pay close attention to making their meals balanced, wholesome, and filling. The right vegetarian diet containing sufficient minerals and nutrients can help your kids in their mental and physical growth.
Kunal Tambe is part of the content marketing team at Two Brothers Organic Farms. With his team, he works tirelessly to create awareness about organic farming, food sovereignty, sustainable practices, nutrition, climate change, and a myriad of issues that surround these topics. His content offers value to farmers, the agriculture industry and end consumers. Besides writing and developing content strategies, he loves adventure sports and listening to classical music.
Photo by Gustavo Fring
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