There are many reasons why a family or family member may follow a vegetarian diet. Sometimes, it’s for environmental reasons; other times for health; in some cases, it may just be a personal preference.
Some potential health benefits of eliminating meat include reduced risk for chronic disease and obesity. Environmentally, eating less meat requires fewer environmental resources. Growing plant-based foods also emits a lower amount of greenhouse gases into the environment than raising animals.
If you’re considering a vegetarian diet your family, you may wonder how to go about doing so in a healthy and delicious way for your children. Here are our tips for keeping a vegetarian diet for kids in a safe and nutritious way.
Not all vegetarian diets for children are created equal
There are several different types of vegetarian diets. It’s not completely necessary to give up all types of meat. On the other hand, some prefer to give up any type of food that comes from animal products.
Here are a few of the most common types of vegetarian diets:
- Pescatarian - Eliminates all meat and poultry, but includes seafood.
- Lacto-vegetarian - Includes dairy, but not meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood.
- Ovo-vegetarian - Includes eggs, but not meat, poultry, dairy, or seafood.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian - You guessed it! This type of vegetarian diet includes dairy and eggs, but not meat, poultry, or seafood.
- Vegan - People who choose a vegan diet eliminate not only meat, but also all animal products.
Is it safe for a child to be vegetarian?
A vegetarian diet for kids may seem restrictive. However, medical professionals agree that a well-planned vegetarian diet for children is safe. There are some key nutrients that may be more difficult to obtain, however. Keep these in mind and offer alternative sources:
- Calcium - found in dairy and eggs. Also fortified in many foods like breads and cereals
- Iron - found in whole grains, tofu, legumes, quinoa, and dark leafy greens
- B12 - found in fish, eggs, and dairy. Also fortified in breakfast cereal and some dairy alternatives
- Vitamin D - found in fatty fish such as salmon, dairy, soy milk, as well as fortified orange juice
- Zinc - beans, chickpeas, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, dairy
It’s easy for vegetarian kids to get enough protein
Many parents wonder about protein sources in a vegetarian diet for kids. Get excited, because there are a lot! Keep in mind that variety is key when it comes to vegetarian protein. A varied combination of vegetarian protein sources ensures your child is getting the quality protein they need.
Here are some protein sources to include in vegetarian diets for children:
- Dairy - milk, yogurt, cheese
- Legumes - beans, lentils, peas, edamame, chickpeas
- Nutritional yeast
It’s important to note that it’s fairly easy to meet protein needs for children. In fact, children ages 4 to 13 years old only need 3 to 6 ounces of protein per day, depending on their age and activity level. To visualize this, ½ cup of beans is equivalent to 3 ounces and one egg is equivalent to 1 ounce. So, it’s pretty simple to ensure vegetarian kids can meet their daily protein needs.
Try these delicious vegetarian meals with your family
If you’re not sure what vegetarian meals for kids to try at home, we have some easy ideas. Start with simple meals like black bean burgers, which are easy to throw together and even freeze for later. Burrito bowls, tacos, and enchiladas are also easy to transform into meals for vegetarian kids. Simply replace the meat with black beans and crispy veggies. Serve with quinoa for extra protein!
The easiest vegetarian meals for kids are the ones you don’t have to cook! Yumble offers several vegetarian meals that kids love. Chili Mac is one of our favorites, thanks to its creamy mac and cheese base topped with flavorful, veggie-packed chili. If you already have fans of the Bowl of Yays in your house (who doesn’t?), the Cheese Fusilli Pasta is a tasty vegetarian alternative.
If you need more help coming up with healthy vegetarian meals for kids, Yumble offers several options that are already kid-approved! Our goal is to take the stress out of mealtime by delivering fresh and healthy prepared meals to your doorstep. Simply choose a plan that fits your family’s needs, select your meals and you’re all set!