Children can thrive on a vegetarian diet, but it takes some planning to ensure that they do not suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Growing children, in particular, need adequate protein, calcium, iron and vitamin D. Vegan children should also make sure they get enough B12. Fortunately, there are plenty of kid-friendly vegetarian foods to prepare when making meals for your family.
For breakfast, serve oatmeal. It's one of the healthiest foods around, with plenty of fiber, vitamin A, calcium and iron. Another option is whole wheat toast or an English muffin smeared with nut butter. Add a banana, a handful of berries or a glass of orange juice. If your child includes dairy in his diet, yogurt with fruit and a piece of toast or a bagel on the side is a nutritious choice.
Soup and a sandwich make a classic lunch. For the soup, choose minestrone with alphabet noodles, lentil soup or tomato-rice soup. The sandwich can be anything from a veggie burger to hummus and cucumber to tomato and avocado. If eggs and dairy are allowed, egg salad and cheese sandwiches become possibilities. You can also consider wraps as a sandwich alternative. Serve some raw vegetable sticks on the side. Another versatile lunch item is noodles tossed with a sesame or peanut butter sauce plus sliced steamed vegetables; add a cup of fruit salad to round out the meal. Your child should drink a cup of milk or fortified soy, rice or almond milk with these lunches.
Nutritious dinner possibilities for vegetarian kids abound. Kids love pasta and tomato sauce; whole-wheat noodles provide extra fiber. You can also use use a baked potato as the base for a "pizza potato." Add a green vegetable such as broccoli--which, believe it or not, is a good source of calcium--and applesauce on the side. Have a Mexican meal of tortillas, refried beans, salsa, and corn or cabbage salad or sauteed zucchini on the side. Another possibility is fried rice, which can incorporate a large variety of vegetables; add nuts for a protein boost, and serve with sliced oranges.
Dried fruit makes a healthy and satisfying snack. So do graham crackers, vegetable sticks and hummus, tortilla chips and salsa. Whole nuts or nut butters provide protein. And don't forget the milk--dairy, rice, soy or almond all taste better with a little chocolate.
- KidsHealth: Vegetarianism
- "Raising Vegetarian Children"; Joanne Stepaniak and Vesanto Melina; 2002
- In a Vegetarian Kitchen: Vegetarian Kids and Teens