As long as your child is including foods from all the different food groups and making healthy choices within those food groups, he/she will be meeting all of his/her nutritional needs. This said, consider scheduling a session with a registered dietitian specializing in vegetarian nutrition to assess and ensure that your child is in fact meeting his/her nutritional needs. Also, if your child is following a vegan diet, consider a vitamin B12 supplement.
A Answers (2)
Kathy Freston, Nutrition & Dietetics, answeredHere are two simple rules that ensure good nutrition in vegan children:
- Each day, have foods from the four healthful food groups: whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), vegetables, and fruits.
- Include a reliable source of vitamin B12, such as any common multiple vitamin or fortified foods.
- Protein: There is ample protein in grains, vegetables, beans, and bean products (including tofu and soymilk). If your child consumes a normal variety of these foods over the course of a day, she will receive all the protein she needs.
- Calcium: Green leafy vegetables and legumes -- or "greens and beans," for short -- are rich in calcium. This is particularly true for broccoli, collards, kale, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts. Less valuable for calcium is spinach, because the calcium in spinach is poorly absorbed. You'll also find plenty of calcium in fortified foods, such as fortified orange juice and most soy milks. And don't fight over vegetables your child doesn't like. Just serve the ones that do go over well. Tastes broaden as the years go by.
- Iron: Greens and beans come to our rescue again. They are rich in iron. And vitamin-C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, tend to enhance the absorption of iron consumed in the same meal. If you are concerned, a daily vitamin-mineral supplement will have you covered easily.
- Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy blood and healthy nerves. It is not found in unfortified plant foods, although it is present in dairy products and eggs, which you may or may not be serving. But vitamin B12 is easy to find in many fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soymilk, and in all common multiple vitamins. I recommend that everyone -- vegetarian or not -- take a multiple vitamin or other convenient source of vitamin B12 every day. Studies show that meat-eaters often run low due to poor absorption.