Though many people have the idea that feeding a toddler a vegetarian diet isn’t safe, so long as parents take care to make sure that all the appropriate nutrients are met, it’s actually quite healthy. Some benefits to a lifelong, proper vegetarian diet include a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
The main problem with vegetarianism and toddler nutrition is making sure your child gets enough nutrients and calories. Calorie consumption is important for ensuring your toddler has the energy he needs to play hard and grow.
It can be challenging to develop a well-rounded vegetarian toddler menu that provides enough protein and iron. Since toddlers already have such a small appetite, it can be difficult to get them to eat enough vegetables or beans to receive all of their nutrients. Therefore, it is important that vegetarian children are served nutrient-dense foods.
Soybeans and tofu are a great source of protein for adults and children over four. For toddlers, though, it shouldn’t be used as their main source of protein. In this instance, compliment the tofu or soybeans that you serve with soymilk that has been fortified with vitamins and minerals. Not only will this help provide some protein, it will also help your toddler’s nutrition by providing calcium, and vitamins A and D, which can often be hard to get in a vegan diet.
Iron can be found in many vegetarian-friendly foods. Kidney beans, lima beans, green beans, and spinach are all excellent sources of iron. However, unlike iron derived from animal sources, iron from vegetables can be hard for your body to absorb properly. But serving a vitamin C rich food with those beans or spinach can make the iron easier for your toddler to absorb. Some great sources of vitamin C include tomatoes, oranges, broccoli, red peppers, and cantaloupe.
While it is possible to raise a healthy vegan, it can take a bit more work. You may need to supplement your toddler’s diet to ensure they get all the nutrition that they need. Vitamin B-12 can be especially difficult for vegans to get enough of. While vegetables contain some B-12 vitamins, the body does not easily absorb these. Your toddler’s healthcare provider can help you decide on a B-12 suitable for toddlers.
A diet that does not allow for calcium can also be detrimental to your child’s health. Calcium helps to make bones stronger and aids in proper growth and development. Choose soymilk that is calcium-fortified, but be sure it’s also fortified with other nutrients that your toddler needs for good nutrition.