Dietary habits are generally acquired during childhood and many kids used to change their eating habits during teenage according to changing thoughts and beliefs regarding environment or animal rights or because their friends have done it. Habit of vegetarian diet for child especially the one which includes milk and eggs is the best for growing children because animal derived products compensate for the animal based nutrients.
Benefits of vegetarian diet for child:
- Vegetarian diet provides a chance to the children to enjoy a variety of tasty and nutritious foods.
- It is the best weaning food for toddlers and young children.
- Children growing on vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains are slimmer and healthier than their peers.
- The fibre in the vegetarian diet prevents obesity in growing children
- Teenagers following a vegetarian diet have fewer problems of acne, allergy or gastrointestinal problems as compared to the meat eating kids.
Vegetarian diet is rich in complex carbohydrates which are readily available in grains, beans and vegetables. It provides energy for a child’s physical activities. To encourage the child for healthy living, one can introduce them to various grains like brown rice, barley, and quinoa, and millet, corn, rolled oats and whole wheat bread and pastas. These are rich in fibre and other nutrients making the children full and energetic at the same time. Proteins are equally important for growth and development for children and plant based sources provides enough protein for these functions. This diet also offers range of nutrients to the growing child.
It is important to note that small children need high calorie but their stomach is small therefore they need to be fed several times in a day. Eating unhealthy snacks can make them obese but healthy snacks like fruits, fruits juices, seeds and nuts will satiate their hunger as well as give them required energy boost.
On the other hand, teenagers deal with many hormonal and behavioral changes. They change their eating habits and it is important to make them aware that how much a balanced diet is necessary for their changing body. Vegetarian diet has also been known to reduce stress hormone in the body which is a most important requirement in teenage. Guiding your teenage child about the benefits of vegetarian diet and going for low fat food can prevent them from weight gain issues and other health problems of this age.
Meal plan for children and teenagers
1 – 4 years old
Minimum 4 servings of whole grain, bread and cereals is required along with 2 – 4 tablespoons of green vegetables and ¼ or ½ cup of other vegetables. Seeds and nuts should be included in diet along with ¼ or ½ cup of milk. They should also give ¾ to 1 and ½ cup of fruits daily.
5 – 6 years old
Minimum six servings of whole grain, bread and cereals should be given to children of this age along with ¼ cup of dark green veggies and ½ cup of other veggies. Daily intake of ½ to one cup of legumes and 3 servings of dairy or non dairy milk should be given. 1 – 2 cups of fruits should be included in the diet for this age group.
7 – 12 years old
Seven servings of whole grain, cereals and bread are required for this age group. One serving of dark green vegetables and three servings of other vegetables should be included in the diet. 2 servings of legumes and 3 servings of fruits and milk is a must for this growing age group of children.
13 – 19 years old
This teenage group requires ten servings of carbs in form of cereals, whole grains and bread. 1 – 2 servings of dark green veggies and 3 servings of other veggies, legumes and milk is very important. Four servings of fruits is required and main focus should be on the vitamins part especially vitamin B12. You can give multivitamin supplements or vitamin fortified cereals and dairy or non dairy milk to your teenagers for their proper growth and development.
Taste is a big factor for children and therefore you should be creative in your recipes. There are numerous forums and websites available online which can help you in your cooking. Try them and give your kids tasty as well as healthy vegetarian food for their healthy future.