So your teenager has come home with a vegetarian declaration. Raising a vegetarian in the midst of a meat-eating family can seem a daunting task. But helping your child through the transition will encourage healthier eating habits in the future.
More and more people are adopting vegetarian diets in this country and around the world for a variety of reasons. Whether the choice stems from social, economic, environmental, health or religious influences, a vegetarian diet is a big change for someone used to eating meat. Knowledge about eating a healthy vegetarian diet is essential and critical for good health.
Often a child's idea of a vegetarian diet means potato chips and picking the pepperoni off a slice of pizza. While foods like pizza are fine once in a while as a treat, a healthy varied diet includes much more than those offerings and ensures your budding vegetarian all the nutrients necessary to flourish. Here are some tips and tasty recipes to help make the transition a healthy one for your child and your family.
DECIDE THE TYPE - There are many different classifications of the vegetarian diet. Eggs, cheese and dairy products are perfectly acceptable within some of the different types. Discuss the options with your child and choose the style best suited to your child's and your family's needs.
BE SUPPORTIVE - Likely it was hard for you child to come to this decision and share it with you. Support your child's decision and encourage them. Tension at mealtimes may cause unhealthy relationships with food in the future. One way to support your child is to cook meatless meals for the whole family a few times a week and get your child involved in the cooking and preparation of the meal. Pasta dishes and soups are a great place to start.
GET THE HEALTH PRACTITIONER INVOLVED - Sometimes it is more helpful for a child to get, and heed advice from someone other than the parent. Schedule an appointment for you and your child to meet with your family doctor or dietitian to discuss vegetarianism and the best way to adopt this new diet change.
KEY NUTRIENTS - A growing child requires proper nutrition including protein, calcium, iron, B12, Vitamin D, and zinc. While these are not hard to find in a vegetarian diet, a little extra work is required to ensure the proper amounts are being included in the diet. For protein, look to legumes, nuts, eggs and dairy. For iron, choose legumes, egg yolks and iron-enriched cereals, grains and pastas. For more information visit http://www.eatrightontario.ca or speak to your dietitian to ensure your child is not missing any essential nutrients.