It is perfectly safe to raise children as vegetarians. However, like all children no matter what diet they follow, it is important to ensure they consume a balanced, nutritious diet that covers the 5 core food groups. As a vegetarian you are at a higher risk of iron, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D and zinc deficiency so it's VERY important to ensure a balanced diet (that is, ensure the food groups missed are replaced with a substitute).
Vegans/total Vegetarians (no meat, fish, poultry, eggs or dairy products) are at the greatest risk. Lactovegetarians (still consume dairy products) and Lacto-ovovegetarians (still consume eggs and dairy) are at a reduced risk.
Scientific evidence on vegetarian diets is growing and suggesting that those who follow a vegetarian are less likey to be overweight, develop diabetes and other chronic conditions due to their high intake of fruit and vegetables.
As a general guideline, try to ensure your young one consumes all 5 of the following food groups depending on his/her vegetarian diet:
1. Wholegrain breads/cereals/rice/pasta
4. Dairy Products/Dairy Alternatives:
- Dairy alternatives may include 1 cup of almonds, 1 cup of vitamin D & calcium fortified soymilk or rice milk, 200g soy yoghurt, 1/2 cup brocolli/bok choy/kale/chinese cabbage
- Dairy products may include 1 cup milk, 200g yoghurt, 2 slices of cheese etc
5. Meat Alternatives:
- Meat alternatives may include Quorn (exclusive to Coles), Soy Products like Tofu/Soy Mince etc, 3/4 cup Legumes (baked beans, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans), 1/2 cup nuts.
- Alternatively, 2 eggs.
Talking to an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) may assist you with balancing your child's diet.
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