BY JAMIE LOBER
Many Forsyth families are making the decision to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. Reasons can include interest in taking better care of the environment, caring for the welfare of animals, and decreasing risk from, and managing, chronic diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that vegetarian diets tend to be high in fiber and polyunsaturated fat and low in cholesterol and calories. If you are considering this dietary choice for your family, the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on vegetarian diets is that if they are appropriately planned, they are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. They also said that vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of life, from pregnancy, infancy, childhood, and adolescence through adulthood.
When designing vegetarian meals, there are some important components like:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
Combining protein sources can be especially helpful to your child, such as mixing rice with peas or beans. There are tools you can use to see that you are meeting the nutritional needs of your child, such as apps on your cell phone, where you can track the nutritional content of your meals with the click of just a few buttons. Depending on the person, a vegetarian may or may not eat eggs or dairy products. All meal preparations exclude meat, seafood, and poultry. While this may sound challenging for kids, they actually adapt well over time and slowly understand the benefits, such as consuming more fruits and vegetables and fewer sweet and salty treats and saturated fats. Another perk is that vegetarian children have a lower risk for being overweight or obese. Kids may begin the vegetarian lifestyle by starting with one meatless meal a week and increasing.
Education is important. You do not want to deprive your kids of the valuable nutrients that they need to grow, develop, and learn. Do not overlook the importance of a balanced diet, as you have to protect against nutritional deficiencies. When planning meals, some considerations you must include:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B-12
Some energy-packed foods that your family may like are hummus, tofu, avocados, and legumes.
For the creative mom or dad looking for something new to try their hands at, there are some great recipes that you can do from scratch. A few ideas include:
- Baked tacos with veggies;
- Pasta salad with chickpeas;
- Hummus wraps with feta cheese, olives, spinach, and peppers;
- Veggie burgers;
- Tomato, spinach, and mozzarella on your favorite grilled bread;
- Grilled cheese sandwichs with tomato and avocado,Tortellini or minestrone soup;
- Pizza primavera;
- Smoothie blends;
- Pumpkin mac and cheese.
Turn cooking into a family affair by getting your child involved doing age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen. You will find they are more likely to try a new recipe when they have their hands involved in making it. When you go out to eat, there are countless options, as well. Most restaurants go as far as to have a special section on the menu just for vegetarians. Asian and Indian cuisine, in particular, offer a lot of options.
Before making any changes to your family’s nutrition, it is a good idea to sit down with your healthcare provider. He or she can assess if this decision will be safe for you as well as answer any questions or concerns that you may have. There are also registered dieticians and nutritionists in the community who are available to talk at length about what vegetarianism is all about. They will ensure that you receive enough nutrients and help to come up with additional healthy and delicious recipes to try as a family.