As a vegetarian mother, it may be your goal to teach your children proper nutrition selection through their own vegetarian diet. Creating healthy eating habits in children often begins as early as age one when they are commonly moved from formula and breast milk into the world of pureed table food.
To ensure your toddler is receiving the proper dietary and nutrition requirements, while on a vegetarian diet, it is important to make smart food choices and ensure proper growth and development continues. However, it is important to know that your toddler’s diet should never include one in which high fiber and low fat is given as low fat diets will result in lack of proper caloric intake and lack of energy and vital nutrition. So, how does a parent balance vegetarian food choices for a toddler?
Energy density is the key to providing a young toddler with the necessary balance of nutrition needed for growth and development while maintaining the vegetarian lifestyle. Using condiments such as small amounts of vegetable oil when cooking beans, or using veggie burgers, can provide a good balance of nutrients, including fat, while remaining within the parameters recommended for vegetarian food selections.
Because our children often develop healthy eating habits through observation and interaction with our own eating habits, creating an environment in which fruits and vegetables are a main course to a meal, even for a toddler, will lay the foundation for better food choices later in life. To provide a toddler with these choices, puree nuts and beans and only provide snacks that include whole grain cereals.
One area many parents struggle with is the toddler’s need for calcium. While trying to avoid animal products, many parents will work diligently to avoid the consumption of milk, cheese and even eggs. However, your toddler will require healthy doses of calcium and, as a result, should be permitted to consume milk, cheese, yogurt and even soy products, to ensure calcium is well balanced. However, as the child ages, these products can be replaced with other calcium rich foods such as green leafy vegetables.
As with any healthy eating habits, teaching children at a young age to make smart food choices will encourage healthy eating throughout their lives. While not all animal products can be avoided, there are replacement foods that can be pureed, or cooked with vegetable oil, to supplement the animal based by-products, such as fat and calcium, that children require for proper growth and development.