Understanding vegetarianism
Children may choose to become vegetarian for many reasons: cultural norm, a relative or friend is a vegetarian, weight loss, health reasons, concern about animal rights, etc. But what if you’re concerned your child may not get the proper nutrition needed for healthy growth and development? Don’t fret — vegetarianism can be healthy because of the high intake of plant products.

There are several types of vegetarians:
Octo-vegetarian: eats eggs, no meat
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: eats dairy and eggs, no meat
Lacto-vegetarian: eats dairy products, no meat or eggs
Vegan: eats only food from plant sources

Some people eliminate red meat and continue to eat poultry, fish, eggs and dairy.

Maintaining Nutrition
If your child is a vegetarian, it is important to ensure he consumes adequate calories and nutrients needed for growth. Most vegetarian diets are high in fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber, various vitamins and minerals, and low in fat. Nutrients mainly derived from animal sources, such as calcium, protein, iron, vitamins B12 and D, and zinc, need to be monitored closely. Many cereals, breads and drinks are fortified with these nutrients, making it easier to ensure your child’s nutritional needs are met. Aim to incorporate the foods listed below into your child’s daily diet to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

Benefits: healthy bones and teeth
Sources: dairy products
dark-green, leafy vegetablesbroccoli

dried beans
products fortified with calcium: orange juice, soy and rice drinks, cereals

Benefits: provides energy, maintain healthy hair and nails
Sources: dairy products: cottage cheese, yogurt