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Is it safe for a child to be a vegetarian?

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One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to teach your children how to eat healthy. The best way to do this is to start as soon as they are born to set a solid foundation for the rest of their lives. When it comes to newborns and the decision has been made not to breastfeed use a soy based formula to ensure that the newborn gets all the necessary nutrients. Do not just use regular soymilk because a newborn needs all the nutrients that the soy based formula has been fortified with. Do not keep your newborn indoors all the time, make sure that you go out for walks or outing so the newborn can get vitamin D from the sun.

As Your Newborn Grows
When your newborn reaches four to five months, it is okay to start introducing them to other foods. Start by offering them pureed fruit like bananas, peaches, or applesauce. You can even try single grain cereal mixed with a little soymilk. Make sure when you introduce new foods to your newborn that you watch closely for any allergic reactions that may occur.
By the time your newborn reaches six months old, they should be ready for vegetables. Make sure that they have been fully cooked and pureed. Good choices to introduce at this time are pureed sweet potatoes, green beans, and carrots. By the time your newborn reaches eight months
old, you can introduce them to crackers and bread. Their rapid development will continue to astound you and by the time they reach a year old they should be getting nourishment from all of the four food groups and now is a good time to introduce them to soymilk that has been fortified with vitamin B12. These ages are a guideline to follow, do not be worried if your child does not want fruit at four months or vegetables at six months because all children develop at different rates and when your newborn is ready you will be sure to know it.

Older Children
If you decide to wait until your children get older to introduce them to a vegetarian lifestyle there are some steps that you can follow to make the transition easier for you and your children. Do not try to convert your children over night into being vegetarians. Start by slowly removing meat from their diet. You can still let them have some of their favorite foods, pizza, for example but instead of topping it with pepperoni or sausage, choose green peppers, onions, or a combination of vegetables. To replace the protein that will be lost by not eating red meat, introduce more beans into their diets, which are a good source of protein.

Don’t Rely on Gimmicks
One of the things that parents do when they are changing their children from omnivores to vegetarian is to smother their food with cheese. As you have already read, some vegetarians consume dairy products so it is not cheating but it is not a great idea to rely on this too much. While cheese can be a nutritious part of a vegetarian diet, it is also high in saturated fat and has a
lot of sodium in it, which can be harmful to your child’s diet and thus undoing the good that you are trying to do with a vegetarian diet.

Children are Different than Adults
It is important for parents to remember that children are not small adults. There nutritional needs are different from what adults need. Serving children vegetarian foods that are high in fiber is not a good idea because children cannot digest fiber as well as an adult can. In addition, children have smaller stomachs than adults do, so when you are changing their diet to vegetarian they might need to eat more than three times a day. If you find this is the case with your children try to serve them smaller more frequent meals to ensure they get all of the recommended daily servings of the four food groups.

Important Nutrients for Children
A child’s body is a living breathing machine and in order for it to function and grow properly it needs the proper fuel to make it happen. It is the job of the parent to make sure that their diet contains the appropriate amounts of green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grain, and fruit. By doing this the parent will ensure that their child will get all the necessary iron, calcium, protein, and zinc. Parents also need to be proactive and make sure their children do not sit in front of the television playing video games or facebooking and get outside to soak in some vitamin D. Vegetarian children will probably also need to take a vitamin B12 supplement in order to meet their body’s requirement for growth.