Is it OK for Kids to Go Vegetarian?

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Meat-free Sources of Protein

Without a doubt, parents' concerns about vegetarian diets for kids are usually centered around protein consumption. Americans tend to grossly overestimate the amount of protein that is required each day while conversely underestimating the amount of protein available in non-meat sources. According to The Institutes of Medicine, a child who is 9 to 13 years old needs about 34 grams of protein each day. That amount can easily be reached through a balanced diet that includes:

  • Whole grains (including hearty, protein-rich breads);
  • Legumes (lentils and beans);
  • Vegetables;
  • Tofu and other soy products;
  • Nuts; and
  • Eggs, low-fat cheese and milk.
Other Nutrients to Include in a Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Diet

Protein isn't the only factor that you and your child need to address with a new-found vegetarian diet. Listed below are a few other dietary essentials for any child:

  • Calcium - Milk, low-fat cheese and yogurt are great sources, as are leafy green vegetables (broccoli, collards, kale and bok choy), beans and fortified orange juice and cereals.
  • Vitamin B12 - Found naturally in eggs and dairy, as well as fortified cereals, fortified soymilk and multivitamins.
  • Iron - Leafy green vegetables (like fresh spinach) and legumes. Talk to your child's pediatrician if you are concerned about anemia and whether a daily supplement is in order.