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Developing a Vegetarian Diet for Your Child

The idea of restricting a child's diet concerns a lot of parents — are they getting enough nutrients through gluten­-free products? How will my child get enough protein without eating meat?

These are valid questions, and they're very important to consider before committing to any dietary regimens. As long as parents understand a child's nutritional needs and research the foods that meet them, things like gluten­-free and vegetarian diets can benefit children for their entire lives.

What Should I Think About When Developing A Diet For My Child?

Protein consumption tends to be a top concern when considering plant-­based diets. Everyone needs it, particularly growing children, so excluding foods that are bountiful sources of protein, as meats are, presents the need to focus on protein­-rich plant foods. Plant­-based foods won't stand up to the protein content of animal-­based products on an individual basis, but that's not to say they aren't reliable sources of protein.

Not only do children need an appropriate amount of protein, they also should consume an adequate amount of fats, which is more than what adults should eat. It's a fine line: You don't want children to consume too much fat, but be aware that adults and children have different dietary needs, and they need to be fulfilled accordingly. Protein­-rich foods with healthy fats include avocado, nut butters, nuts, and soybean products.

Beyond protein and healthy fats, it's also important all vegetarians consume vitamin B12, which is mostly found in animal products and byproducts. For example, dairy products contain B12, but if dairy consumption is eliminated or reduced in you or your child's diet, you may need to take supplements of this important vitamin. Children's vitamins probably cover this, but it's something you'll not want to overlook when considering a vegetarian diet.

As with all lifestyle changes, it helps to do a lot of research and consult a professional for guidance. A pediatrician or registered dietitian can help you construct a child-­friendly vegetarian diet and help your kids establish a solid foundation of eating well and healthfully that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Questions or Comments?

At Harvest Pediatrics, we encourage you to contact us whenever you have a concern or question related to your care.
You can reach us at:


Napa: (707) 252-1076
St. Helena: (707) 963-0171

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