In India, cultural and religious factors often influence the dietary habits of households. And children are brought up accordingly too. However, if your child only eats vegetarian meals, he might be missing out on important nutrients like vitamin B12, zinc, and other minerals that are usually derived from animal-based food sources. Since, consuming all the essential nutrients is required for steady growth and development, planning a balanced diet becomes necessary. Here are a few ways in which you can ensure a balanced diet for kids who are vegetarians:

  1. Include food items from all food groups: This implies that your child’s diet should include important nutrients from all food groups, such as, cereals, millets, pulses, milk products, vegetable, fruits, oils, and fats and nuts.
  2. Add protein for growth: There is no reason why a vegetarian diet cannot have enough protein as compared to a non-vegetarian diet. Protein sources for vegetarian kids include milk, paneer, soy-based items, dals and pulses.
  3. Include energy-giving foods: At this age, your child needs a lot of energy to stay active and grow healthily. You can give him dairy products, fruits and vegetables to ensure this. You can also try to add peanut butter or almond butter to his diet. Sliced or chopped apples with peanut butter can make for a great snack, for instance.
  4. Give your child iron-rich food: Legumes, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grain cereals, dried fruits etc. are iron-rich food items which help in preventing anaemia in children. In order to ensure the better absorption of iron, either add lemon juice to your child’s dal or curries, or give him a glass of lime juice for breakfast.
  5. Add zinc to your child’s diet: To fulfil the requirement of zinc in your child’s diet, you can give him nuts in powdered form, whole grains or legumes. Zinc is essential for better immunity, improvement in mental abilities, healing of wounds, and reducing the risk of chronic ailments.
  6. Include vitamin B12 to ensure the healthy growth of your child: You must give your child foods that are rich in vitamin B12, such as, dairy products, idli, dosa, dhokla, appams etc. This vitamin will keep exhaustion at bay and will keep your kid’s blood and nerve cells healthy.
  7. Provide foods rich in vitamin D and calcium: It is essential to give your child foods which are rich in these nutrients because they make the bones and muscles stronger and prevent related diseases. Green leafy vegetables can meet the nutrient requirement of your child in this case. Along with this, your child can get ample amounts of vitamin D if he plays outdoors in the sun, for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Add suitable fats to your child’s diet: You can provide your child healthy fats from non-meat sources as well. These include almonds, walnuts, butter, ghee, milk, soy and vegetable oil. Healthy fats are required to lower bad cholesterol level, regulate blood pressure, and to prevent heart diseases in future years.

It goes without saying that healthy kids are happy kids. So, even if your child is a vegetarian, you can keep the above tips in mind to make his meals wholesome, balanced and filling. There is no reason why balanced vegetarian meals cannot help your child achieve all the growth and development milestones he is supposed to.

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