All mothers want the best possible nutrition for their children. However, a common belief is that vegetarian foods for kids can never provide the nutritive value that non-vegetarian foods offer. This is untrue though. When planned properly, a vegetarian diet can be at par with a diet that includes chicken, meat, fish or eggs.

A balanced vegetarian diet must consist of protein substitutes like tofu, nuts, soya, milk and milk products, and legumes. Whole grains or multigrain cereals, and good quality fats and oils in moderate amounts will give your child energy for growth and development. Micronutrients like vitamin B12 can help ensure proper metabolism and production of red blood cells. Inclusion of foods rich in vitamin D and calcium will help prevent bone diseases.

Planning vegetarian meals properly

A child grows rapidly in between the ages of 2 and 5 years. Hence, nourishing your kids properly is of paramount importance. At this stage, children are highly active but have small stomachs. So, you will have to plan easy vegetarian recipes for kids that give them maximum nourishment despite small quantities. Their diet must feature the following food groups:

  • Cereals

    • Kids between 2 and 3 years of age should have 2 servings and those between 4 and 5 years should have 4 servings per day.
    • This can be in the form of

      • 1 small chapatti
      • 1 small bread slice
      • 2 tbsp. of raw rice
      • 2 tbsp. of raw pasta
      • 2 tbsp. of raw dalia
      • 2 tbsp. of raw sooji
      • 2 tbsp. of raw oats.
    • Cereals supply energy, carbohydrates, as well as protein and fibre. They are also loaded with lots of micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin E, B vitamins, and magnesium. Cereals that are fortified with iron can boost growth in kids and enhance their learning capacity.
  • Pulses

    • Vegetarian recipes for children need to include 1 serving of pulses per day. Providing 2 tbsp. of raw pulses/beans/lentils can satisfy these requirements.
    • Pulses have minimal fat and high fibre content. They are rich in protein, which is essential for strengthening your child’s muscles and repairing them. Give sprouted seeds as they are easier to digest and have more nutrients.
  • Milk and milk products

    • 5 servings of milk and milk products are needed daily by children. This means, you can offer 1 small cup (100 ml) milk or 1 small cup curd (100 g).
    • Milk and milk products are a great source of calcium. They make bones, muscles and teeth strong. Dairy products fortified with vitamin D assist the body to absorb minerals like calcium and phosphorus.
  • Roots and tubers

    • Half a serving of roots and tubers is enough for children between 2 and 3 years of age. For kids between 4 and 5 years, 1 serving per day is adequate. You can also serve 1 cup of chopped raw potato/carrot/ turnips/onions etc.
    • Try and give them baked or steamed potato instead of fries.
  • Green leafy vegetables

    • Vegetarian dishes for kids should include half a serving of greens per day. This may constitute –
      • - 1 cup of raw greens
      • - Leafy veggies that are chopped, like spinach/bathua/fenugreek /mustard leaves etc. is a must.
  • Other vegetables

    Kids need half a serving of other vegetables every day, if they are between 2 and 3 years of age. Give them 1 serving if they are between 4 and 5 years. Give them 1 cup of seasonal and coloured vegetables daily.

  • Fruits

    • 1 serving of seasonal fruits is essential per day. This can be 1 apple or 1 medium-sized banana or 1 pear or 1 orange or 1 bowl of papaya or pineapple (chopped).
  • Fats and oils

    • 5 servings of fat or oil in the form of 1 tsp of vegetable oil/ butter/ ghee/mayonnaise/ cheese spread etc. are needed by children.
    • Soy oil/walnuts/flaxseeds can also be included in the diet, as they are rich in omega-3 fats. However, trans fats and saturated oils should be avoided.
  • Sugar

    • 3 servings and 4 servings of sugar per day are sufficient for kids between 2 and 3 years and 4 and 5 years respectively. This can be in the form of 1 tsp of table sugar/jaggery powder/honey/jam etc.
    • Try avoiding too many sugary foods as they are rich in trans fats.

A child’s diet should comprise small and frequent meals, which can include 3 major meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 3-4 small snacks, in a day. Vegetarian recipes for kids like besan chila loaded with vegetables, fresh fruits, and rice, sabzi or dal are good meal and snack options. Another option can be stuffed vegetable/paneer paratha as breakfast, veggie kebabs as snacks and khichdi as lunch or dinner.

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