Non-vegetarian foods like eggs, chicken and fish are rich in proteins and healthy fats, and hence play a key role in the overall development of a child. They are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals too. These give strength, build muscles, and ensure agility. But, are you anxious that your kid is refusing to eat non-vegetarian foods and might miss out on important nutrients? Read this article to understand the healthy alternatives to a non-vegetarian diet.
Ways to make your child eat meat
Animal products like meat and poultry are very rich in nutrients like iron, zinc, B vitamins and protein. Some ways to make your child eat meat are:
- Some toddlers refuse to eat meat because of the hard texture. Try cooking meat slowly so that each piece becomes nice and soft. Remember to serve in small pieces.
- Try using minced meat, sausages, and meatballs in burgers. If they refuse it because of the flavour, then try giving it to them in smaller quantities, and they might accept it someday.
Obtaining adequate nutrition from vegetarian foods
A well-planned, balanced diet is sufficient for the growth of your child, even if he or she doesn’t consume non-vegetarian items. Here are ways in which you can ensure that:
- If your child prefers vegetarian foods, small and frequent meals and snacks can help your toddler meet their energy needs throughout the day.
- Your child’s diet should include a variety of plant sources for energy and protein. Protein sources like legumes, nuts, and seeds help to build, maintain and repair the tissues of the body.
- Plant-based foods have lots of fibre in them, which helps with digestion. You can provide leafy green veggies as well as colourful veggies for this. However, make sure your child doesn’t consume too much of fibre, as this will fill him up and he won’t get enough calories. Too much of fibre can also decrease the amount of calcium, iron or zinc that is absorbed by the body.
- Iron is vital for the formation of red blood cells that help carry oxygen throughout your child’s body. Iron is essential for the normal development of the brain too. But, iron from plant sources is not absorbed as easily by the body as the iron from animal sources. So, make sure your child eats foods rich in vitamin C along with plant-based sources of iron, for better absorption. Iron-fortified grains, beans and peas should be consumed along with citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, and cauliflower. You can consult a doctor for an iron supplement if necessary.
- Calcium is a very important nutrient for strong bones and teeth. Broccoli, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens are calcium-rich foods you can provide. Soy milk and orange juice are fortified with calcium too.
- Zinc is a nutrient that is mainly needed for brain development. And the best sources are meat, fish, poultry, and yoghurt. However, vegetarian foods like whole grains, wheat germ, brown rice, legumes, and spinach are fortified with zinc too. You can ask your child’s doctor if he or she needs a supplement.
- Fats help in the development of the brain and nervous system. Vegetarians and vegans can derive essential fatty acids from canola oil, flaxseed oil and nuts.
- Along with calcium, vitamin D is also required for brain and teeth development. Fortified products include cow’s milk, margarine, and soy milk. However, do read the nutrient label of each food item to know about the vitamin D content.
- Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that is found only in animal foods, like eggs and dairy products. So, if your child does not have either of these, give him fortified foods like cereals, breads, soybeans and rice drinks.
All in all, vegetarian foods can contribute to a balanced diet, provided your kid eats a variety of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and whole grains. If your child follows a vegan diet, then he or she might need additional supplements and calories, as advised by a dietician or a doctor.