If you're a pure vegetarian, here are the foods your child SHOULD be eating!

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A strictly vegetarian diet lacks many essential nutrients that are crucial for the proper growth and development of your baby.

If you, like many other Indians, are a pure vegetarian, there are quite a few things that you must keep in mind as far as the nutrition needs of your kids and toddlers are concerned.

"Good nutrition is the bedrock of lifelong health, and it begins in infancy. Healthy eating can stabilize children’s energy, sharpen their minds, and even out their moods. Attention to diet early in life is essential to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetic, hypertension later," says Pavithra N Raj, Dietician with the Columbia Asia hospital in Bangalore.

Essential nutrients missing from a strictly vegetarian diet

People who are strictly vegetarian usually have a diet that is devoid of protein. However, parents must understand that protein is essential for growing kids as protein is something that exactly helps your kids with that. Yes, that's right.

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Here are some other essential nutrients that are missing from a strict vegetarian diet:

  1. Proteins are the main source of amino acids that are in simple terms the building blocks of your little one's body. Amino acids aid in the development of muscles, bones, skins and other organs in kids. They also help improve your child's immunity.
  2. Another essential vitamin that is mostly missing from a strictly vegetarian diet is Vitamin B12 that is only available from animal sources.
  3. Pure vegetarians who do not eat even eggs might also suffer from a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids, which can be found in abundance in fish and eggs.

Foods your child should be eating

If you are a strict vegetarian, here are a few foods that you should be including in your child's diet.

1. Eat more protein: Since protein is a key nutrient for the growth and development of your child, people who are strictly vegetarian should include protein-rich foods. "Include lots of dairy products such as milk, paneer, soy, sprouts, dals (lentils), tofu, nuts, quinoa (millets) and buckwheat in the diet," says Pavithra.

2. Egg substitutes: People who don't even eat eggs should include lots of whole grains and lentils in their diet, adds Pavithra.

"Whole grains and lentils, cottage cheese (paneer), yogurt / Greek yogurt, milk and milk products, nuts and beans are essential for them," she says.

Continue reading on the next page to read about other essential foods you should include in your child's diet!

3. Go for High biological value proteins:
 Pavithra says that eating more of High Biological Value Proteins (HBV-P) that are mainly obtained from nuts, dals, and dairy products is essential for kids. They are known as complete protein foods as they contain almost all of the nine essential amino acids.

4. Don't leave out water: A balanced diet containing dairy, dals, pulses, green vegetables and nuts along with plenty of water is essential for kids who are on a strictly vegetarian diet.

5. Include Vitamin B12-rich foods: To meet their daily Vitamin B12 requirements, include foods rich in iron and vitamin B12 such as green leafy vegetables, oats, rice bran and watermelon, says Pavithra.

Pavithra also mentions that if a child is having a balanced diet, he does not need anything else. "Supplements need not be given to children until the child has been diagnosed with malnutrition/under nutrition,"she adds.

Lastly, Pavithra says that children learn habits from their parents. "Kids pick up habits for nutritious eating and active living by watching others. This is why parents and other caregivers are the child's most influential teachers in developing good eating habits," she sums up.

"Kids pick up habits for nutritious eating and active living by watching others. This is why parents and other caregivers are the child's most influential teachers in developing good eating habits," she sums up.

Pavithra N. Raj is currently working as a Dietitian Executive at Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur, Bangalore, for the past 7 years. 

Also Read: Protein-rich foods that you must include in your child's diet

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