Is a vegetarian diet giving your child enough nutrients?
Question from Reader:
My wife and I have converted to vegetarianism and I was wondering if this is harmful to our child? We do eat eggs but no meat products. Should we consider a supplement?
Answer from Dr Nancy Tan:
Generally, vegetarianism (a diet that does not include meat, chicken or fish) is not harmful to toddlers or children, in fact, some children refuse to eat meat as they don’t like the taste or texture, however it is important that your child is getting the balance of vitamins and nutrients from a range of foods that they need to grow.
Before converting to vegetarianism, it may be helpful for you to consult your family doctor or a registered dietitian who can talk to you about your child’s needs and help you plan a healthy and balanced diet. A doctor or dietician will then be able to advise you, based on your specific diet, if there are any supplements you should be considering.
It’s important to remember that vegetarians don’t just get their daily needs from vegetables, and as a general guide, a balanced diet should include some cereals, breads, rice, lentils, tofu/bean curd, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Depending on your dietary preferences, it is also beneficial to include dairy products and eggs.
If you are eating a less restrictive vegetarian diet, it is going to be easier for your child to get the necessary vitamins and minerals he or she needs. Babies and toddlers who follow a vegetarian diet may benefit from an infant formula which contains a balance of essential vitamins and minerals. Additionally, if you are following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, fortified foods, supplements or formulas are beneficial for children of all ages.
Young children can be fussy about their food and may not get enough nutrition from a strict vegetarian diet so you should monitor their food intake carefully.
Answered by: Dr Nancy Tan, SBCC Baby and Child Clinic
About Dr Nancy Tan:
Dr Nancy Tan is a Consultant Paediatrician with more than 16 years of experience in the care of children, especially with chronic liver and gut diseases. Trained in the Paediatric Liver Centre, King’s College London, Dr Tan currently works at SBCC Baby & Child Clinic at Gleneagles Medical Centre, and is also a visiting consultant to the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital