Vegetarian child. The term almost sounds like an oxymoron we’ve joked about through the years, like jumbo shrimp. The words just don’t seem to go together! It’s not as unnatural as it may sound. Actually, kids are almost natural vegetarians. It’s imperative that you offer your growing vegetarian child a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and soy based proteins to ensure they have the energy and nutrients needed to grow up strong, healthy, and happy. Consider including items in your daily menu planning for a well-rounded, nutrient-dense healthy diet:

2.5-3 cups fortified soymilk

1/4-1/2 cup iron-fortified cereal

2-5 servings grains (1/2 slice bread, 1/4 cup cooked rice, pasta, quinoa, etc)

2-3 servings veggies (1/2 cup salad or raw veggies, 1/4 cup cooked veggies-bear in mind that the younger your child is, cooked vegetables might be easier for them to chew and digest, then introduce raw veggies as they grow older.)

2-3 servings fruit (1/2 fresh fruit, 1/4 cup cooked fruit, 1/4 cup juice)

2 servings protein foods (1/4 -1/3 cup cooked beans/lentils, a slice or so of calcium-fortified tofu, or peanut or almond butter – be sure that nut butters are fed to children who’ve been tested and shown not to have nut allergies; if you’re unsure, wait until your child’s healthcare provider has had the opportunity to test for such allergies in your child before trying them)

Vitamin B-12 source – nutritional yeast, breast milk, formula, fortified soy milks and cheeses

Vitamin D – sunlight, breast milk, formula, fortified soy milk

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – flaxseed oil, freshly ground flaxseed

And here’s some finger-food friendly options for your growing vegetarian toddler:

Fresh or frozen mango

Fresh or frozen peaches/nectarines/plums

Cubed avocado

Tofu (put in microwave or steam for 10-30 seconds

Fresh or frozen peas

Pasta that is slightly overcooked

Cubed soy or rice cheeses

Canned beans- black, garbanzo, black eyed peas, or kidney

Toast, cut into little pieces

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