The early years of a child’s journey marks the stage one should look to establish healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, a robust, well-balanced vegetarian/vegan diet can provide all of the nutrients that are needed by children at every stage of their growth. The idea is to create healthy meals and positive eating habits for the entire family. If you’re into healthy eating, there’s no reason for your child not to be.
Energy requirements in the toddler years: Key considerations
Before creating the perfect vegetarian diet plan for toddlers, it’s important to bear in mind a few considerations.
At the age of 1, the weight gain in your toddler slows and they start eating less. If they are eating too much fiber, they will find themselves feeling full before they have eaten enough calories. The tricky thing here is, that very ‘well-balanced vegetarian diet’ that we are seeking to incorporate, is often high in fiber, that is commonly found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
The solution? It might be a good idea to throw in some refined grain products, 100% fruit juices and peeled fruits and vegetables into that vegetarian diet you have incorporated for your kids. These will not only decrease fiber, but also up that caloric intake.
There are plenty of high nutrition, calorie-dense foods that you could use to increase the calorie count in that vegetarian diet plan for toddlers: like avocados, nuts/seeds, vegetable oils and hummus.
The essential nutrients that every vegetarian diet should entail
As long as your child is getting healthy doses of all the nutrients listed below, that diet you have charted for them is a well-rounded one. When dishing out healthy food for toddlers, you want to make sure they incorporate the following.
Why: It is good for muscle growth and repair. Further, it is used to make enzymes and hormones.
Good sources of protein: tofu, beans, eggs, cow’s milk, fortified soy yoghurt
Why: Here’s the source of energy your toddler needs. Make sure you include fat in every food serving.
Good sources of fat: oil, avocado, tofu, pasteurized yogurt, breastmilk
Why: Good for normal brain development and vision.
Good sources of Omega-3 fats: canola oil, ground walnuts, tofu, soybeans, ground seeds (chia, hemp)
Why: This super vitamin helps the body to use fats and make red blood cells.
Good sources of Vitamin B12: cheese and yogurt, cow’s milk, breastmilk (Note: breast milk might not produce significant amounts of B12)
Why: This one helps the body absorb vital minerals like calcium and phosphorus, that are needed for the healthy development of bones and teeth.
Good sources of Vitamin D: soft margarines, cow’s milk, fortified soy beverage
Why: Iron is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the other parts of the body.
Good sources of iron: fortified cereals, beans, tofu, blackstrap molasses
Why: Want strong bones and teeth? Look no further!
Good sources of Calcium: breastmilk, cow’s milk, fortified soy yoghurt, fortified orange juice
Why: Vital for building immunity and body tissue growth and repair
Good sources of Zinc: nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, cow’s milk, yogurt and cheese.
Snack Ideas for Toddlers, age wise
So, what might that well-balanced vegetarian diet for toddlers encompass, at the different stages of our toddler’s lives? Here’s a look.
Vegetarian Snack Ideas for your 1-yr old
This is a time when your child presents themselves as a finicky eater, on account of their decreased appetite and growth. No cause for alarm, though. Heard of finger foods? Might be time to introduce these.
- Eggs. These are a great source of balanced nutrition, and have the ‘extra iron’ your toddler could well use. Give them mini-omelets cut into squares and strips.
Note: Don’t worry about the ‘cholesterol’. Babies need more than adults do. However, some babies might be allergic to egg whites, so observe carefully for any untoward reaction.
- Fresh fruits. Far better than fruit juice that is laden with sugar, these contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. Chop fruits like bananas and peaches into small slices and serve.
- String cheese. Okay, this one might be messy but it’s certainly worth giving your child if they don’t like milk, to get that vital dose of calcium.
- Potatoes. Instead of getting them into the habit of eating those greasy and salty chips, have them eat cooked and diced potatoes, instead.
Vegetarian Snack Ideas for your 18-month old
A good vegetarian diet for toddlers of this age needs the inclusion of at least 2 or 3 snacks a day.
- Toast. A great idea would be to spread this with creamy butter or cream cheese.
- Plain bagels. Cut into manageable sizes, these are great for your toddler to snack on.
- Unsweetened cereal bits. Put these in a cup and watch your toddler pick them up in fascination and eat them one by one.
- Ripe bananas. You want to chop these into pieces, of course, before serving.
Vegetarian Snack Ideas for your 2-yr old
This is the time when your child needs to be getting plenty of essential nutrients like iron, calcium and protein. Time to ensure that the vegetarian diet for your kids is ‘balanced’.
- Fruit slices. Fruit is a great choice of nutrient-rich food. Give them apple slices or orange slices – any fruit, really, will do the trick.
- Rice cakes and toast. The great thing about these is that they are a great source of B vitamins. Further, it’s their relative ‘blandness’ that makes toddlers reach for them.
- Steamed broccoli or cauliflower. Got to meet their daily requirements of ‘veggies’, right?
- Cheese slices and cheese cubes. A great way to get that dose of calcium in!
All said and done, there is more than just ‘one type of vegetarian’. Some don’t eat eggs; yet others are vegan. No matter what type of vegetarian you are, you can easily find a vegetarian plan that will meet all the nutrition requirements of your toddler. Visit EuroKids to learn more.