3 Key Nutrients for Vegetarians – why we need them and where to find them

 

Since becoming a vegetarian a few months ago I have been doing a lot of research into healthy vegetarian diet and nutrition. I want to make sure that we all eat healthy, but in particular I don’t want to jeopardise Little F’s growth and development through incomplete nutrition.

 

Here’s a list of 3 key nutrients we all need, but which vegetarians in particular need to consciously include in their diets. Other than those 3 key nutrients vegetarian families need to follow the same healthy eating advice as meat-eaters: eat lots of fruits and vegetables; reduce salt, sugar and saturated fat intake; eat plenty of starchy foods and grains.

 

3 key nutrients for vegetarians

 

Iron

Because Iron is not easily absorbable we need to eat it regularly to make sure there’s plenty of it in our bodies. Iron carries oxygen from lungs all around our bodies, and so is important to keep our energy levels up and concentration, through supporting good muscle and brain function.

 

It’s a good idea to eat iron rich foods accompanied by vitamin C rich foods, as vitamin C helps iron absorption. For example have some orange juice alongside your porridge, or have plenty of fresh vegetables with dahl. However, it is not a good idea to have tea before, during or directly after your meal, as it reduces absorption levels. Have your tea in between the meals.

 

 Here’s where you can find Iron

eggs

pulses and beans

dried fruit (like yummy dried apricots)

dark green leafy veg (like watercress, broccoli, spring greens)

wholemeal bread

porridge oats

brown rice

fortified cereals

tofu

nuts and seeds

 

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is paramount for children as it is responsible for growth and repair of tissue. It is also necessary to form DNA, maintain healthy nervous system and regulate energy production. Contrary to supplement advertisers though, taking extra vitamin B12 won’t increase your energy, unless you’ve had deficiency.

 

It is mostly found in meat and dairy products, but if you don’t eat these there are a lot of fortified products on the market, suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

 

Here’s where you can find vitamin B12

milk

cheese

eggs

fortified yeast extract (for example Marmite)

fortified cereals

fortified soya products

some seaweed and algae

 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fats have been found to improve children’s learning abilities and their behaviour. That’s enough reason to make sure there’s plenty of those in your family’s diet! These essential fatty acids also help to protect your heart from strokes and heart attack, and keep your cholesterol levels at bay.

 

There are studies which suggest that plant based Omega-3 are not as good in providing the essential fatty acids compared to animal sources, like fish. This is one of the reasons why we still eat some fish and seafood, at least until the jury is still out on this one.

 

Here’s where you can find Omega-3 fatty acids

flaxseed (linseed) oil

rapeseed oil

soya and soya products like tofu

walnuts

eggs enriched with Omega-3

 

 

You can find some of my favourite vegetarian recipes here, here and here. I have also prepared a sample weekly food planner for a vegetarian toddler. You can also browse my Pinterest board for more inspiration on tasty vegetarian fare.

 

IF YOU HAVEN’T CAST YOUR VOTE YET PLEASE VOTE ON ME

BritMums

 

BritMums

 

Photo credit: Aurimas Adomavicius / Foter / CC BY-ND – with my modifications

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