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.
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
pulses and beans
dried fruit (like yummy dried apricots)
dark green leafy veg (like watercress, broccoli, spring greens)
nuts and seeds
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
fortified yeast extract (for example Marmite)
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
soya and soya products like tofu
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