A vegetarian diet does not include meat. Vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry, or fish. Many vegetarians also avoid other animal products such as gelatin, rennet (used to make some kinds of cheese), and animal fats. Vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy products are called ovo-lacto vegetarians. People who avoid all animal products are called vegans.
A well-planned vegetarian diet can be good for health. By not eating meat, your child eats less cholesterol and less saturated fat. This may lower the risk of heart disease, gallstones, stroke, and some types of cancer.
All of the rules for a healthy diet are true for a vegetarian diet. Your child needs to eat a variety of foods in the right amounts. You may have to work harder to provide all of the nutrients your child needs if your family eats no animal products at all.
A well planned vegetarian diet is safe. If it is too low in protein or other nutrients, or too high in sweets, sodas, and snack foods, it may be unhealthy.
Younger children often have smaller appetites. High fiber plant foods have fewer calories and are more filling. Your child may get full before getting enough calories. It helps to serve frequent meals and snacks. Choose foods with higher fat content (healthy unsaturated fats) to help your child with energy and nutrient needs.
Here are some of the nutrients you need to be sure that your child gets.
If you get enough nutrients from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and oils, you and your baby can have a healthy diet. Make sure that you get enough zinc, iron, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D. Your healthcare provider may tell you to keep taking prenatal vitamins while breast-feeding.
Breast-fed babies should also take a vitamin D supplement. You can buy liquid multivitamin drops with vitamin D without a prescription. Ask your provider for a recommendation.
Breast-fed babies who are 4 to 6 months old and not yet getting solid food should take supplements of iron. This needed iron is provided by infant cereals when you start feeding your baby solid foods.
One of the best ways to check if your child is eating well is to track your child's weight and height. If your child is not getting enough nutrients, his or her height and weight will not follow the usual growth patterns for children. Your healthcare provider checks your child's growth on a growth chart.
If your child is not getting enough vitamins or minerals, he may have symptoms such as:
Check with your healthcare provider if you think your child may not be getting all the nutrients he needs.
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