How to Introduce Your Child to a Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarian parents oftentimes want their children to follow in their footsteps for ideological, environmental, or health-related reasons. However, teaching children to forego certain foods, especially when their friends are enjoying them, can be a real challenge. Here are some tips on how to introduce your child to a vegetarian diet so that he or she grows up making healthy dietary choices.
- Start Young
Adult eating habits oftentimes stem directly from the way that they ate as a youngster. By starting your children on a vegetarian diet early, you can plant the seeds for a healthy adult life.
The younger the child, the easier the transition to a vegetarian diet will be. Infants and toddlers can thrive on vegetarian foods, and they can learn to love this diet early on in life. Older children can also make the transition to a vegetarian diet, but it will be simpler if you start your children on the diet when they are young.
- Make Sure the Diet is Balanced
Children’s nutritional needs are even more urgent than adults, since they are creating bone and burning energy at an even higher rate. With a vegetarian diet, it is particularly important that your children have a balanced diet that is high in calcium, protein, and minerals like B12 that are usually found in meats.
- Lead by Example
If you want your children to have a healthy vegetarian diet, you should show them how to do it by sticking to a vegetarian diet yourself. Children will learn faster by watching you than simply listening to your directions. Make sure that you not only stick to a vegetarian diet, but make healthy eating choices within that diet.
- Explain Why
Even very young children will want to know why they can’t eat the same foods as their friends and neighbors. Explain your reasons for sticking to a vegetarian diet in an age-appropriate way for your child so they will understand the need for making healthy dietary choices.
- Provide Plenty of Choices
Convincing your child to enjoy a vegetarian diet will be much easier if he or she doesn’t feel deprived. Keep a wide variety of vegetarian snacks, meals, and desserts on hand. Even strict vegan diets have room for cakes and cookies that are not made with animal by-products, so be sure to take full advantage of these recipes to keep your child satisfied.
Ultimately, your child is going to be the one to make the final decision about his or her eating habits. As children age, you can no longer watch over everything they choose to eat. However, if you can instill good eating habits when they are little, the chances are much higher that they will continue to make good choices as they age. By showing your child that a vegetarian diet can be delicious, healthy, and environmentally friendly, you can encourage him or her to hold to these ideals as an adult as well.
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