With any diet that eliminates food groups, such as meat, there may be a concern about lack of nutrients. A vegetarian diet is not one of them. Although a vegetarian diet does not include meat, the vegetarian food groups consist of many nutrient-dense foods. If the diet is followed in a healthy and balanced way, it will provide the necessary protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and fat needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For children, a vegetarian diet can be very healthy, especially by focusing on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Pediatric Nutrition Handbook, the most common nutrient deficiency found in vegetarians is iron. This is because the iron in meat is easier for the body to absorb than the iron found in plants. The Vegetarian Resource Group recommends getting iron from sources such as dried beans and dark leafy greens.
If you are worried about your child getting enough protein, great vegetarian protein sources include nuts, eggs, milk, and legumes. These protein sources will also provide necessary nutrients for growth and bone health such as vitamin D and calcium.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal editorial staff member Julia Ruggirello.