Remember chasing your toddler with a forkful of peas? Now that
your child is a preteen, you may be eyeing those days with
nostalgia. Kids are using food to assert power and vegetarianism is
becoming a hot trend.
The Vegetarian Resource Group estimates 8- to 12-year-olds are
the fastest growing segment of vegetarians (those who don't eat
meat, poultry or fish/seafood). A full 5 percent of this group
never eats meat, with girls more likely than boys to follow the
trend. Many choose vegetarianism in support of animal rights, while
others see it as a way to stand apart.
For a meat-loving family, this can be a real challenge.
"The most common pitfall for young vegetarians would be the meal
plan," explains Jane Verik, a registered dietitian of Naperville.
She regularly sees preteen vegetarians.
"They probably take in more carbs than most meat-eaters because
of the beans." It's all a balance, she says. Protein, iron, zinc
and B12 are the biggest nutrients to monitor.
If you find yourself living with a new vegetarian, make sure
they're eating more than French fries and cheese sticks. Healthy
snacks could include pumpkin seeds, almonds, dried fruit and
yogurt. Sprinkle wheat germ in sauces. And check out the large
selection of vegetarian meatless products in grocery stores, such
as chicken-less nuggets and veggie burgers.
Patti Gustafson of Woodridge worries about giving her
12-year-old daughter a good balance of vitamins. But she recognizes
Bridget has made a life choice. "She'll stay a vegetarian forever.
After three years, it's an ideology more than a diet. She just
Here are some tips on getting vegetarian kids the key nutrients
their growing bodies need:
Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist if your child expresses an
interest. In the meantime, resist the urge to chase them with a
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