Believe It Or Not: Kids Who Really Like Their Veggies
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Her suggestions for avoiding some of these deficiencies:
- Vitamin B-12 -- Vitamin B-12 is found in breakfast cereal and some breads. And because the USDA's recommended daily allowance for B-12 is small (two micrograms), a daily bowl of cereal should take care of that problem.
- Calcium -- Calcium is found in soy products, which typically are fortified with calcium, says Rarback. In fact, powdered soy can be sprinkled on breakfast cereal. Many vegetables, including broccoli and kale, also have calcium.
- Iron -- To replace iron (found in animal products), she advises eating peas, beans, whole-wheat products, and iron-fortified grains. "The absorption of those products is improved if you have a source of vitamin C like orange juice or another citrus fruit with it," Rarback tells WebMD. Also, dried fruits and prune juice have some iron.
- Zinc -- Zinc (also in animal products) can be replaced by eating yogurt, cheese, whole-wheat breads and grains. "They have to be whole-wheat because the outside layer of germ has the zinc," she advises. To make sure your child is getting enough calories (if they aren't eating animal products), seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils can substitute.
Protein deficiency is common with many vegetarian diets, DeAntonis tells WebMD. All animal and soy products are complete proteins. But if the diet is restricted but contains some protein, the child is unlikely to have a protein problem, she says.
Any child on a vegetarian diet needs to understand the concept of "complete and incomplete proteins." Four different categories of plant foods include incomplete proteins: legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. Eating a protein from one group and a protein from another group forms a complete protein, DeAntonis says.
Translation: peanut butter and whole-wheat bread, red beans and rice, and hummus (chickpeas and sesame seeds) -- are all complete proteins.
An on-the-go teen may need a specific list of foods they can match to get a complete protein. "The bottom line is, if they're going to be a vegetarian, that's fine, as long they understand what a child's diet is supposed to contain. It may mean that [a pediatrician or nutritionist] has to be specific and careful about listing what their diet should include," DeAntonis tells WebMD.