Unless you, as a parent, are a vegetarian or vegan, a child announcing his or her dislike of meat can present challenges to meal-planning. It’s quite common for toddlers and preschoolers to experience a phase in which they turn their heads in disgust at the sight of meat. However, if the desire to abstain from animal protein comes from an older child, it might become a choice that sticks.
The first instinct of many parents of vegetarian children is to worry about their protein intake. This is a valid concern, but if your child has an otherwise well-rounded diet, protein requirements can be met through eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and nut butters, and soy products including tofu.
Some plant-based sources of iron include dark leafy greens, beans, fortified and enriched foods, and soybeans. While the human body absorbs the iron from animal products better than the iron from plant-based foods, foods containing vitamin C can help that absorption. Pair plant-based iron-rich foods with a vitamin-C-rich food such as tomatoes, orange juice or strawberries.
Though it’s found only in animal products, vegetarians can still obtain enough of this vitamin from certain fortified foods, eggs and dairy. If you are worried about your child not getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet alone, talk to a pediatrician or registered dietitian nutritionist.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is rich with resources for you to develop your knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences. Extension is a partnership between state, federal, and county governments to provide scientific knowledge and expertise to the public. You can trust UF/IFAS Extension for non-biased, research based information for your daily living needs.
Holiday celebrations can include many family members and friends, which often means lots of food. Some traditional recipes call for heavy amounts of sugars and fats, but there are easy ways to substitute for these ingredients so you can stay healthy during the holiday season. Here are some ideas:
- Use low-fat versions of regular, evaporated, or condensed milk.
- Replace sour cream with low-fat plain yogurt.
- Substitute whipped evaporated skim milk for whipped cream.
- Replace up to half the butter or shortening in a baking recipe with unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas. This reduces fat and increases fiber and nutrients.
- Grease pans with non-stick cooking spray.
- Replace nuts with dried fruits such as raisins or cranberries.
- Reduce the amount of sugar in a baking recipe by 1/4 to 1/3.
- Use three tablespoons of cocoa powder and one tablespoon of oil for one ounce of baking chocolate.
- Use Canadian bacon or lean ham instead of bacon.
- Use lean ground turkey or low-fat sausage instead of sausage or ground beef.
- Baste turkeys with broth instead of butter.
If you’re bringing food to a party, try the ideas above, or bring a salad, fruit, or vegetable dish. If you’re worried about having high-calorie foods around your home, remember that you can always take extras (such as desserts) into work to share with co-workers. By substituting healthy options for calorie-rich ingredients and making sure you get regular exercise, you can have a healthy holiday season.