As you’re probably already aware, vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise, with many more adults and children choosing to follow a plant-based or meat-free diet. Both meat and fish provide our bodies with a large amount of protein, which is essential for growth and repair of muscles and general maintenance of good health. However, if your child opts to follow a veggie diet, there are also plenty of other protein sources that’ll do the trick…
Dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and milk are packed full of protein and are a great vegetarian substitute to meat/fish. Not only that, but dairy contains lots of calcium, which is crucial in helping children’s bones to develop and become strong.
Eggs are another brilliant alternative, with one large egg containing around 6g of protein! Eggs are also super versatile, and can be made into a fun meal for children. For example, ask your child if they would like dippy eggs and soldiers rather than a soft boiled egg and sliced toast and they will most likely be more eager to say yes please!
If your child is wanting to follow a vegetarian diet when they are normally a meat eater, I would suggest swapping the meat for Quorn products. Most supermarkets stock a large range of Quorn products and it’s very easy to get something that looks and tastes like the foods they are used to, such as meat-free ‘chicken fillets’ ‘chicken nuggets’ ‘sausage rolls’ and even ‘mince’. This means you can still make your child’s favourite spaghetti bolognaise or chilli con carne and they probably won’t even notice the difference! Whilst the protein content isn’t quite as high as meat, it still contains a substantial amount, ensuring their protein intake isn’t drastically decreased.
If your child is going vegan, you will need to be even more vigilant to ensure that they are gaining all of the essential nutrients as they cannot consume the sources listed above. That being said, many plant-based foods are naturally high in protein, such as chickpeas, beans, nuts and seeds. Although some parents may not feel comfortable giving younger children nuts as they can be a choking hazard, there are many vegan-friendly, healthy, raw snack bars on the market that contain nuts in a soft, chewable form – such as cacao powder, date and protein bars, that taste just like a brownie!
So, if you are thinking of introducing your child to a vegetarian or vegan diet but are worried they will be lacking in the protein their body needs, I hope this has helped you to see it’s not as daunting as it may first appear to be