Better than Peanut Butter & Jelly
Quick Vegetarian Meals Your Kids Will Love!
By Marty Mattare, Wendy Muldawer
McBooks Press, Inc. Copyright © 2006 Marty Mattare & Wendy Muldawer
All rights reserved.
the Nutritional needs of children
Whatever form of vegetarianism you or your children choose, you need to be aware that the nutritional needs of children are somewhat different from those of adults. To find out just what kids need, we interviewed Randi Cardonick, a registered dietitian with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. A vegetarian and mother herself, Randi told us about the following key vitamins and minerals that should be given special consideration in a child's diet.
Calcium: Adequate calcium is needed for strong bones, nerve and muscle function, and blood clotting. Children of different ages need different levels of this nutrient. The latest published requirements at www.keepkidshealthy.com are as follows:
Toddlers (age 1–3 years): about 500 mg of calcium each day (about 2 glasses of cow's milk).
Preschool and younger school-age children (age 4–8 years): about 800 mg of calcium each day (about 3 glasses of cow's milk).
Older school-age children and teens (age 9–18 years): about 1300 mg of calcium each day. This higher level of calcium is especially important once they begin puberty (about 4 glasses of cow's milk).
Calcium-rich foods include calcium-fortified orange juice, fortified soy and rice milk, tofu, oranges, raw broccoli, tahini, figs, raisins, sweet potatoes, black beans, vegetarian baked beans, sesame seeds, almonds, and molasses.
Iron: Contrary to popular belief, vegetarian diets are typically high in iron. Iron is found in soy milk, lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, cracked wheat, nuts, bulgur, blackstrap molasses, and spinach. To enhance iron absorption, make sure your kids get plenty of vitamin C. Good sources of vitamin C include broccoli, potatoes, cantaloupe, oranges, cranberry juice, mangoes, strawberries, tangerines, and watermelon. An additional reassurance: "Children who are not meat-eaters get their iron from beans, potatoes, dried fruit, and iron-fortified cereals, and their bodies probably become very efficient at absorbing all the iron they do ingest." Recent studies have found "a vegan child is no more likely to have anemia than an omnivorous child."
Protein: Adequate protein intake is important (it helps in the growth and repair of body tissue), and vegetarian diets can provide enough. When children consume enough calories, eat frequently throughout the day, and eat a variety of foods, there's little chance of protein deficiency. The US Recommended Daily Allowance calls for 0.8 gram of protein for each kilogram of ideal body weight. A quick way to calculate this is to divide your child's weight in pounds by 2.75 to obtain his or her RDA in grams. Protein-rich foods include cheese, eggs, beans, peanut butter, tofu, chickpeas, and yogurt, plus grains like quinoa, oats, and wheat.
Riboflavin: Riboflavin is important for overall growth and helps produce energy. Cow's milk is high in riboflavin, as are enriched and whole-grains, almonds, almond butter, and avocados.
Vitamin B12: Children need 0.7–1.4 micro–grams (adults need 2.0) of B12. This vitamin helps the body use protein to build new tissue and to form new red blood cells. Because B12 is mostly found in animal food products, many pediatricians recommend giving supplements to vegan kids. Most brands of fortified soy milk contain B12, but you must check the labels. You can also find breakfast cereals, breads, and crackers that are B12-fortified. A note on vegan diets for children: "With a bit of care a child's protein needs can easily be met on a meatless diet, but it should be noted that a strictly vegetarian diet excluding all meat, eggs, and dairy products is deficient in vitamin B12, making it important for vegan children to be supplemented with this vitamin."
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for bone formation in children. Most kids get plenty of vitamin D from sun exposure. Other sources include cow's milk, fortified soy or rice milk, and fortified cereals.
Zinc: A lack of this mineral can affect growth and sexual maturation in children. Zinc can be found in dairy products, tofu, whole-grains, wheat germ, fortified cereals (bran cereals and oatmeal), nuts, seeds, dried fruit, peas, and legumes.
Childhood Food Allergies
According to www.keepkidshealthy.com childhood food allergies are less common than thought. About five to eight percent of younger children develop food allergies, but most of them outgrow them by the time they're three years of age. Sometimes intolerance to foods is confused with allergies. Reactions such as diarrhea, vomiting, and rashes could be intolerances and are often linked to a deficiency of the enzyme that breaks down lactose, found in cow's milk.
Common foods that cause allergies:
Tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts)
Food dyes and preservatives
If you suspect your child may have a food allergy, check with your doctor.
Adult serving sizes, as suggested by the American Dietetic Association, follow. These portions are appropriate for children older than six who have hearty appetites. For two to five year olds, half of an adult serving is recommended.
Grains: 1 slice bread; 1/2 bun, bagel, or English muffin; 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta; 1 ounce dry cereal.
Vegetables: 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw.
Legumes and Meat Substitutes: 1/2 cup cooked beans; 4 ounces tofu or tempeh; 8 ounces soy milk; 2 tablespoons nuts or seeds.
Fruits: 1 piece fresh fruit; 3/4 cup fruit juice; 1/2 cup canned or cooked fruit.
Dairy Products: 1 cup low-fat or skim milk; 1 cup low-fat or nonfat yogurt; 1 1/2 ounces low-fat cheese.
Eggs: 1 egg or 2 egg whites.
Fats and Sweets: to be eaten sparingly.
The Vegetarian Food Pyramid
The Vegetarian Food Pyramid was developed by the Health Connection, a Maryland-based nutrition education group. It is similar to and may be substituted for the food pyramid offered by the US Department of Agriculture. Fats, sugars, and salt are at the top of the pyramid, meaning they are to be eaten sparingly; grains and cereals are at the broad base of the pyramid to show that they form the basis of a healthy vegetarian diet.
Eat Sparingly: Vegetable fats and oils, sweets, and salt
Eat Moderately or 2–3 servings per day: Legumes, nuts, seeds, and meat alternatives; low-fat or nonfat dairy products and fortified alternatives
Eat Generously or 5–9 servings per day: Fruits, vegetables
Eat Liberally or 6–11 servings per day: Whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, and rice
getting Kids to eat well
Start your children young — right when they begin to eat table food — and introduce them to a variety of foods.
Provide a variety of healthy nutrient-rich foods for your child to choose from.
Invite your kids to help with meal preparation. Get them involved with safe cooking methods and safety in the kitchen.
Respect your child's likes as well as dislikes.
Encourage mealtime to be a fun time.
As a parent, set good examples, and be a positive role model. Kids learn food habits from parents.
Never force your children to clean their plates.
Avoid using food as a reward. Food then becomes a comfort and children may then look to food for emotional satisfaction.
If your child doesn't eat much at certain times, don't worry. Her caloric intake will be balanced over a week's time. She may eat "like a bird" one day and "like a horse" on another!
Try to determine what causes your child to refuse certain foods. Are they too hard, soft, cold, hot, or spicy?
Avoid labeling foods as "bad" or "good." It is not a particular food, but a diet over time that influences your child's health.
Kids need to eat often. Be sure snacks are as nutritious as the food you'd serve in a meal.
Let your child fill his own plate from the choices that are available.
Don't forbid certain foods, such as candy or other sweets. It only creates a battleground and makes sweets more appealing than ever!
When you introduce new foods, remember that your children have five senses. Let them feel the food, smell it, fully explore and experience it.
If your child doesn't like what you've prepared for dinner, don't fix him something else. The less attention paid to a missed meal the better off you are. Save the portion for later, when your child announces he is hungry.
Your child probably has some favorite fruits and vegetables. When introducing new food items, serve them with favorites for the pleasant association.
Concentrate on the nutrition your child is getting, not how much food she is eating.
Make whole-grain breads the standard bread in your diet. The extra nutrients will pay off over time.
Limit fruit juice to three or four ounces a day. Don't offer juice before meals, as it may curb appetites.
Talk to your kids about healthy eating. Get them involved in discussions about it. Involve them in making food choices at the grocery store. When you get your children involved with planning and preparation, this helps them to understand the role nutrition plays in their lives.
A great website for current nutritional guidelines is www.keepkidshealthy.com/nutrition/vegetarian_diets.html. Here, you will find good information regarding the amount of calories, fat, iron, and other nutrients that is considered necessary for children's health.
stocking your Pantry
It's easy to create a wholesome meal when you have a variety of ingredients available. These are some of the items we recommend always having on hand.
Beans, canned: black, fava, kidney, white kidney (also known as cannellini), navy, vegetarian baked, and vegetarian refried
Bulgur wheat (known as kasha or buckwheat groats; great for adding to dishes for extra nutrients)
Canola oil (lowest in saturated fat of all oils)
Carob (a chocolate substitute; virtually fat free, no cholesterol, and low in sodium)
Catsup (sugar free)
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans; a good source of calcium)
Corn, canned Cornmeal Cornstarch Couscous (mixes come in many flavors; use in place of rice or pasta)
Dates (low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in iron and potassium)
Egg Replacer (for those who want to avoid real eggs)
Flour, all-purpose and whole-wheat (combine to get that extra fiber)
Herbs and seasonings (dried herbs for the pantry; fresh for the refrigerator)
Honey (no fat or cholesterol; wildflower has a wonderful taste)
Jams and jellies, naturally sweetened
Kamut pasta (high-protein pasta; great taste)
Molasses: blackstrap and regular (blackstrap has a heartier flavor; one tablespoon provides 19 mg calcium and 0.5 mg iron)
Nuts: almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts
Okra, canned (high in carbohydrates and fiber; provides some calcium and vitamins A and C)
Olive oil (substantially less saturated fat [14%] than butter [66%]; extra virgin tastes better)
Pancake mix, whole-grain
Pasta, whole-wheat (has five times the fiber of regular white pasta)
Peaches, canned, in unsweetened juice
Peanut butter (no sugar or salt; fresh ground is best)
Pineapple, canned, in unsweetened juice
Potatoes (store in a cool, dry place)
Quinoa pasta (ancient Incan high-protein grain; nutty taste; use in place of rice or pasta)
Rolled oats (high in iron and calcium; don't use instant)
Soy sauce, reduced-sodium
Split green peas
Sweet potatoes (store in a cool, dry place)
Tahini (sesame seed butter; for making hummus)
Tamari sauce (a naturally brewed soy sauce with no sugar; interchangeable with regular soy sauce)
Tomato sauce and tomato paste
Tomatoes, canned, crushed, and whole
Tortilla chips, baked
Vegetable broth, canned or bouillon cubes
Vegetable cooking spray, such as Pam
Vinegar: balsamic, rice, and apple cider
Wheat germ (a good source of protein, potassium, vitamin E, iron, folic acid, zinc, and magnesium; sprinkle on casseroles, cereal, veggies)
stocking your Refrigerator
Having a well-stocked refrigerator is a bit more difficult than keeping the pantry shelves full, but most of the following items keep well and are essential to nutritious vegetarian meals.
Berries, fresh or frozen Bread, whole-grain
Broccoli (full of anti-oxidants like beta-carotene; high in calcium, vitamin C, and phosphorus.)
Carrots (a rich source of beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A, considered to be an anti-cancer agent)
Cheeses, low-fat: cheddar; Monterey Jack; mozzarella; goat- and sheep-milk cheese, such as feta
Cream cheese, low-fat (also known as Neufchâtel)
Cucumbers (kids may prefer the slightly bitter skin peeled off)
Fruit, fresh or frozen Green beans
Greens: collards, kale, turnip
Herbs: parsley, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, sage, cilantro, basil
Kefir (a cultured drink made from cow, goat, or soy milk; highly nutritious)
Juice, frozen concentrate
Lettuce (the darker green the leaf, the more nutrients; discard outermost leaves of conventionally grown varieties to avoid pesticides)
Meat substitutes: Yves has numerous meatless products, including hot dogs, burgers, bologna, turkey, salami, casseroles, and so on. Lightlife Foods also has a nice selection of hot dogs, burgers, low-fat "beef" and "chicken" strips. You can buy meatless bratwurst, meatballs, portabella burgers, barbequed ribs, and many other meatless products that taste very good and are either vegetable or soy protein. Many of these products are low-fat and some are vegan.
Mixed vegetables, frozen
Mushrooms: try different kinds, particularly portabellas
Peas: snow, sweet, and snap
Peppers: green and red
Plantains (high in potassium and a good source of vitamin A)
Ricotta cheese, low-fat
Salad dressing, low-fat
Sour cream, low-fat
Spinach, fresh or frozen
Sprouts: try different kinds
Squash: butternut, acorn, and spaghetti
Tofu, water-packed; fresh or boxed; regular or lite. (Tofu is made from soybeans and is easy to digest. It is cholesterol free, low in saturated fat, and a good source of calcium, iron, B vitamins and vitamin E. Soybeans contain 35% usable protein — more than any other unprocessed plant or animal food. Tofu comes in soft, medium, and firm consistencies.)
tips for Becoming a vegan
It is easier than you might think to convert most vegetarian recipes to vegan ones. Generally, you may substitute maple syrup for honey. You may also cut cheese made from cow's, sheep's, or goat's milk from vegetarian recipes and substitute soy cheese. However, the consistency and taste will be affected. You might want to test this first!
Where eggs are listed as an ingredient, replace with Ener-G Egg Replacer or one of the following ingredients, which are equivalent to 1 egg:
1 banana (for cake recipes)
2 tablespoons mashed silken tofu
1/4 cup applesauce
When you wish to replace the dairy in a recipe, substitute:
Soy milk, rice milk, potato milk, or nut milk (and sometimes water)
Crumbled tofu in place of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, even in cheesecakes!
When you wish to make a vegan burger:
Harvest Burger has a vegan version called Grillers Vegan; Boca Burgers also has a vegan version. Check the labels.
When you wish to use a chicken substitute:
There are many chicken substitutes on the market these days. Some of them are vegan.
Lightlife Chicken Strips and White Wave Chicken-Style Seitan are both vegan, as are many of the Health Is Wealth varieties. Double check the labels.
When you wish to use a pre-made pancake, waffle, or baking mix:
Mixes such as pancake and waffle that do not contain dairy or eggs are usually vegan. Learn to read the labels, however, as some products have animal products when you might assume they do not. On the Internet www.Veg.org is a great resource for additional information.
Some Vegan Protein Sources:
Black bean sauce
Nuts: peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts
Seeds: sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, flax-seed, hemp seed
Soy sauce and miso
TVP (textured vegetable protein)
Various other milks made from nuts
Today it is considerably easier to eat vegan because of a much larger choice of foods, both prepared and fresh. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Better than Peanut Butter & Jelly by Marty Mattare, Wendy Muldawer. Copyright © 2006 Marty Mattare & Wendy Muldawer. Excerpted by permission of McBooks Press, Inc..
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