Many dietary and medical experts confirm that a vegetarian diet is a very healthy choice for both adults and children, according to KidsHealth, a website with information on kids and teens. As with any diet, vegetarian cuisine has to be planned out well in order to guarantee all necessary nutrients are being consumed. This is especially important for children because their nutritional needs change as they get older.
One of the main concerns with a vegetarian diet is that a child will not consume enough protein. On the contrary, there are plenty of protein-packed meal options. A hearty chili consisting of red kidney beans and textured vegetable protein or a ground beef substitute is full of protein. Make vegetarian burgers out of lentils and ground walnuts or black beans and tofu instead of with ground beef. Bean dips and hummus can be served with a child's favorite tortilla or pita chips. Many protein-filled Mexican meals can be made vegetarian quite easily with a meat substitute or refried beans replacing beef or chicken. Vegetarian hot dogs or sausages, typically made with soy, are also a great and tasty way to ensure protein consumption.
Starchy foods are important to any child's diet, and there are many kid-friendly recipes based on these carbohydrate-filled foods. Whole wheat pasta can be utilized many ways in order to suit even the pickiest of eaters. Macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and tomato sauce, meatless lasagna, cheese and vegetable- filled tortellini and cannelloni stuffed with ricotta cheese and crushed tomatoes are all great meatless options for children. French fries are an easy starchy side dish, although sweet potato fries offer more nutritional value. Asian-inspired dishes with brown rice or rice noodles and peanut sauce offer some protein as well.
Vegetables are often the trickiest food group to convince young children to eat, but they are an essential part of the vegetarian diet. If steamed vegetables with a light butter sauce do not appeal to your children, there are other ways to include them. One popular way is to make pizza with lots of frozen spinach mixed in with pizza sauce before adding cheese and other vegetable toppings. Adding extra vegetables to other meals, such a burritos, vegetarian burgers and pasta dishes is an easy way to incorporate them. Another option is fajitas with vegetables and meatless chicken strips.
Breakfast and dessert are the easiest ways to incorporate fruit into a vegetarian meal. Try making a smoothie with your child's favorite frozen fruit and real fruit juice, milk or yogurt. Add blueberries or bananas to muffin and pancake recipes. A fruit salad made with fresh berries, pineapple and melons is great for breakfast or dessert. For another great dessert, use an ice cream maker to make healthy fresh fruit sorbets.