Vegetarian options are continually expanding, making it easier for vegetarians to meet their nutritional needs through food sources. Leveraging all food groups including vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, protein and fats aids in more easily achieving nutrients needs on a daily basis. For example, the inclusion of dairy provides Vitamin B12, which is necessary to prevent anemia. If a vegetarian is not yet routinely achieving the vegetarian intake requirements as recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, additional supplementation may be suggested until adequate intake is achieved.
For example, if a vegetarian does not get adequate dairy, soymilk, rice milk or fortified cereals, they may need to supplement Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. If fish or eggs are missing from a vegetarian diet, supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids may be required as plant-based fatty acid intake in insufficient for human needs. If there are certain food groups that are more difficult to include on a daily basis, the key is slowly adding more in (e.g., one additional time per week, then two additional times, and so on). Ultimately you’ll most likely have to try new products and plan ahead.
There is a lot of nutrition information out there, and while you may be eager to set your child up for healthy lifestyle choices, it is important to understand the age appropriateness of certain teachings.
Specifically, children ages three to five years typically learn best with hands on tasks that involve tearing, mashing and washing. They will not be extensively using utensils, but they will still be practicing some motor skills. They will learn most about nutrition through observance of the other tasks going on around them.
Kids ages five to seven years will have much improved motor skills, and safe and appropriate cooking utensils can be used. There are kid friendly products such as knives, graters and mixing sets. Think ahead and prepare for additional tasks that can easily be incorporated with just a bit of prep (e.g., have your child crack the egg in a small separate dish and then add it to the other ingredients). Additionally, at this age, kids can begin incorporating newly acquired school-based skills in the kitchen. For example, a recipe may be practice for reading.
Once your child becomes a teen, they should be able to participate in almost any part of meal preparation. This may also be a great time to begin introduction of more formal nutrition education. Eatright.org offers lessons on Teaching Your Teen about Nutrition Facts Panels. This is a unique opportunity for you to help your kids forgo many of the nutrition myths out there.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” While it is good to ensure that we are fueling our days, a typical breakfast at seven or eight in the morning may not be the answer for you. Everyone is different and this includes hunger cues and food preferences. If you find that you just aren't hungry in the morning, explore why. From there, you can implement possible solutions to make your first meal complete and convenient.
To accomplish this, you’ll first want to ensure that mealtimes in general are prioritized and that distractions are minimized. My favorite hashtag is #cookingisalifeskill. No matter who you are, you need to know how to feed yourself! What you do prepare may depend upon your schedule, desire to cook and taste preferences. You can find a solution that fits you and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help. Keep in mind that you may need to leverage a weekend day where you can pay attention to routines including eating, restroom use and physical activity. There may be some connections between bowel movements and mealtime readiness, for example.
If you feel confident that you truly are not hungry until after it’s time to head out the door, get prepared. Perhaps a higher fat milk or yogurt drink is a quick solution just before you leave the house. This is especially key if a morning snack is may not be feasible. Remember that your body has been fasting all night long.
Overall, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Cheyenne is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in the Charleston, SC area.