By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD
QUESTION: My 10-year-old granddaughter has decided to become a vegetarian. My daughter says she doesn't know what to feed her and says she is mainly eating cheese and now is not eating veggies or fruits. My granddaughter keeps saying she is hungry all the time.
A.V., via e-mail
ANSWER: Here are some suggestions you may want to pass on to your daughter. It's important for your granddaughter to be aware that it's her responsibility (with the help of her parents) to choose a variety of healthy vegetarian foods. Showing her an eating plan for vegetarian children (like the one on VRG's website, <www.vrg.org>) and talking with her about choices from each food group is a good way to get her started thinking creatively. Her mom can work with her to help her develop a list of healthy vegetarian foods that she will eat. Ideally, some of these will be foods she can make herself like veggie burgers, peanut butter sandwiches, and bean burritos.
It might be helpful to look for recipes on VRG's website or in books at your local library. Here are a few simple cookbooks:
- Simply Vegan: Quick Vegetarian Meals by Debra Wasserman and Reed Mangels (Vegetarian Resource Group).
- Kids Can Cook: Vegetarian Recipes by Dorothy Bates (Book Publishing Company).
- The Teen's Vegetarian Cookbook by Judy Krizmanic (Puffin). For grades 5 and up.
In addition, your daughter might like some resources on vegetarianism. VRG's website has a section on vegetarian children and teens. Your granddaughter and her parents may find it helpful to meet with a dietitian who is knowledgeable about vegetarian diets and can do nutrition education while helping them develop meal ideas.
QUESTION: "I was wondering if my being a vegan would affect the health of my daughter who is 11 months old and is still nursing. She is on the small side, but I am only 4' 10". Is it possible to nurse and be a vegan at the same time?"
M.M., via e-mail
ANSWER: It is certainly possible to nurse and be a vegan at the same time! Many vegan moms have successfully breastfed their babies. Be sure that your diet contains a reliable source of vitamin B12 (such as vitamin B12-fortified soymilk, vitamin B12-fortified cereal, Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast, or a vitamin supplement) so that your milk will meet your baby's vitamin B 12 needs.
Also, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns about your daughter's growth. You may want to share the American Dietetic Association's position paper on vegetarian diets (