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Tips for Parents of Veggie Kids

React with Respect
Chances are, your child's interest in vegetarianism represents more than youthful rebellion. It may reflect genuine concerns about animal rights or environmental protection. You may chuckle at a six-year-old who declares himself a vegetarian, only to then order a Happy Meal, but parents should focus on the child's intent, rather than the actual result. Ask: What is my child trying to say through food choices? If you show respect for your child's decisions on what to eat, your child is more likely to show respect for your concerns about nutrition.

Make a Plan for Mealtimes
Many busy parents are too strapped for time to cook separate meals for their vegetarian kids. Rather than let resentments boil over, talk with kids directly and work out a plan: "I have to work late Tuesdays and Thursdays, so on those days the best I can do is microwave a veggie burger for you. But on Mondays and Wednesdays I'll make a meatless meal the whole family can enjoy."

Be Vigilant About Iron Intake
Meat is a good source of iron, but not the only source. Nutritionists say that increasing Vitamin C intake will help with iron absorption. Cooking in cast-iron pots and pans can also add iron to the diet. Citrus fruits, blackstrap molasses, dark green leafy vegetables, and soybeans are also good sources of iron.

Watch the Junk Food
One real concern for all children -- vegetarians and meat eaters alike -- is too much junk food in the diet. Make sure meat or dairy products are replaced by healthy foods, not cake and cookies. A colorful plate of cut-up fruits or veggies and dip will tempt many kids while others may prefer whole grain crackers and peanut butter.

Though it may require a little creativity, respecting your child's dietary wishes is worth the effort.

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