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Expert Q&A

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How can I replace nutrients if my kid won't eat meat?

Asked by Julie, Orlando, Florida

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My 2-year-old does not eat meat. We've tried different things to help, but he just chews and spits it out once the flavor is gone. What can I try to replace the nutrients he's losing?

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Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thank you for your question. Young children may have a hard time chewing thicker food such as meat, so it can be helpful to keep the pieces very small -- about the size of a pea, for example -- and soft (you may need to tenderize the meat before cooking or try some slow-cooker recipes). If your son is eating the meat long enough to get the flavor out of it, he may still be getting some of the nutrients, such as protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins.

It's possible to get protein and zinc from other foods in the diet such as dairy products, nuts and beans. Iron can be found in seafood, beans, soy products, leafy green vegetables and raisins. Although many of the B vitamins have other nonmeat food sources, vitamin B-12 in particular may be more difficult to get in a diet low in meat and poultry. You can check the labels of fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, which may contain this important nutrient among others.

If you are concerned about your child's overall nutrition, talk to your pediatrician about choosing a multivitamin supplement for your child. In the meantime, try to appreciate the fact that at least your son continues to be willing to try different foods, a habit that will serve him well as he grows older. Good luck!

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