What You Should Know Before Raising Your Kids Vegan
The global rise in veganism has led some health-conscious parents to raise their children with an exclusively plant-based diet. Though dietitians and doctors disagree about the exact adverse effects a vegan diet may have on growing children, many contend that with meticulous planning and the counsel of a physician, it is possible to raise a healthy, vegan child. However, there are important factors to consider before raising kids with a vegan lifestyle.
Veganism for developing children does pose certain health concerns. The first year of a child’s life is instrumental to proper growth and development, and as such requires an adequate diet. According to pediatric dietitian Ana Kristina Skrapac, “Growth restriction may occur if the diet is not optimally providing fats, protein and total energy.” This is especially true for infants who require high-energy and calorie dense foods.
Plant-based foods are incredibly nutritious, but if they’re not carefully chosen to suit the needs of children, it may compromise their well-being. Vitamin B12 is essential for the growth of healthy nerve and blood cells, as well as the proper construction of DNA. However, you can only find Vitamin B12 in animal products. Vegans usually choose to supplement their Vitamin B12 intake by eating B12 fortified foods such as spirulina or nutritional yeast—products that parents can also give to their children.
The good news for vegan parents it that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics regards a vegan diet as healthy for both children and adults alike. You can mitigate the problems regarding a lack of nutrients with conscientious care, a selective diet, and doctor supervision.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind if you choose to raise your child on a plant-based diet.
- It’s important to note that there is no vegan plant-based milk that acts as a suitable alternative for human breastmilk. If you are unable to breastfeed, consider non-dairy baby formula (there are no fully vegan formulas on the market) or making your own at home.
- Understand where the vegan diet may fall short. Certain vitamins, namely B12, iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids, are more difficult for children to obtain with plant-based eating.
- Following this diet is completely plausible, and the best way to ensure your child’s safety is by consulting a nutritionist or pediatric dietitian.
Nutrients for Vegan Babies
Here’s a quick list of plant-based foods that contain the most vital nutrients for children. Remember that you can find many of these vitamins in multivitamin supplements as well.
- Protein: well-blended nut butter, tofu, seitan, beans, peas, lentils, edamame, spirulina, quinoa, chia, and hemp seeds.
- Vitamin B12: B12 vitamin supplements or B12 fortified foods like non-dairy milk, meat substitutes, and nutritional yeast.
- Calcium: breastmilk, infant formula, calcium-fortified tofu, almond butter, sesame butter, beans, peas, lentils, leafy greens, and blackstrap molasses.
- Vitamin D: mushrooms, soy milk, almond milk, and time spent in the sun!
- Iron: fortified cereals, beans, peas, lentils, tofu, broccoli, kale, and green beans. Eating iron with Vitamin C helps its absorption, so pair your iron-containing foods with tomatoes, citrus, melons, or bell peppers.
Omega-3: ground walnuts, flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, and canola oil.