Raising a child is a difficult task. You want to make sure they are doing well, are happy and healthy and feel loved. Part of raising children is making sure they are well fed and get the nutrition they need so that they can grow into strong and healthy adults. Over the years people have been debating which foods are good for children and which arent’s. One thing has too much sugar, another too much fat. Something else might be too processed, but always cooking fresh can be expensive and some parents do not have that much time every day.
For years people have discussed whether children can thrive off a plant-based diet or if they require dairy and meat. The decision to raise a child on a vegan diet is highly debated. While some parents believe it is a healthy and ethical choice, others argue that it can be detrimental to a child’s development.
Some people even go as far as to say that veganism is forced on the children and the kids should decide for themselves. My response to that is: Aren’t meat eaters “forcing” their children to consume meat as well? Regardless of ethical or religious beliefs, culture, and region, parents have always used their own ideas around food to feed their children. I’d much rather feed a child a well-balanced, nutritious vegan diet than one full of dairy and meat—both of which have been shown to have negative health impact.
Studies show vegan diet is healthy for children
It’s been proven that you can indeed raise children vegan without problems. First, all infants raised on breast milk are vegan by default. According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegan diet is appropriate for all stages of life, including infancy and childhood, as long as it is well-planned and meets the child’s energy and nutrient needs.
A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition compared the micronutrient intake of vegan, vegetarian, and omni toddlers (ages 1–3). The researchers found that vegan toddlers significantly had higher micronutrient intake than the other two groups. (Vegetarian children came in second.)
As with any diet, vegan parents should be well-informed and prepared. If you only consume processed foods, ready-to-eat meals, deep-fried dishes and food without a lot of nutritional value, you won’t be healthy—and neither would a child. Focus on well-rounded, nutrient-dense, whole plant-based meals. There are many amazing child-friendly, healthy vegan meals and recipes out there.
So, when raising a child vegan, make sure to not just omit animal products and replacing them with plant-based alternatives, but make sure to also include nutritious substitutes such as grains, legumes, and nuts.
Important nutrients to supplement
One of the main concerns regarding a vegan diet for children is the potential for nutrient deficiencies. Animal products are rich in essential nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B12—all of which are especially important for growing children. Lacking these can lead to serious health issues, such as anemia, stunted growth, and a weakened immune system. Having said that, all children—not just vegan—are prone to deficiencies and can benefit from supplements for specific nutrients.
With careful planning, it is possible to obtain all necessary nutrients from vegan sources.
- Protein: beans, lentils, tofu, and quinoa.
- Iron: leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and fortified cereals.
- Zinc: legumes, whole grains, and nuts.
- Calcium: leafy greens, fortified plant milk, and calcium-set tofu.
- Vitamin D: almonds, fortified plant milk.
- Vitamin B12: this is essential for the nervous system. Get it from fortified plant milk, nutritional yeast, and supplements. Moreover, most people have low levels of B12, so it’s recommended that everyone, not only vegans, make sure they get enough of it.
Yes, it’s safe to raise children vegan
Not just can children be raised vegan, a vegan diet also has health benefits for children. Studies have shown that vegan diets are associated with lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Vegan diets are also typically high in fiber, which can promote healthy digestion and reduce the risk of constipation.
So overall, children can easily be raised vegan and, if done correctly, it is even healthier for them than a diet containing meat or dairy. If you need more information on how to raise children vegan, I recommend this post on “Thriving vegan children” as it dives deeper into topics such as supplements and nutritions as well.
Children can be picky eaters, so when preparing meals remember the basic vegan food groups and try to include most of them for each meal:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Grains and Wholegrains
- Pulses (Lentils, Chickpeas, Peas etc.)
- Nuts and Seeds
For a quick and healthy lunch think of things like sandwiches with hummus or vegan cream cheese and veggies, Avocado on toast, a bean wrap with veggies, a lentil pattie or some Falafel. There are many quick meals you can prepare. For amazing vegan recipes that surely will also be loved by children check out the recipe section here at Peaceful Dumpling.
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Photo: Jonathan Borba via Unsplash