Is It Healthy For Children To Follow A Vegan Diet?

More and more parents are leaning toward plant-based diets for their children. As experts warn that we are all eating too much meat and barely half the recommended daily intake of vegetables, veganism is gaining popularity as a dietary choice.

Raising vegan children can be difficult, and does require careful research, planning and consideration of nutritional guidelines for their age, however it’s not impossible.

The vegan diet excludes all foods derived from animals including eggs and dairy products, and can deprive a child (or an adult) of some key nutrients. The ones of greatest concern are vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. You can get B-12 from your diet only by eating meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to abnormal growth, mental retardation, and other health problems. For that reason, it is recommended that vegan children take a B-12 supplement. Follow the dosage recommendations on products.

Omega-3s are called “essential” fatty acids because our bodies can’t make them so we have to get them from our diets. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a heart-healthy fat that also plays a role in brain function. To make sure that vegan children get adequate amounts of these healthy fats, it is recommended that vegan children take an algae-derived essential fatty acid supplement. It would be wise to speak to a health professional or nutritionist to find the best supplement that can provide both EPA and DHA in adequate amounts.

Vegans also risk not getting enough iron, zinc, and calcium. To make sure your child gets enough iron, combine foods high in vitamin C (citrus fruits as well as many different fruits and vegetables) with foods containing iron. Good vegetable sources of iron include cereals, grains, lentils and beans, dates, prunes, raisins and greens. Zinc is found in grains, legumes, nuts and spinach. The best vegan sources of calcium are sesame seeds, collards, broccoli, sea vegetables, and tofu that is coagulated with calcium (check the label to make sure). You also can get calcium-fortified cereals, orange juice and soymilk.

Eating and following an appropriately planned vegan diet has become slightly easier since most vegan and vegetarian products, such as soymilk and fake meats, are now fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B-12.

 

It is also important to make sure that your child’s diet is well balanced and varied. Don’t assume that a vegan diet is automatically a healthy one, even if you ensure that your child is getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals. It is just as important for vegans to go easy on sweets and processed foods as it is for everyone else.

Overall I would suggest that a vegetarian diet, including dairy or even fish is better for a growing child than strict veganism and children are supported to make their own dietary choices as they grow older.

 

Gabriella Peacock, Founder of GP Nutrition

 

 

About The Author

Gabriela Peacock
Family Nutritional Therapist

Gabriela Peacock completed BSc (Hons) in Health Science (Nutritional Therapy) from the University of Westminster and Nutritional Therapy Diploma from The College of Naturopathic Medicine, London. Gabriela is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT), adheres to the strict BANT Code of Ethics and Practice. A background in fashion modeling enlightened her to the importance of a nutritious diet and its impact on maintaining a youthful body image. Through the application of Nutritional Science, Gabriela looks to identify biochemical imbalances which may prevent optimal health. Guidance is tailored to complement medical treatment and promote health through the provision of nutrient rich food choices and supplement protocols. Gabriela's approach is patient-centred and evidence-based: she recognizes that each person is an individual, with unique requirements and differing health goals. Patients can expect tailor- made support based on comprehensive health screens, dietary assessment, laboratory testing and ongoing nutritional management. Amongst other diagnostic tools, Gabriela offers wide range of tests to identify systemic imbalances. These tests include: Comprehensive Digestive Health Analysis Food Intolerances and Allergies Cardiovascular Testing Assessment of Hormonal Imbalances Nutritional Health Screening As well as addressing individual diagnosis, Gabriela has developed programme themes on the basis of concerns she has most commonly encountered in her London-based patients, and reflecting her specialist research interests. These include: Weight Management Detoxification & Liver Cleanse Immune Support Healthy Skin & Ageing

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