by Matt Weik
Having a proper and balanced diet is extremely important, especially during childhood. It is mainly because, during the initial stages, kids need a nutritious diet for their overall growth and development. But what if you have a budding vegan at home? If your child cuts off an entire food group, is it possible to get enough nutrition? Let’s see if a vegan diet is safe for kids.
It should be noted that no child comes into this world as a vegan. It’s a lifestyle change that is brought on by their parents or by the child deciding to go plant-based as they age. The thought that any child is born following a plant-based or meat-based diet is ridiculous.
That being said, with the increasing popularity of plant-based or vegan diets, not just adults but even kids are switching to vegan diets. But it is important to know that raising a vegan baby comes with a lot of risks. So, if you are raising a vegan baby, here’s everything you need to know.
Disclaimer: It is recommended to speak with your child’s pediatrician before changing their diet and lifestyle to a more plant-based/vegan regimen.
Is a Vegan Diet & Lifestyle Okay for Toddlers or Kids?
The answer is: YES — provided your kids get all the necessary nutrients required for growth and development. If your baby has a well-planned diet containing all the crucial micronutrients, then, of course, a vegan diet is safe and beneficial.
As per Amy Chow, a pediatric dietician, it’s safe to offer a plant-based diet to kids. During the initial months, your kid just needs one type of food: Breast milk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the introduction of solids after 6 months. And breast milk is vegan, as it is human milk and does not possess any conflicts. So, if you are planning to raise a vegan baby, you can choose to breastfeed for a longer duration. This is primarily because breast milk contains all the nutrients that a non-vegan baby can get from other sources initially.
The Benefits of a Vegan Diet for Kids
Here are a few facts that can prove a plant-based diet is good for kids:
- As per the American Dietary Association, a well-planned diet supplemented with Vitamin B12 is appropriate for all life stages. And the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that vegan eating is a healthy choice for infants and toddlers.
- It’s not the lack of animal products but the lack of healthy fruits and vegetables that are affecting the health of the children. Studies show that the majority of children consume excess dairy products and meat (artery-clogging saturated fat).
- Studies show that 40% of children (age 6-11) have a high cholesterol level. Plus, high blood pressure is also increasing in this age group. Next, 1 in 3 American children are overweight or obese. All these things increase the chances of heart disease. A vegan diet can help avoid this.
- Type 2 diabetes rates have jumped in the past few years. And studies show that people consuming vegan diets are at a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Nutrients That Need Special Attention
When following a vegan diet, you miss out on various essential nutrients that are required for growth and development. Make sure to find a supplement or a food item rich in these specific nutrients. You need to pay close attention to the following:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Tip: Consult a nutritionist to ensure you meet your child’s nutritional needs if they follow a vegan diet.
When Should Your Kid NOT Go Vegan?
Though a vegan diet is safe, there are circumstances where you should avoid your kids going vegan. Here’s when:
- If your kid is a picky eater, there are higher chances of nutritional deficiency.
- If your child is facing any type of health-related issue, it is better to consult a doctor first.
- If your child has various food allergies like nuts, seeds, and more, it can be challenging to switch to a vegan diet and make it work.
Thinking About Going Green?
If you consider having your child follow your vegan lifestyle or if your child wants to follow a vegan diet, it is recommended to consult a medical professional first. This ensures that your child gets the proper nutrition they need while following a vegan diet. A dietician can provide guidance regarding nutritional requirements and making healthy lifestyle choices.