Essential Nutrients For Growing Vegan Kids
As parents, we all wonder if our vegan kids are getting the proper amounts of all the right nutrients, especially when the children are younger and can be pickier! Some of the important vitamins and minerals that you should be paying attention to in your 1-3 year old’s vegan diet include the following:
What do vegan kids need?
Your toddler is recommended to get about 500 mg per day of calcium. The good news is that consumption can average out during the week so they don’t HAVE to get 500 mg every single day. This means that if your vegan kids only get 450 mg today, tomorrow they can get 550 mg and it will average out. One of the best vegan sources of calcium is leafy greens, such as collards, mustard greens, bok choy and kale. There is also a wide range of fortified foods including select plant milks, tofu, cereals, tempeh, blackstrap molasses, and almonds.
Vitamin D is made by the body and activated by the sun (UVB rays). However, daily sun exposure is not practicable, possible, or even recommended for everyone. Vegan toddlers that get little to no sun exposure should be getting 600 UI of Vitamin D2 or Vegan D3 every day. There are also supplements that you can use, including sprays, which makes administering the vitamins a lot easier, even for the most stubborn of two-year-olds. Note that not all Vitamin D3 sources are vegan, it is most commonly derived from lanolin (sheep’s wool) so be sure you are checking labels.
Toddlers aged from 1-3 need to be getting about 7 mg/day. Great sources of non-heme iron include legumes like lentils, tofu, lima beans, grains such as quinoa, oatmeal and fortified cereals, nuts and seeds, and vegetables like tomatoes and collard greens. Incorporate these iron-rich foods into their diet with foods high in Vitamin C in order to help your little one’s body absorb as many nutrients as possible.
Toddlers need to get about 15 mg of Vitamin C per day. This is pretty easy to do because fruits and vegetables are so rich in this nutrient. Deficiencies are very rare and scurvy has not been a common ailment since the 1800’s. Vitamin C also helps to absorb Iron. Some great sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, strawberries, and broccoli.
Up until the age of 8, your little ones will need to be getting about 90 mcg of iodine daily for proper thyroid function. You can achieve this by incorporating sea vegetables, such as nori or kelp) into their diet (they give you DHA as well!). It is important to note that the amount of kelp required would be a very tiny amount each day. A diet without any salt at all is recommended for children. If your family does use salt, it’s recommend that you use iodized salt instead of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt, which do not contain any iodine. Sea salt and pink Himalayan salt also do not have any scientifically proven advantages over iodized salt.
It is recommended that all vegan kids supplement their diet with Vitamin B12. Toddlers need a minuscule amount at 0.9 mcg per day. You can get this with nutritional yeast, fortified plant-based milk, mock meats, some fortified cereals, or through vitamin drops or tablets. B12 deficiencies can cause anaemia, mental health disorders and, in very serious cases, nervous system damage. This is an absolutely essential vitamin to supplement for vegan children (adults too!).
A very important omega-3 fatty acid that can be difficult to consume in a vegan diet. DHA is vital for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants and toddlers. DHA is generally found in fish sources so vegans often supplement this much needed nutrient. However, it can be consumed through seaweed, nori, kelp, chlorella, and spirulina.
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