Vegan Diet for Kids: Is My Child Getting The Essential Nutrients

by | January 3, 2018

A Vegan Diet for Kids?

A vegan diet is one that avoids all animal products, including meat, eggs, and dairy. Foods that have an animal source, like gelatin and honey are also omitted from a vegan diet. For many, veganism is about more than food choices; it’s for health, ethical, and/or environmental reasons.

But is this lifestyle healthy for children?

Yes! A well-planned vegan diet offers fulfillment of knowing you’re improving the environment and saving animals lives, it will also give you the enjoyment of living a longer, healthier life. And the same benefits are passed to children being raised vegan!

The vegan diet may provide health benefits, including:

lower cholesterol levels
lower blood pressure
lower intake of saturated fats
more vital nutrition
decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers
healthier body weights.

A Healthy Vegan Diet for Kids

When it comes to children’s diets it’s important to pay attention to the meals you make to ensure proper nutrition. Luckily, there are resources such as Ask A Plant Based Dietitian that can help prepare your family with meal plans for a complete diet. Luckily a Plant Based Diet is incredibly nutrient dense! Focus on including the following nutrients in your diet.

Iron plays a key role in the production of red blood cells. These cells help carry oxygen throughout your body. Good sources of iron include beans, broccoli, leafy greens, whole grains, and tofu. Iron-fortified cereals and plant milks also an easy addition to your child’s diet. Pair with foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges to help the body absorb iron.

Protein is a key nutrient for almost every part of the body. It keeps your skin, bones, muscles, and organs functioning properly. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Your body needs them to break down foods. Vegans get protein from multiple sources such as nuts, peanut butter, seeds, grains, and legumes. Products like tofu and plant milks also provide substantial amounts of protein. Kids are active growing people, be sure to provide lots of snacks to keep them going!

Calcium builds strong bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Vegans actually have less cases of osteoporosis than those who consume animal products. Soybeans and dark leafy greens, like broccoli, bok choy, and kale contain calcium. Children can drink fortified plant milks and juices. Plenty of calcium supplements also are available.

Vitamin D is another nutrient that plays an important role in bone health. It helps the body absorb calcium and promote bone growth, which growing kids need! The human body produces some vitamin D in response to sunlight. Make sure you get your little one outside for a minimum of 10 minutes of sun exposure 3 to 4 times a week. Based on where you live, this should be all the vitamin D you need. Make sure your child always use safe practices in the sun. If you need more of vitamin D, look for fortified products. But be careful and read labels to see what the source is!

Vitamin B12 helps produce red blood cells and prevents anemia. The truth is neither plants nor animals make vitamin B12. Bacteria is actually responsible for producing vitamin B12. Animals get this from eating foods contaminated with vitamin B12, which then technically an animal becomes a source of B12. Try to eat products fortified with this vitamin. This includes plant milk and some cereals. Talk to your pediatrician about a B12 supplement, and of course add some nutritional yeast in your meals for flavor and a boost of B12!

Zinc is important for the immune system, and with school aged children, you want to make sure they can fight off germs. You can find it in beans, nuts, and soy products.

Omega-3 fatty acids improve your heart health and brain function, this is particularly important for a growing child. Nuts and seeds, like flaxseed meal and hemp seed oil are two excellent sources. You also can look for food products fortified with omega-3 from a plant source. Always check the label to make sure it doesn’t come from fish oil!

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.

 

 

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