It’s hard enough sometimes to be a vegan adult. Your friends will think you are weird. Some of them will stop talking to you. Those that remain may make fun of you. Family members can be the most cruel. I have heard many horror stories.
Being a vegan as a an adult is nothing compared to the backlash you get when you talk about raising your child vegan. You will be accused of neglect, abuse, and worse. It doesn’t help when there are some mothers out there harming their children by starving them on a vegan diet. This gives veganism a bad name.
You can probably guess where I come in on the vegan diet for children issue. I think vegan food is the best food for children because I believe its’ the best food for humans. Children are small humans. But you do need to do your homework and make sure they are getting everything they need.
In a recent article by Maylay Mail, two medical nutrition experts weighed in on this subject. As you can probably guess, they didn’t agree at all. I will give this magazine a lot of credit for getting both viewpoints on the subject in their reporting. A lot of news organizations do not. A clip from that article is below.
So, what do the experts think of children who follow vegan diets? Jaclyn Reutens, dietician, Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants, warned that parents need to be aware that a child following a vegan diet is at high risk of several nutrient deficiencies.
“If they still wish to persist with the diet, they need to be very well-informed on how to prevent these deficiencies which will impair growth and development in their child,” she said. Nutrients that vegan children could be missing out on include vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, protein, calcium and iron.
“It’s possible to replace these nutrients with iron, calcium, vitamin D and B12 supplements for a quick boost,” she continued. “However, with protein, they would have to rely on protein from plant sources (tofu, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, soya bean products), which are not as bioavailable to the body as animal sources are.”
Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Hospital’s Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre, suggested that, if done correctly and supplemented in the proper way, a vegan diet is fine for children. “A child can follow a vegan diet at any age as long as it is well planned, with all the essential nutrients. The child should be eating sufficient calories and certain nutrients such as protein, zinc, iron, calcium, Vitamin B12. Breastfeeding is recommended for at least six months and lactating mothers should ensure sufficient nutrient intake while breastfeeding,” said Chia.
Both Chia and Reutens agreed that there’s no need for children to follow a gluten-free diet, unless the child has been diagnosed to have coeliac disease, gluten intolerance or sensitivity by a doctor. “Parents should not self-diagnose and put their child unnecessarily on a gluten-free diet. It will stunt their growth and development,” said Reutens.
I want to repeat here that we think raising your children on a vegan diet is great for them. We have always maintained that. But children are always growing and their nutritional needs are a lot different than adults. So do your homework! Be prepared.
You can read the entire article which includes some personal stories from parents raising their children vegan. It’s a great article and you can read it in it’s entirety by clicking here.