If you follow a vegan or plant based diet yourself, you might consider having your kids do the same, but you’re probably also curious to find out the pros and cons of this nutritional approach when applied to growing children.
Whether you are an advocate of a plant based diet for children or not, most of our children do need to take in more fruits, veggies, and wholegrains. The more natural colors they consume in their diet, the more varied the nutrients they receive will be. It’s important that half of your child’s plate consists of colorful fruits and veggies at every meal. Encouraging them to snack on nuts instead of a bag of crisps will also be much more beneficial for their health, as will changing their white toast to baladi or wholegrain bread.
That being said, there can be serious implications to them eating a strictly plant based diet if it is not done correctly (preferably with the help of a professional). For example, if the elimination of dairy is not balanced with other sources of calcium and vitamin D (such as leafy greens, nuts, and tahini), you could be putting your child at risk of bone deficiencies.
Growing children also need high levels of protein to cater for the growth of every cell in their body. It’s vital that you are meeting their requirements with plant based sources of protein. Variety is key, as different plant proteins contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids, unlike animal proteins which contain all the essential amino acids your child needs. So, if your child only eats one type of bean all the time, they would not be receiving adequate protein no matter how much of it they eat.
Iron is another nutrient that you need to watch out for if they are eating plant based. Children under five and girls around the age of puberty are particularly susceptible to such deficiencies, as that is when their bodies require adequate levels of iron the most.
We believe that moderation is key at The Daily Crisp, and applying the basics of a healthy plant based diet most of the time while feeding your children a little animal products every now and then is currently considered the healthiest approach. That way, they would be getting the benefits of healthful plant based foods whilst also meeting their requirements from limited animal products, and not be put in the situation of having to take supplements. Applying a very strict diet to children can sometimes have the opposite effect to what you want, where they end up wanting to try every unhealthy food they come across as soon as they get the chance to make their own food choices!
In conclusion, it is not impossible for your child to eat a plant based diet, but you need to pay very close attention to their requirements and always consult with a Nutritionist to help ensure that your child is not experiencing any deficiencies in their nutrition.