Every parent has some concern for childhood nutrition. You want your children to have a diet that will help them grow into healthy adults.
If your child is going to have a vegan diet, you might worry about whether they can get everything they need without eating any meat. Fortunately, it is possible for a child to get all of the nutrition they need from a vegan diet. For example, you could try meal delivery, like Yumble's vegetarian meals, that handles the work for you while ensuring your kids get the nutrients they need. When you explore a vegan diet for your kids, you are just going to have to spend a little more time thinking about food choices and find ways to replace some of the nutrients that would come from meat in most diets.
Vegan or Vegetarian?
Before you restructure your child’s diet, you want to make sure you understand the difference between the diets of vegans and vegetarians. A vegetarian diet just excludes meat, but it may still include things like eggs and dairy. A vegan diet not only cuts all of the meat, but it also excludes all animal products. That means no meat, no dairy, and no eggs. Some strict vegans might not even eat honey because it is made by bees.
If your child is a vegetarian, managing their diet will be a little easier. They might not eat meat, but they can still get a lot of nutrition from things like eggs and milk. For children that are going for a vegan diet, it will require a little more planning and a little more work.
Nutrition for Vegan Kids
A vegan diet can be healthy for children. In fact, you should be happy that your child is actually thinking about his or her food choices. With that said, you will have to pay attention to some of the following nutrients to make sure there are no gaps in their diet.
Protein is very important for the growth and development of children. For most people, a significant portion of their protein comes from meat, so you are going to need to plan for more plant-based protein in your child’s diet. Various nuts and seeds can offer a good source of protein for vegans of all ages. Along with that, you could look to add more whole grains, tofu, green peas, beans and lentils to your child’s diet.
Children need more energy for their size when compared to adults. Unfortunately, vegan and vegetarian diets tend to be less energy-dense than diets that contain meat. To compensate, you are going to need to look for plant-based foods that are higher in calories. One way to do this is to look for foods that are rich in the “good” fats. This includes things like nuts, avocados, olive oil and coconuts.
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in maintaining a healthy nervous system. Unfortunately, it is hard to find natural sources of B12 without eating meat. To make up for the lack of meat in your child’s diet, you will need to try foods like fortified cereals and plant-based milk that are fortified with B12. If you are having trouble getting enough B12 in your child’s diet, you might need to talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.
Without dairy, you are going to have to look for new ways to add calcium to your child’s diet. Adding poppy and chia seeds can be one way to get more calcium without dairy. Leafy greens like kale can also be good for adding calcium to your diet. Fortified foods and beverages can be another way for vegan kids to get more calcium.
Iron helps your body produce red blood cells, and it is another nutrient that you will need to think about if your child is on a vegan diet. Without meat on your child’s plate, you could try spinach as a good source of iron. Other options include beans, broccoli, tofu, seeds and nuts. Just like with many of these other nutrients, you can also look for fortified foods to help your child get more iron.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are good for brain development and cardiovascular health. Since your vegan child will not be getting omega-3 fatty acids from fish, you are going to need to introduce vegetarian alternatives to their diet. Seaweed can be a good source of Omega-3. Beyond that, you have options like kidney beans, chia seeds and walnuts.
Explore the Challenges
Adapting to a vegan diet can be a lot of work in the early stages. Along with that, there are several challenges that come with removing all animal products from your diet. As the parent of a vegan child, you should take the time to learn about some of these challenges so you can help your child manage this new lifestyle.
As an example, many of their favorite treats might be off-limits with their new diet. Without butter, milk and eggs, certain types of cookies and cakes might have to come off the menu. Or you might have to make some changes to their favorite treats. You will have to find egg substitutes and alternatives to butter when you want to make some of these foods.
You will also need to talk about when they eat out. Teach them about finding the vegan meals on a menu or how certain menu items can be adapted for a vegan diet. You will also need to talk to them about what they are going to do when they eat over at a friend’s house or go to a party that does not have vegan food options.
A vegan diet is going to require a little more thought, but it can be just as healthy as any other diet. Encourage your child to eat a healthy diet, teach them about getting the nutrition they need and do what you can to support their choice to eat a vegan diet.
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