Vegan diets for kids are growing in popularity according to a research study from the Vegetarian Resource Group. The 2012 poll shows that more children (and their parents) are choosing a vegan lifestyle. If this is something you or your children are considering, here’s what you need to know to make a healthy and happy switch to veganism.
Health Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Vegan diets for children are endorsed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics. As long as parents make the commitment to ensure their children are receiving the right balance of nutrients through vegan food, children can be just as healthy (or healthier) as with a vegetarian or standard diet. Children who are raised on a vegan diet learn quickly how to make healthy food choices, as they are generally presented with more healthy foods on a daily basis. Their diet is lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as pesticides and food additives. By converting to a vegan diet you can help your children avoid obesity and maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives. However, it’s important to note that in addition to ensuring healthy levels of protein in the child’s diet, there are also other vitamins and minerals (such as calcium, iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B12) that may require supplements to ensure healthy levels for growing children.
Unless you are starting your child off very young with a vegan lifestyle, it is advisable to make a gradual change. Start by cutting back slowly on meat, dairy, and eggs, while introducing new foods to supplement what you are removing. For example, replace meat with beans and almond milk for cow’s milk. Let your child be involved in the process by offering him or her choices for meals. And be sure to keep lots of fresh vegetables on hand for snacks, as well as nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Although a bit of weight loss is typical when switching to a vegan diet, you want to keep an eye on this as well as your child’s energy levels and overall health. If you notice anything unusual you may want to talk to your physician or a nutritionist to ensure that your child is getting all the nutrients they need out of the vegan diet. Also don’t forget vegan treats like sorbets and fresh fruit to smooth the way forward to a happy and healthy vegan child! Always consult your physician or other health care professional before starting any diet program to determine if it is right for you or your child. Is your child vegan? Or have you considered a vegan diet for your child? Please comment below. Photo: UGA College of Ag