Vegan Diets: Are They Recommended for Kids?
It’s an undeniable fact that vegan diets have become more and more popular in recent years. At the same time, vegan diets in children are also becoming more common.
There are many celebrities who suddenly decide to change their lifestyle and become vegans. They may have many reasons for this, but, above all, they do it because they believe it will improve their health.
Most humans are carnivores and have a diet rich in protein. However, veganism proposes a diet that excludes any food of animal origin (especially meat). They believe they should respect animals’ rights and reduce the impact on the environment.
What is veganism?
Veganism is a lifestyle, and vegans are opposed to any form of animal abuse or exploitation. When we understand this, we can correct the mistaken idea that veganism is just a diet.
For example, veganism also excludes certain beauty products that contain different ingredients of animal origin. Vegans tend to reject these products because animals may have suffered in this process. The same goes for clothing made from animal skins.
What are vegan diets like?
To know how vegan diets can influence and affect a child, we first need to know what they are exactly. This type of diet excludes all types of food of animal origin and its derivatives. So, meat is obviously out of the question, but so too are eggs, honey from bees, milk, cheese, yogurt, among others.
Vegans only consume food of vegetable origin. They believe they can find all the necessary nutrients for their bodies in seeds, grains, vegetables, fruits, cereals, among others.
In contrast, it should be noted that vegetarians do consume products derived from animals (eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, honey) but not meat. Thus, vegans are much stricter when it comes to selecting what they eat.
Vegan diets in children
Veganism states that human beings don’t need to eat any type of animal product in order to live a healthy life. This makes things complicated and quite controversial when it comes to children. It is evident that the needs of an adult aren’t the same as those of a child.
When children are at the peak of their growth, they should receive higher amounts of protein, and also certain vitamins, which are all essential for proper growth. We’re talking here about muscle growth, as well as the development of their bones and brain.
If parents watch over their child’s vegan diet then everything should go smoothly. The problem appears when a correct diet isn’t adhered to, one which complements the vitamins that animal products provide.
Problems with children’s vegan diets if they aren’t closely monitored
Problems with calcium
Some vegetables have a good amount of calcium but they aren’t suitable for children under 12 months old. This is the case of broccoli or Swiss chard. In addition to calcium, these also contain large amounts of nitrates that can affect children under one year of age.
Lack of iron
Iron is a fundamental element which helps prevent children from developing anemia. Anemia develops when there is a lack of red blood cells. Although certain vegetables do contain iron, it is different from that of animal sources. The iron that plants possess is absorbed by the human body in smaller quantities.
Problems with vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for the development of the human brain, and the cells throughout our entire body. Vegan diets in children must not lack this vitamin. The problem is that it is almost impossible to get it solely from vegetables.
The only way to compensate for this type of deficiency is with vitamin supplements. Even the nervous system can be affected if there is a deficiency of this vitamin in the body.
Vitamin D and Zinc
When there is an absence of vitamin D, then our bodies won’t be able to absorb calcium very easily, and this can affect the development and growth of our bones. A zinc deficiency can also harm our bodies – in this case our immune system.
All these nutrients can be compensated for under strict control of a child’s diet from birth. Vegan diets in children cannot be improvised. Although this is the parents’ decision, they must do all they can to ensure the optimal development of their child.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Baroni L., Goggi S., Battaglino R., Berveglieri M., et al., Vegan nutrition for mothers and children: practical tools for healthcare providers. Nutrients, 2018.
- Simonson W., Should vitamin C routinely be given with oral iron supplements? Geriatr Nurs, 2019. 40 (3): 327-328.