I feel like i am a little too young and a little too focused on school and building a life and career to be thinking about children, haha. But I have been asked this question several times so I thought it was about time that I answered.
When it comes to children, elderly and sick people they have different nutrition requirements compared to a healthy adult and this is important to remember. Especially when some vegans preach that “everyone can be vegan” which I don’t personally believe. The first thing to keep in mind is that veganism is an ethical belief that YOU choose. It is not just a diet, but a lifestyle and a belief and it is not something you can force onto someone else. But also a vegan diet isn’t necessarily the healthiest, especially not for everyone. For some people it can be the healthiest diet for example that a vegan diet generally has lower cholesterol, lower saturated fat but also if someone has kidney problems there is less protein and so it won’t be a huge strain on the kidneys as well as a high fiber intake which is usually positive.
So lets start off with that breast milk has everything a child need which is very amazing – all the nutrients and energy so that a child can triple their size and weight within a year… the fastest growth spurt in your whole life. But then when you begin introducing real food to your child they have certain energy and nutritional requirements that vary from adults.
First off, children don’t need as much energy as a healthy adult who is active, so that means that from a nutritional perspective they have even less room in their diet for things like chocolate, ice cream and cake. All the energy they are eating should come from nutritionally dense food so that they reach their daily vitamin and mineral requirements. This is the same for elderly and even sick people who have a lower energy intake, then they don’t have as much room in their diet to eat unhealthy.
Also when a child is very young they shouldn’t consume a huge amount of fiber as their stomach and intestines aren’t equppied to handle too much fiber – so that of course eliminates a lot of vegan food. But also children who are growing do need to fill their protein requirement everyday so that they can grow, not to mention calcium and D vitamin is very important for a growing child. Because children don’t have as much stored up in their bodies it is even more important for them to reach their daily requirement. So that means 1) Protein combining properly so that a child gets their daily protein and all the essential amino acids. 2) D vitamins and even calcium supplements can be helpful as there isn’t a lot of D vitamin in vegan food (So D vitamin drops can be recommended…. In nordic countries all children get D vitamin drops because of the lack of sunlight, so extra important if your child is eating a plant based diet), and if the child doesn’t consume a lot of fortified cereal or non dairy milk they might not get enough calcium. But most important is b12…. If an adult has eaten meat and dairy for several years or months in their life they will have built up a storage of b12 in their liver, however they still need daily/weekly dose of B12 when they go vegan and it can up to 2 years for the storage to be depleted and signs of b12 show. And if you are b12 deficient it can affect your nervous system and other major consequences you want to avoid. So if a child has never eaten meat or dairy they won’t have that b12 storage and so it is very important they get b12 supplements and keep taking them.
Also it is recommended for a growing child to have a rather high fat diet, up to 50% the first few months after they stop being breast fed and then overtime the fat intake decreases and carb and protein intake can increase and by about the age of 2 they can have the same recommended 50%carbs, 25-40%fat and 10-20% protein that is recommended for adults. (But of course they don’t have the same energy requirements as adults.) Also by about 2 the child can begin being introduced more to a fiber rich diet, but of course doing it slowly so that they don’t get any problems or bloating or stomach cramps.
So to answer the question, would I raise my children vegan? Yes and no….. Because I study nutrition and am aware of all of these facts and what to be aware about when eating a vegan diet both for adults and children it would be easier to be aware that they are eating enough and right. However I can’t force my child to be vegan, and if my child needed dairy or meat to be healthy yes I would give it to them. But also when my child gets older and can decide what they want to eat I would be very open about what meat and dairy are and where they come from…. And if my child still wants to try because they are curious then I would let them. Of course I would be aware that they could deal with stomach pain and cramps, especially from lactose if they haven’t eaten it when growing up. It would be up to my child to choose if they want to eat meat and dairy or not… of course I would keep my house vegan so at home they would have to eat vegan but if they example are at a party or in school and want to eat something that isn’t vegan, that is their choice. But I would promote a vegan diet and make them aware of their choices. Many children are very compassionate and caring and if they realise that they are eating an animal they are more likely to not want to eat it compared to adults who are just grown up eating meat and dairy and don’t really consider what it is or where it comes from.
So there is my very long and honest answer. Like I mentioned in the beginning, I can’t force anyone to vegan but I can promote it and give facts and hope that the people around me make the best decision or atleast try to live as vegan as possible.
Also i believe that if I were to set up too many rules such as that my child can’t eat meat or dairy then they would rebel and do just that!
If you are interested in learning more about raising a child vegan you can read THIS pdf source which has alot of information. I would also recommend that you 1) talk to your doctor and 2) make sure you check with a dietician who is knowledgable about a plant based diet so that you give your child the right nourishment!
It’s not impossible for a child to grow up as fully vegan, however it does require alot more time, knowledge and planning.