Recently i have seen a bunch of YouTube videos and articles about children eating a vegan diet who have become malnourished and very sick. And calling it child abuse to feed a child a vegan diet.
So the question is… can children eat a vegan diet or not?
Well just like everyone, whether you are an adult, teenager or child it is individual. For some people a completely plantbased diet is the best diet and works great, for others it doesn’t work… either due to allergies or illnesses which can make it hard to eat completely plantbased. Or if someone has certain nutrition requirements which can be hard to meet on a plantbased diet or if someone has digestive issues which makes it harder to absorb all the nutrients required on a plantbased diet.
Children can eat a plantbased diet and be healthy, however then it is also recommended that the parents have knowledge of nutrition and also contact a dietitian or nutritionist who knows a lot about plantbased nutrition to help.
So first off… a bunch of the articles written about parents feeding their children a vegan diet are sort of inaccurate. Or well the parents weren’t feeding the child a balanced vegan diet… they were feeding them a whole bunch of fruit and raw food.
Barely adults can get enough vitamins and minerals, or energy through just fruit and raw vegetables… nonetheless a child who doesn’t even have any storage of D vitamin, A vitamin or B12 in their liver.
When a child eats a plantbased diet you really need to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they need as well as the energy they need. Children don’t require as much energy per day meaning that they have less room for things like chocolate, ice cream and crisps… but also that they need to eat nutrient dense food to get all the nutrients they need while also not having to eat a lot of calories. Not to mention, children can usually not eat huge portions… meaning that a bunch of fruit or raw veggies just means a bunch of volume without a lot of nutrition. And lastly… feeding children a lot of fiber isn’t recommended as 1) it is very filling, making it hard to eat enough of other foods to reach the nutrition requirements, 2) it can give stomach ache, gases and cramping as it takes a lot for the digestive system to process and digest the fiber and 3) too much fiber can hinder the absorption of other nutrients.
It is recommended that children eat a lower fiber diet and also to avoid giving them things like chia seeds, flax seeds, rice and rice products.
And then there is also the fact that children don’t have any b12 storage which many adults may have if they have eaten meat or dairy while growing up. B12 is vital for the proper function of the nervous system and for proper growth, and there are serious consequences if there is a b12 deficiency. So you need to give your child b12 supplements for the rest of their life. Just like adult vegans, they need to take b12 supplements.
Also D vitamin supplements or drops is recommended as well as A vitamin.
And if your child is eating a bunch of fruit and vegetables and not a lot of tofu, beans, soy products… then there can be a lack of protein which is not recommended for a growing child.
Omega 3 is also very important, which may be hard to get if you don’t feed your child walnuts, flaxseed oil or rapeseed oil. Note, if you give your child walnuts, they should be chopped or ground to avoid choking. Other important nutrients are iodine which you can get from iodized salt, selenium which you can get from brazil nuts and even zink is important… but typically you get enough zink from vegetables.
Iron and calcium are two important minerals which you may need to be extra aware of if your child eats plantbased. Iron you can get from beans, nuts, seeds, cereals, fortified milks…. And calcium you can get from fortified plantbased milks, tofu, tahini and even green leafy vegetables if your child eats them (you could puree them and add some rapeseed oil or drizzle over some tahini). It is also recommended that both you and your child consume fortified plantbased milks… otherwise you are getting very little energy or nutrients if you consume the unfortified versions. They are also a source of b12 which can be super important for both you and your child.
It can be a good idea to get allergy tests on your child, to make sure they aren’t allergic to soy or any nuts or seeds, which are typical allergens and also a plantbased diet usually includes a lot of them.
For a child to grow and develop properly, right nutrition is key. And that doesn’t mean your child has to eat meat or dairy… not unless they are showing signs that they aren’t growing properly o get a lot of stomach issues while eating a plantbased diet. Meat is very nutrient dense and is filled with protein and iron which all people need, however you can of course get protein and iron from plantbased sources. And you can get calcium from other sources than dairy, however the animal sources are more nutrient rich and absorb better. But with the right knowledge, and as long as your child seems to enjoy the food and develop properly then a plantbased diet is no problem.
It is of course recommended that you breastfeed your child as long as possible, as breastmilk has almost all the nutrients your child needs and also the right energy for the child to grow and develop. And if that doesn’t work, then giving your child formula…. Not just jumping to sweet potato puree at once.
I would recommend you do bloodchecks every year for your child just to make sure they don’t have any deficiencies.
A plantbased diet can work for your child, but just be extra aware of certain nutrients and how/what they eat. You can’t force your child to eat certain foods and if they don’t like them, they don’t like them. You could of course test to prepare them another way and see if they like them. It is important that your child does get the right nutrition over time…. Even if not everyday is perfect.
Feeding your child a vegan diet isn’t childabuse… people can feed their children chicken nuggets, burgers, cola and chocolate weekly and nobody cares. But as soon as your child eats plantbased everyone makes a fuss. A child can still still eat vegan burgers, vegan chickennuggets and vegan chocolate. However, children also need vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and a balanced diet.
Feeding your child just fruit and vegetables is NOT recommended and can lead to serious nutrient deficiencies which can have long term consequences. So take contact with a dietitian, read up on nutrition and feed your child a BALANCED vegan diet.
I don’t have children myself but I can make a post with some vegan meal ideas which can be recommended for children and contain a bunch of nutrients!