Vegan Diet For Kids: Myths And Facts
Is it healthy to raise kids on plant-based food only?
The awareness of environmentalism and animal rights keeps raising, therefore, more and more people decide to reduce or completely cut the animal-based products. The extra bonus of food education is that we have the opportunity to make history and raise the first generation of vegan kids. Like every new and controversial idea, vegan upbringing is surrounded by multiple myths.
1. It’s impossible to compose an entirely vegan diet for kids.
People, who use this argument, don’t realize that multiple products recommended for kids are vegan anyway. Fruit and veg, given to us by our non-vegan parents, are the essential elements of the vegan diet. You can serve them in funny shapes and colorful combinations, so they seem more attractive to kids. Different types of pastes and mashes, sold in supermarkets as ‘kids food’, are very often vegan as well since they’re usually based on fruit, veg, pasta and rice. Sweets, on the other hand, in many cases animal-based, shouldn’t be given to kids. Try dark chocolate instead – it’s low in sugar, healthy and vegan. The type of products served should be adjusted to the age of kids but the doctors, dieticians, books and vegan blogs provide plenty of guidelines. Where there's a (vegan) will, there's a (vegan) way.
2. Kids need milk.
Yes, and they can get it from their mother, while no animals are hurt. It’s simple: the breastfeed milk should be given to infants, leave the cow’s milk or calves. True - some women don’t have enough milk to breastfeed but soy-based infant formulas make a good alternative. A GP consultation is recommended before choosing it but millions of babies in the US have been given soy formula already, with no adverse side effects.
3. So, how about calcium?
How many times have we heard about the magic effect of calcium on strong bones and teeth, when we were young? Fortunately, milk is not the only product that contains it. Tahini - sesame seed paste, is full of calcium. You can make hummus with tahini or simply add it to porridge or cereal. Calcium is also found in other healthy products like kale, spring greens, wholemeal bread, butternut squash, wholemeal bread, baked beans, almonds and Brazil nuts (be careful with nuts and small kids, though!). So, don’t worry, your vegan kid doesn’t need animal-based food to grow tall and strong.
4. Kids should get protein, so they must eat meat and drink milk.
Only the first part of this sentence is correct. Plant-based food is a protein powerhouse – wholegrain products, pulses (beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils), nuts and seeds. The only difference is that the vegan diet includes the plant protein instead of animal one – which is actually better for kids, as well as adults.
5. It’s not healthy for kids.
Where do I start to prove this wrong? A vegan diet is full of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and carbohydrates, while it avoids saturated animal fat and hormones. Tofu, nut butters and dried figs are not only delicious but they also contain loads of iron, important for kids. Veganism lowers the risk of excess weight and obesity and thus, the threats on physical and mental health. It promotes a healthy lifestyle from an early age and sensitizes kids to the importance of food.