A vegan lifestyle is not an easy one to maintain, with several dietary restrictions making it tough to be social, to eat well on travels and most importantly, to monitor the levels of adequate nutrition. And when you try to put little children into this context, these difficulties are only magnified.
But is raising a vegan child a risky move? Let’s take a look at the main concerns plaguing parents who are considering this drastic lifestyle shift.
- Supplements: For one, most doctors and dietitians agree that parents who wish to put their kids on a vegan diet should do so only after adequate research since surveys show that vegan children can be deficient in vitamin D, calcium, iron and possibly vitamin B12, so it is essential that they take enough supplements in the right amounts.
- Quantity: Being on a vegan diet means eating large quantities of food since the meal components are not energy dense, which means one has to eat a lot to get enough energy. This can be a problem when it comes to kids, since they tend to not eat a lot. One way to combat this is to add oil and other healthy fats to their diet to up their calorie intake.
- Protein: Children who eat meat and fish receive a lot of amino acids as opposed to kids who eat mostly pulses. This is because not every type of bean or lentil provides a variety of amino acids, so there has to be a good balance of different types of pulses.
- Age Issues: Kids who are below five are vulnerable to vitamin D and calcium deficiencies, as are girls who are approaching puberty, as their iron levels tend to dip. Parents need to be extra vigilant in these cases.
That said, vegans are not the only ones who risk raising malnourished kids; parents who choose to use semi-skimmed milk, low-fat foods and high-fiber foods are depriving their growing children of the goodness that comes only from full-fat dairy, while their little bodies might get full too fast with high-fiber roughage, causing them to not eat enough of nutritious foodstuffs.
In fact, it has been observed that vegan parents tend to be more cautious about their children’s diet since they are more likely to cook at home, be knowledgeable about food and nutrition and avoid high-sodium, refined sugar and overly processed foods. As a parent, if you’re able to fulfil your children’s needs responsibly, there’s no real danger putting them on a vegan diet.