SPOILER ALERT: SENSITIVE TOPIC
Plant-based diets for kids is a quite sensitive subject since it rarely gets the approval of the majority. Therefore, we have been focusing our research on reliable websites and are going to give you the most recurrent information. Obviously, this page doesn’t prevail over the opinion of your doctor.
Just like what has been written in the Vegetarian & Pregnant page, there is no formal and official contraindication to having vegetarian children, but there are several essential precautions to take.
Vegetarism and veganism are, for many health professionals, totally adapted to all stages of life, IF and only IF they are well planned.
BABIES AND BABY MILK
Discussion topic that shouldn’t be.
We hear a lot of anti-vegetarians mentioning the deaths cases of babies that were fed with plant-based milks (soy, rice or oats from the supermarket). It is indeed, extremely dangerous to feed your baby with this type of milk but it is not because they are plant based milks. Cow milk given to babies can’t either be a classical supermarket milk.
Any kind of milk given to babies is an instant formula, supplemented to fit the specific needs of babies. It can never be traditional milk, whether it be vegetal or animal.
What’s more, many babies and children are lactose intolerant, this is no big new. We have had the possibility to feed them with plant-based supplemented instant formulas that we can find in all the pharmacies for a long time.
Before 3 years old, lipids must represent half of the calories intake of children (ANSES, 2011).
The French society of paediatrics says that lipids represent a huge part of the energy intake of a child and plays a major role in the development and operation of the nervous system. The fatty acids and their derivatives also interfere in the regulation of many genes.
If you have vegan or vegetarian children, be careful to feed them with enough lipids (unsaturated fatty acids) to ensure their development (see Lipids page).
The risk of a protein deficiency in a plant-based diet is very low even for kids if the food is well diversified and provides enough calories (leguminous plants, cereals). Among the vegetal milks available, soy milk is the most nourishing and the most interesting compared to cow milk.
Breast milk is a very good source of calcium. If breastfeeding is not possible, there are supplemented vegetal instant formulas that will match all the needs of your kids. If your child has already started eating solid foods, leaf vegetables such as cabbage, or oleaginous are naturally calcium rich.
Just like we saw in our page dedicated to IRON, vitamin C boosts its absorption. It is particularly important to favour the consumption of vitamin C for your children so that he can ingest enough iron.
WATCH THE DEFICIENCIES
In any case, it is highly recommended to have your kid’s diet checked by a specialist. Mostly if he is vegan.
There are elements that can’t be missed and which we recommend a real attention for, or even a supplementation, such as:
– vitamin B12 (see dedicated page HERE)
– vitamin D
– omega 3
Here is, as an information, a table taken from the Vegan-Pratique website, indicating the B12, vitamin D, iodine and omega 3 daily needs for young children
CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS
Children and teenagers are in a growing period of life. They have higher nutritional needs than adults (proportionally to their weight).
There is no clear contraindication to the vegetarian diet for kids and teenagers. You just have to be careful to the same things than adults.
Regarding the vegan diet, you must however be more cautious but nothing’s impossible.
1 – For kids and teenagers, protein deficiency is extremely rare
2 – However, you shall survey and perhaps supplement your child’s diet with elements that are similar to what we mentioned in the babies section:
Closely watch and favour the consumption via food (and maybe supplement if needed) the following elements :
– IRON : via foods (soy milk) and vitamin D
– CALCIUM : with soy milk enriched with calcium for example. It actually contains more iron that cow milk.
– FATTY ACIDS
– IODINE: with iodinized table salt for example
Systamatically supplement with:
– Vitamin B12
– Vitamin D
In any case, if you have vegetarian children, a regular blood exam can be interesting to watch their evolutions.
Contact your doctor for more information.