Should My Kid Be Vegan?

Should my kid be vegan?

Overall, vegan diets can be a very healthful way of eating. But is it an ideal diet for growing kids?

Hopefully, when you think of a vegan diet it is one with a wide variety of colorful vegetables, fruit, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Not just a plate void of animal products, like meat, dairy, eggs, etc.

So, if we are eating a diet rich in the foods listed above and little to no processed junk food, what are the down sides to this way of eating?

Most vegan diets tend to be lower in fat and protein if the person is not conscious to consume adequate amounts. Fats, as a rule, are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Nature itself doesn’t usually make ‘bad fats’. It is usually after we process, extract or transform fats when they become less desirable.

Consider including these high-quality fat sources such as:

Protein is another macronutrient that can be low among vegan diets. A good minimum intake for protein would be about 0.75-0.8 grams per lb of body weight.

For example, if you weigh about 140 lbs you should eating about 105 grams of protein per day. What does that look like in a day’s worth of vegan eating?


140 lb person


Breakfast

3/4 C oatmeal, 2 Tbs of natural peanut butter, 1 glass of almond milk.

15g protein

46g carbs

19g fat

412 cals

 

Lunch

4 oz Tempeh, 1 C kidney, 1/2 C brown rice, 3/4 C cooked broccoli.

43g protein

83g carbs

16g fat

611 cal

 

Dinner

4 oz Seitan, 3/4 C winter squash, 1/2 black beans, 2 C raw spinach.34g protein

34g protein

44g carbs

2g fat

314 cal

 

Snack

2 Tbs mixed nuts

1/3 C edamame beans

9g prot

9g carb

13g fat

173 cals

 

Totals:

100g Protein, 182g carbs, 50g fat.1510 Total Calories

 

This meal plan gives you about 100 grams of protein, 182 grams carbs, 50 grams of fat and about 1510 total calories.

More protein is needed for those engaging in regular exercise, especially if doing resistance training or if weight/muscle gain is your goal.

Some vegan protein sources are: seitan, tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, beans, nutritional yeast, spelt, teff, hempseed, peas.

Along with these above “macronutrients” we also have to think about our “micronutrients”. These are vitamins and minerals that our bodies need (in smaller amounts) to function optimally.

Common nutrients lacking in a vegan diet are vitamin B12, riboflavin (B2), vitamin D, zinc, calcium, omega 3’s.

Some vegan foods high in these crucial nutrients include:

 


Micronutrient

Vegan Food source

Vegetarian Food source

 

Vitamin B12

Nutritional yeast, fortified cereals/grains

Yogurt, milk-based, plant-based milk, cheese, eggs.

 

Riboflavin (B2)

Soy milk, cereals, mushrooms, spinach, almonds, avocados

Milk, eggs, fish.

 

Vitamin D

Sun exposure, Supplementation

Fish

 

Zinc

beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, oats, wheat germ, nutritional yeast

 

Calcium

Soy, beet greens, chard**, kale**, collard greens**, mustard greens**, rice, oats, tahini, sesame seeds, lentils, rhubarb, dried fruit,

(**Highly absorbable**)

Milk products

 

Omega 3 fatty acids

Flaxseeds, hemp seeds, soy, walnuts, chi, brussels sprouts,

Fish, eggs

 

 

 


 

But what does the research say?

While vegan diets have numerous health promoting effects such as potentially lowering LDL cholesterol and balancing blood lipids overall (Resnicow et al, 1991). Studies repeatedly suggest a vegan diet adopted by a child often results in growth and development rates in the lower reference ranges. This means these children tend to be smaller in height and stature (Schürmann, Kersting and Alexy, 2017).

In an older study of 23 vegan children followed from ages one to five years, the kids grew normally but again tended to be smaller in height and build. They also showed a low dietary intake of vitamin B12, B2, vitamin D, calcium, and total calories (Sanders, 1988; Sanders, & Purves, 1981).

Finally, a German study that followed infants for the first year of life and compared groups of vegetarian diets and ‘mixed diets’.

“Children on pure vegan diet need ongoing elaborate dietary strategies and continuous supplementation at any age, similar to nutritional management in children with metabolic disorders. A vegan diet is disadvised during all periods with intense growth and development.”

-(Kersting, Kalhoff, Melter & Luecke, 2018).

Conclusions:

  1. Vegan diets can be very healthful but care should be taken to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
  2. Vegan diets are not ideal for children as they are in a period of significant growth and development which drastically increases their nutritional needs.
  3. My general dietary advice: eat mostly plants, lots of colorful vegetables, some fruit, nuts, seeds, very little sugar or refined processed products.
  4. Remembering food quality! The quality of the food drastically impacts the nutritional content of the food. Organic produce when possible. Organic, grass-fed and finished beef. Free range, pastured poultry or eggs.

    If you have any more question about vegan, other dietary approaches or how to supplement a healthy vegan diet. Contact one of our clinics to talk with our Nutrition & Fitness advisors today!

– Ali Parkerson, BS NTP


References:

Kersting, M., Kalhoff, H., Melter, M., & Luecke, T. (2018). Vegetarian Diets in Children?-An Assessment from Pediatrics and Nutrition Science. Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift (1946)143(4), 279-286. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.uws.idm.oclc.org/pubmed/29471576

Schürmann, S., Kersting, M., & Alexy, U. (2017). Vegetarian diets in children: a systematic review. European journal of nutrition56(5), 1797-1817. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.uws.idm.oclc.org/pubmed/28299420

Sanders, T. A. (1988). Growth and development of British vegan children. The American journal of clinical nutrition48(3), 822-825. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/48/3/822/4716540

Sanders, T. A., & Purves, R. (1981). An anthropometric and dietary assessment of the nutritional status of vegan preschool children. Journal of human nutrition35(5), 349-357. https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/7288184

Resnicow, K., Barone, J., Engle, A., Miller, S., Haley, N. J., Fleming, D., & Wynder, E. (1991). Diet and serum lipids in vegan vegetarians: a model for risk reduction. Journal of the American Dietetic Association91(4), 447-453. https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/1849932

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