How to Raise a Healthy Vegan Child

When it comes to raising a healthy vegan child , the challenges are often social rather than nutritional. Raise your child as a vegan and you will hear all the opinions and advice on this matter, whether you ask for it or not. And even within your own family, you need to think about how to talk to your kids about why they are vegan – whether it’s because of their health, the environment, animals, or all of the above – and how to get it right. their food.

We spoke with health and culinary experts (some of whom are vegan parents themselves) for the details of what you need to know to raise a healthy vegan child. Here’s what they said:

Sort by all health data

Generally speaking, plant-based diets are believed to provide protection against the most common chronic diseases, but the potential benefits for children are not limited to the long term. “Many of the common allergens — fish, shellfish, dairy and eggs — are naturally eliminated from a plant-based diet, ” says plant-based nutritionist Julianne Hever (MS, RD, CPT). If you have a child with allergies, know that a vegan diet is a perfectly legal way to go.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics agrees and states in its position paper on vegetarian diets that well-planned vegan diets “are healthy, nutritionally adequate, and can provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” He adds that the vegan diet is suitable for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, breastfeeding, infancy, childhood and adolescence, and is suitable for athletes.

Supplement B12

A child on a balanced vegan diet can be healthier than any other child. The only supplement a balanced vegan needs is vitamin B12 . But if you’re picky about your food or want to make sure everything’s okay, vegan multivitamins won’t hurt either, Hever says.

If you are breastfeeding and a vegan yourself, the CDC and ADA also recommend taking B12 supplements. Dr. Klaper suggests supplementing your diet with 500 mcg of methylcobalamin (form B12) five to seven times per week and 300 mg (from algae) DHA per day to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3s.

Have a good answer to the “protein question”

One of the most common questions vegans ask is where do you get your protein? If you are raising your kids vegan, you definitely need to get a good answer.

Here are your two main points: A well-balanced, plant-based diet contains all the protein you need , and most people in the United States – the vast majority of people – get more than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein , but the same number of people get less fiber . By feeding your kids a well-balanced plant-based diet, you will ensure they are getting enough plant-based protein and fiber (not to mention many other great nutrients).

Here’s a short list of vegan protein sources that you might find useful: beans, lentils, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, seitan, vegan meats, peanut butter (and other nut butters), nuts, pumpkin seeds, edamame, quinoa, and oats. To give you an idea, one cup of soybeans contains 28.5 grams of protein (about the same as you get in 4 ounces of red meat or half a chicken breast), while other beans usually contain about 15 grams per cup. A cup of oatmeal contains 4 grams of protein, and two tablespoons of peanut butter contains 8 grams. While they are eating different foods, do not overdo it. According to the national dietary guidelines , a child aged 1-3 should get 13 grams of protein per day; 4-8 years old, 19 grams; 9-13 years old, 34 grams; and a teenager from 46 to 52 grams.

So how does a balanced vegan diet look different? According to the 2016 Permanente Journal , adults should eat 5+ servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruits, 6-11 servings of whole grains, 2-3 servings of legumes, 1-2 ounces of nuts, and 1-3 servings. tablespoons of chia seeds and hemp a day. Depending on your child’s age and appetite, you can adjust this ratio accordingly.

Start the day with a smoothie disguised as ice cream

Put the smoothie in the stuffing bowl and you can call it dessert for breakfast; just use less liquid to make it look more like ice cream.

“We start our day with a nutrient-rich smoothie, so even if they’re eating snacks or just baking the rest of the day, you may feel like they started their day well and at least ate some fruits and vegetables,” says Jenny Engel , one of the vegan chefs at Spork Foods .

Spirulina gives smoothies a funky blue hue, and the addition of a little cocoa or carob powder makes the smoothie healthy, like chocolate ice cream. For extra fun, make an emoji with bananas, muesli, nuts and seeds. For a high protein smoothie, use vegan protein powder and peanut butter, or this smoothie formula (no agave added).

Involve children whenever possible and model good habits

It is important to develop healthy eating habits as early as possible so that children feel connected to the kitchen and attached to their food. Work together to grow a garden, shop with them at local farmers’ markets, and have your child participate in choosing, buying, and preparing the recipes you make. The more they feel like they are part of the process, the less likely they are to rebel against you feeding them – this is true of children and food, be it a vegan family, omnivore, or anyone else.

“I inspire them with food, cooking with them and growing vegetables in the garden,” says vegan chef Sepi Kashanyan . “They want to try the salad they made themselves.”

Plants physician Michael Klaper says children’s first snacks should be simple – like slices of carrots, apples, and broccoli florets, lightly steamed and then raw. “If you don’t introduce them to junk food, they won’t develop a taste for it,” he says, adding that this is the key to leading by example. “Children have a voice recorder always on, and it’s important for them to see that their parents are eating the same healthy food that they are told to eat.”

Don’t Think Some Foods Are Too Complex For Their Taste

Along the same lines, if you don’t want to have picky eaters, you better introduce your kids to all of the same foods you eat as early as possible. Kashanyan says he mostly cooks for his daughter the same way she cooks herself, using a lot of spices, garlic and onions. Introduce them early and teach them all the vegetables they have, and don’t assume they won’t like spinach, kale, or Brussels sprouts.

“If you start by having your child see all kinds of food in the house and on the plate of the whole family, then it becomes normal to include these foods in his diet,” adds Engel.

But be patient with finicky food.

If you do find yourself picky about food, try to remember that almost every child goes through it, regardless of their diet. To make your meal even more fun, use a rainbow of flowers in a plant-based diet with recipes such as fruit kebabs or rainbow Buddha bowls .

“We don’t force our kids to eat vegetables to get to dessert, because that can reinforce the idea that vegetables are a disgusting food to put up with to get to the prize at the end of the meal,” Engel says. “We just present it in small quantities and ask several times if they would like to try it.” What if they don’t want to try? It’s up to you if you prefer the tough love approach, but you can always ditch the finicky options like PB&J, vegan nuggets and burgers, and of course smoothies.

If you change your diet, learn to easily change their favorites.

There is a vegan saying, “Anything you can eat, I can eat vegan.” And it is true. There are so many substitutes and ways to go vegan for regular meals that your kids will never have to give up their favorite foods (even if they are eating pasta and cheese, pizza, or yogurt). Check out this article for easy vegan swaps, this healthy vegan diet guide , this trader Joe’s shopping list and these vegan tips , and know you can get free live nutrition coaching and advice at ChooseVeg. com . Vegan recipe sites like Bosh , Vegan Richa , Vegan Yack Attack, and Minimalist Baker are also great resources for simple and fun recipe ideas.

Cook quick meals, not all of which are microwave safe

While there are plenty of good vegan options out there that can be microwaved and packaged to satisfy this macaroni and cheese or pizza cravings, you’ll want a quick snack that you can make your own. Fill your pantry with beans, tempeh, pasta, tortillas, frozen vegetables and even pre-cooked rice and you’ll never stop wondering what to do. You can also check out this simple formula for making a healthy vegan bowl . You should aim for one grain (rice, quinoa, pasta, etc.), a few colorful vegetables and legumes (tofu, beans, peanuts) at each meal. Quick meals can includepasta with lots of vegetables and cannellini beans , quick beans and vegan cheese burritos, or stir fry with vegetables, tofu, and rice noodles .

Maintain an open dialogue

Do not think that children cannot understand the truth. In fact, the more you help them understand why your family is choosing veganism, the more they will be able to make informed decisions at birthday parties and at school.

Whatever your specific reasons for choosing a plant-based diet – you are raising your child a vegan due to dairy allergies, other health reasons, or environmental or animal rights concerns – you’ll want to explain. it. Emphasize that if their friends have a different diet, this is not a moral flaw. They should have a conscious understanding of why your family is following a plant-based diet and should be able to discuss this with friends without judgment. It’s also important to let them know that if they are teased at school for being vegan, or asked questions they don’t know the answer to, they can always come and talk to you about it.

If possible, it’s also helpful to introduce them to other vegans of their age. Many vegan children and adolescents are open about why they don’t eat animals.Genesis Butler’s fast-paced career is worth keeping an eye on with any kid, and you can follow hashtags like #VeganKidsofInstagram to share stories and ideas from other inspiring kids.

Find a pediatrician who understands this (and then don’t worry too much)

Browse this database to find your nearest herbal pediatrician who supports this healthy eating decision and knows about vegan eating. A vegan-friendly doctor should be well versed in plant-based diets and should not make you feel judged or intimidated by putting your child on a plant-based diet. They should be well versed in how to monitor your child’s diet and make you feel like you have an ally in making sure your child is on a healthy, plant-based diet.

When it comes to healthy growth, you shouldn’t worry more than any other parent. Ironically, the kids I have met who have been vegan in the womb are some of the biggest, heartfelt eaters I have ever seen. When everyone from Olympic athletes to celebrities chooses a plant-based diet for their health, it’s no wonder the diet promotes healthy growth. Of course, every child is different. “As long as the child maintains his growth curve and has good energy, everything should be fine,” says Hever.


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