Veganism among children is more common now than ever. In some cases, vegan parents may choose to raise their kids with the same diet, avoiding all animal product such as meat, fish, poultry, and dairy. There are lots of opinions regarding the health and efficacy of a vegan diet for children. Some argue that this diet is not safe for growing children and that vegan parents should not limit their children based on their own choices. However, others state that all parents impart their ideals and lifestyles on their children in some way, and that a vegan diet is good for children. Experts are also divided on the health and safety of a vegan diet. So, you ask, what are the facts on veganism for children?
The American Dietetic Association has studied veganism and its heath for children, teens, and adults. The ADA consistently notes that well-planned vegan diets can be healthy for individuals at any age. The words "well-planned" are used many times to reinforce that all vital nutritional vitamin and minerals must be consumed in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They point out that children and teens who have a vegan diet take in less cholesterol and saturated fats than non vegans, mostly due to the lack of meat consumption and heavy reliance on vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes.
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Essential nutritive elements for vegans are listed as protein, fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium and vitamins D and B12. These all contribute to complete health but are often limited in vegan diets without proper preparation. Children, especially when they don't take in enough of these vitamins and minerals, are at risk for growth deficiencies and a failure to thrive. Iron is the most common deficiency in vegetarians and vegans. And, certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, are only found naturally in animal products.
To eliminate risk for nutritional deficiencies, a vegan diet for a child must be prepared with care. A child's taste preferences may also dictate things that they will or will not eat and can contribute to nutritional deficiencies. For those looking into a vegan diet for their child or for those who already serve their child a vegan diet, the safest and healthiest thing for both of you is to consult a diet and nutritional expert who will best help you prepare the right diet for each individual in the family.
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