With the rise of popularity of veganism among adults for its benefits on health, animals’ welfare and the environment, more kids are now being raised vegan than ever before. In the UK, 1 in 12 parents are now claiming to raise their kids as vegans and 13% vegetarians.
However, this trend is still problematic; as many believe that omitting major food groups (like meat and dairy) from the regime of their kids diets could jeopardize their growth and overall health status.
In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the United States and the British Dietetic Association both confirm that a vegan diet is adequate for childhood on the condition that it should be well planned by the caregivers. Furthermore a vegan diet can positively affect the behaviour of kids, and their awareness about food; vegan kids usually consume a wider range of nutrient-rich grains, fruits and vegetables and consume less fast food compared to kids on normal non-vegetarian diets.
Major nutrient considerations
When planning to switch your kids’ diet to vegan you should take into account the following nutrients, because they are more concentrated in food from animal sources:
Protein: this macronutrient is most likely to be deficient in plant-based diets. Protein from plant sources are not easily absorbed in the body as animal protein, therefore vegan kids should consume three portions of protein rich foods per day. Main vegetarian protein sources are beans, seeds and nuts. An example of one daily protein intake is: Peanut butter on toast at breakfast, Tofu at lunch and bean soup at dinner.
Vitamin B12: since it is found mostly in animal products, kids should consume their daily Vitamin B12 requirements from food supplements as prescribed by their pediatrician or nutritionist or consume food products fortified with vitamin B12 such as fortified cereals, or milk alternatives (vegan milk or yogurt), or one HappyBites.
Calcium and Vitamin D: mainly concentrated in dairy products, their daily intake should be compensated through increased consumption of fortified milk alternatives (rice, almond..), beans, tofu, figs and green leafy vegetables.
Iron: Similar to Calcium, main vegan (non-heme) iron sources are pulses, tofu, green leafy vegetables, wholewheat grains, nuts and dried fruits. However non-heme iron is better absorbed with vitamin C, so it is always better to add lemon juice to the cooked beans and vegetables and consume the nuts or fortified bread with unsweetened fruit juice.
Zinc: is a crucial mineral for enzyme production and proper body functions. Major vegan sources of zinc are fortified cereal, tofu, hemp seeds, beans, seeds, mushroom, avocado, spinach, green peas and quinoa.
Omega 3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA form of fatty acids are found only in fatty fish, however flaxseed, chia and hemp seeds, and walnuts are good sources of ALA type of fatty acids but they don’t have the same benefits. Alternatively vegan kids should consume omega-3 supplements or HappyBites.
Changing the diet and eating habits of your kids requires planning and should always be discussed with a pediatrician or dietitian.You can read about why people choose a vegan diet on our other blog post.
Reading the nutrition labels of manufactured products is essential to make wise food choices for kids and plan their daily meal plans. It is always fun and helpful to educate them on the healthier vegan food choices, and involve them in home food preparation and cooking.
At HappyBites we also take our share in making vegan food choices healthy and enjoyable. Our cookies are kid-friendly and provide the daily requirements of Vitamin B12, D and omega-3 fatty acids, and are rich in Iron, Zinc and Calcium from natural ingredients. HappyBites is a perfect vegan food snack.
Are you raising your kids vegan or vegetarian? Share with us your experience by dropping us a comment.
Keep an eye on our website and our instagram page to know more about new flavours, products and activities.If you’d like to know more about deficiencies in nutrients you can read our post on vegan supplements.