- Many parents are raising their child to be vegetarians or vegans.
- A vegetarian or vegan diet has shown to have health benefits and an overall healthier lifestyle.
- The reduction in dairy, meat, and eggs is often tied to alleviation of allergy symptoms.
- The AAP cautions that if your child is following a vegetarian diet, you need to be extra careful in protecting them against nutritional deficiencies.
With concerns about the way food is processed, along with how and what animals are being fed, a growing number of adults are choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. As a result, more children are exposed to this type of diet. People who follow a vegan diet eat no animal products of any type, including dairy, eggs, meat, or animal products like honey.
A vegetarian or vegan diet may be associated with health benefits, such as a decrease in developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. In general, a vegan diet offers less saturated fat than an animal-based diet, while providing a greater number of nutrients (magnesium, fiber, potassium, etc.) and antioxidants.
In addition, vegans on average are about 10 percent leaner than non-vegetarians. Some experts also believe that the reduction in dairy, meat, and eggs is often tied to alleviation of allergy symptoms.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautions that if your child is following a vegetarian diet, you need to be vigilant in protecting them against nutritional deficiencies. While it’s possible to supply the recommended amounts of all nutrients without eating animal products, it can be more difficult. In particular, vegans and vegetarians are at risk for deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, mostly because of reduced dairy consumption. Other nutrients that might be lacking in a vegan or vegetarian diet include iron, protein, vitamin B12, and zinc. It is also important to ensure that your child is getting enough overall calories to maintain proper growth.
To help alleviate these nutritional concerns, Reed Mangels, author of The Dieticians Guide to Vegetarian Diets, recommends the following eating plan for vegan and vegetarian children:
|Toddlers and preschoolers, 1-3 years|
|Food group||Number of servings|
|Grains||6 or more (a serving is 1/2 to 1 slice of bread; 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked cereal, grain, or pasta; or 1/2 to 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal|
|Legumes, nuts, seeds||2 or more (a serving is 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked beans, tofu, tempeh, or TVP; 1 ounce of meat analogue; or 1-2 tbsp nuts, seeds, or nut or seed butters. Include at least 1 serving of nuts, seeds, or a full-fat soy product.|
|Fortified soy milk, etc.||3 (a serving is 1 cup fortified soy milk, infant formula, or breast milk)|
|Vegetables||2 or more (a serving is 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked or 1/2 to 1 cup raw vegetables)|
|Fruits||3 or more (a serving is 1/4 to 1/2 cup canned fruit, 1/2 cup juice, or 1 medium fruit)|
|Fats||3 to 4 (1 tsp margarine or oil. Use 1/2 tsp flaxseed oil or 2 tsp canola oil daily to supply omega-3 fatty acids)|
|Children, 4-13 years|
|(Note: See the Vegan Food Guide in Simply Vegan for information on serving sizes and the starred food items.)|
|Food group||Number of servings|
|Grains||8 or more for 4 to 8 yr olds; 10 or more for 9 to 13 yr olds|
|Protein foods||5 or more for 4 to 8 yr olds; 6 or more for 9 to 13 yr olds|
|Vegetables||4 or more|
|Fruits||2 or more|
|Fats||2 or more for 4 to 8 yr olds; 3 or more for 9 to 13 yr olds|
|Omega-3 fats||1 per day|
|Starred food items||6 or more for 4 to 8 yr olds; 10 or more for 9 to 13 yr olds|