Children and teens have specific dietary needs that are different from adults. However, not only can children easily obtain all their nutritional needs from a vegan diet, but studies have also shown that those who are raised on healthful vegan diets have a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions.1
Any diet needs to be carefully planned to ensure correct nutrition, and this is obviously all the more important for children. The good news is that the British Dietetic Association who are experts in the field say that a vegan diet can be suitable for people of any age2 and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine supports this view.3
This does, of course, depend on the right foods being given in the right quantities, but that is the same for every diet. The most important thing to bear in mind is that the low-fat, high-fiber diet recommended for adults (which a plant-based diet is perfect for) is not suitable for children. Growing kids burn a lot of energy and need a high-calorie intake; too much fiber will cause small stomachs to feel full before they’ve actually got enough. Wholegrain versions of cereals are therefore not usually recommended. Adding vegetable oils to meals to increase calorie count, and feeding your children smaller, more frequent meals and snacks are some strategies that can help to deal with this.4
Children should have two to three vegetable proteins per day but be careful not to give whole nuts to children under five as they could choke. Instead, grind them up or use a smooth nut butter. They will also need calcium from fortified plant milks and breakfast cereals, green veg and tofu to help meet their requirements. Yeast extract and some non-dairy milks boost vitamin B12 but a supplement should also be considered.
Sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D but, again, consider a supplement or ensure that breakfast cereals, non-dairy milks and margarines are fortified with it if children are not outdoors in the sun regularly.
There are thousands of parents out there raising healthy, happy vegan children, so why not join one of the Facebook groups to find out more? A visit to a nutritionist can also help you plan a balanced diet, set your mind at rest and ensure the whole family is getting what it needs.