Suddenly if your meat-eating child comes home and says, “I no longer want to eat meat!”, as a parent you will be concerned and worried. The concern is understandable. For growing kids’ nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, protein, iron is very essential and plant-based diets might not give all these essential nutrients in enough quantity. The next question in parents’ mind is “is it possible for my kid to be healthy without eating meat”. The answer is yes, absolutely!
Raising a vegan or vegetarian child can be challenging for parents who relay on meat for nutrients. Fondness and kindness towards animals are changing children to be vegans. Many children find it hard to convince parents to let them become vegan. Most parents are skeptical about it. Parents worry about where the child gets protein by eating just plant food.
What parents should know:
There are millions of people who are either vegetarians or vegans by birth. They have their daily menu that includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner- all prepared with plant products. Do you know the healthiest breakfast in the world is idli and it is is plant-based food? Idli has balanced amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat! It is a traditional vegetarian breakfast. In fact, well planned plant-based diets are nutritionally adequate, healthful and give good solution for many serious conditions. Plant based diets are good for all stages of life including pregnancy, childhood, adolescence, adults, seniors. Many athletes prefer vegan or vegetarian diet to be fit and healthy.
Kids can follow vegan or vegetarian diet and get all the nutrients that are essential for their growth. These nutrients are available in whole grains, lentils, legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. One must understand and learn the quantity per serving that supplies enough amount of nutrients for growth and development.
Teenagers and young adults may choose plant-based diet for ethical or environmental reasons. But, studies show that there is growing number of toddlers and preschoolers who does not prefer taste or texture of animal protein. Whatever might be the reason, all growing kids should get adequate amount of nutrition. Parents should consider the sentiments and respect child’s decision for selecting plant-based diet.
How parents can raise vegan or vegetarian children?
- Understand what vegan and vegetarian diets is. Do not make fun of child or pass negative comments, instead just support and respect child’s good decision.
- Talk to a dietitian or pediatrician to know sources of different nutrients in plants.
- Learn about servings and teach child the importance of serving and nutrient intake
- There are many dishes that can be made to be vegan or vegetarian by replacing animal protein.
- Plant protein is available in different forms – buy and store them in your pantry and refrigerator
- Support your child by learning to cook plant-based dishes. Simple soup, curry, salad, veg burger preparation at home will help to boost child’s confidence.
- For a change, parents can try replacing animal protein with soy products. Make things delicious!
- Consider veggie pizza, vegetable lasagna, hummus wraps, vegetable curry, tofu stir-fry, grilled or roasted vegetables, light spicy soups.
- Keep fresh fruits and vegetables at home all the time.
- For dessert try vegan cakes, ice cream or vegan bakery items. Try different smoothies that fills stomach.
- Nutritional adequacy is main concern for parents of vegetarian children. Parents should know, various plant sources easily meet protein needs – beans, lentils, peas, soy, nuts, tempeh etc. Learn about adequate serving to fulfill daily nutrients supply for growing body. Two servings per day (as most vegetarians do) should fulfill protein needs. Milk and dairy products supply calcium. Orange juice and soy milk that are fortified, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collards also supply adequate calcium and iron. Vitamin B12 is the only concern for vegans and vegetarians. Choose fortified food or give Vitamin B12 supplement. That should be adequate for the child.
If your child decided to be a vegan or vegetarian, then it is a good decision. All parents should do is support the decision and ensure a good nutrition for child. Discuss and plan a diet chart with your child. To begin with, make sure calorie and nutrient intake is enough. Talk to vegetarians and other vegan parents if you have any concerns. Meet a nutritionist, dietitian to clear your doubts. Initially adopting to your child’s new diet might seems intimidating, later it can be not only your child’s identity but also of others in the family for all good reasons!
Image credit: Photo by Gabrielle Cepella on Unsplash
Author: Sumana Rao | Posted on: December 6, 2018