There are quite a lot of people who believe that going vegan is a terrible thing, but they think that adults can take it – after all, there ARE all those crazy animal-lovers out there, right? But what about their kids? Is it possible to raise kids on a vegan diet, and do it in a safe and healthy way? Of course!
Before getting into how children can be raised safely, there is also a need to point out that vegan pregnancies are 100% safe and healthy. There are actually no special needs to consider – the babies will grow fine if the mother remembers to consume all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients she needs, and the baby will develop just as perfectly (if not more… !) than other babies. Real Vegan Children emphasises the need for vitamin B12, iodine and choline, but otherwise, states that there is no need to worry about what a pregnant mother is eating if she has a healthy diet already.
When they are young, babies don’t eat much and start showing how finicky they can get. This is the time to get creative, sure, but omnivore babies show this tendency as well. When they are still newborns, breastfeeding is highly recommended. Most formulas on the market aren’t really that great since many contain harmful chemicals and – as scary as this sounds – poisoning babies, such as in this scandal in 2008. Please note that China has had a lousy reputation due to this scandal and others that involved products such as fish and canned vegetables, but this doesn’t mean that they are the only ones adding unsafe products. If you must use a formula, please look for one that is 100% vegan and organic and, preferably, locally-made. Some state that soy-based formulas are generally safe, so look for the GMO-free butterfly before buying and you’re set to go! As for the mother, she should still be taking every precaution possible – not that she should stop after breastfeeding, but this being a crucial time for the baby’s development, she cannot let herself go off course and ensure she is still taking enough B12 and sun exposure for a good supply of vitamin D, needed to ease the baby’s milk absorption.
When the child becomes older, what could become dangerous are the same problems listed already: lack of B12 and sun exposure. However, there are things that need to be consumed in LIMITED proportions that vegans are generally not aware of. For instance, children should not eat more than 23g of fiber per pound of weight, and this is easy to exceed since grains are often half of their diet. What mothers can do to prevent this is select vegetable starches half of the time, such as bananas, plantain, potatoes, buckwheat and corn, and eat only half of their grain intakes as whole-wheat servings of bread, pasta or rice.
On the other hand, when children don’t seem to be eating enough to consume the minimum amount of nutrients they require – and this is often an issue with omnivores as well – some doctors recommend refined grains, peeled fruits and vegetables (as opposed to eating an apple with the peel, for instance), and add oils, seeds, avocadoes and nuts, or other fatty foods that are high in nutritional value. If the child is still very young, grinding the nuts or making a paste or butter from them is the solution to avoid choking. This way, they get full much less quickly and will be more likely to eat more.
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