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Is It Healthy For Children To Be On A Vegan Diet?

Last updated April 23, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of Pediatrics have approved of vegan diet not just for children, but for infants and toddlers too.

Vegan diet might be turning into a fad. Many have embraced vegan (only plant) diet for the simple reason that it is healthy and can help cut or prevent obesity. But the question arises, is vegan diet nutritional for growing children, let alone adults? This may be answered only depending on what type of vegan diet is being followed by the individual. A stricter diet can result in nutritional deficiencies, whereas a balanced diet can ensure that you stay healthy.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of Pediatrics have approved of vegan diet not just for children, but for infants and toddlers too. Dr. Benjamin Spock a leading pediatrician wrote in his book, “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” that children be raised on a vegan diet. He also concluded his research by saying that “milk is for calves and not babies”, as it leads to gastrointestinal disorders and allergies. The publication has established that animal fat and protein is linked to autoimmune diseases, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

Types of vegetarian diet:

Vegetarian diet can be divided into many type and these include

  • Ovo-vegetarian diet that includes eggs and plants, like vegetables, fruits and soy
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet that includes dairy products, eggs, and plants
  • Lacto-vegetarian diet that includes dairy products and plants
  • Vegan diet that includes only plants and plant-based products

How to compensate for non-vegetarian diet?

  • A balanced diet is essential for the healthy growth of children of all ages. Depriving them of dairy products and egg can result in malnourishment. Fortified milk contains vitamin D and calcium and if removed from their diet, it may not be a wholesome diet for them. A glass of orange juice may also be added to their diet.
  • Meat products contain iron and vegans have to compensate this by consuming green leafy vegetables, whole grains, dried fruits and fruits rich in vitamin B12. Drinking citrus juice can help achieve a balanced iron diet. Fortified cereals, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and dried beans are rich in zinc
  • Protein source that is found in chicken and fish have to be compensated with the intake of cereals like wheat and rice, legumes like soya, dry beans, peas, nuts, and dairy products

Research has gone to prove that vegan diet is inadequate during the growing years of a child. The restrictions imposed on their diet can lead to anemia. Again this risk factor also applies to omnivores. It has also been established that vegan diets that are strictly plant-based diets can lead to malnutrition. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet is recommended when compared to omnivorous diet, till pre-pubertal age. The threats remain while consuming vegan food with too much dependence on convenience food, lack of food variety, and lack of exercise.

A well-balanced nutritional diet that has suitable variation (given the guidelines above) is the right choice for children. The best way to formulate a diet chart for your child would be to work with your pediatrician and dietician. Work out a proper food plate based on their age, gender, body type, allergies, and food availability.

Remember that only a healthy childhood can lead to a healthy adulthood.

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Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 23, 2018
Last updated: April 23, 2018