Concerned family members and the wider community often question the nutritional requirements of children and whether a vegan diet can adequately fulfill those needs. The position of every major dietary organisation around the world is that a vegan diet is not only possible but may offer health benefits and is suitable so long as it’s well planned for all ages and stages of life.
Here are the positions of several dietary and health authorities from across the globe.
‘It is the position of the American Dietetic
Association that appropriately
planned vegetarian diets, including
total vegetarian or vegan diets, are
healthful, nutritionally adequate, and
may provide health benefits in the
prevention and treatment of certain
diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets
are appropriate for individuals
during all stages of the life cycle, including
pregnancy, lactation, infancy,
childhood, and adolescence, and for
athletes.’ - American Dietetic Association (now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)
“With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.” – NHS (National Health Service UK)
‘A vegan eating pattern has many potential health benefits. They include lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Other benefits include lower blood cholesterol levels and a lower risk for gallstones and intestinal problems. This eating pattern can take some extra planning. Vegans must make sure that enough nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins D and B12 and omega-3 fats are included. A well planned vegan diet can meet all of these needs. It is safe and healthy for pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies, children, teens and seniors. A variety of plant foods eaten during the day can provide enough protein to promote and maintain good health.” – The Dieticians of Canada
It’s important, as it is when designing any diet around a child’s nutritional needs, that you take care to ensure the child is provided with adequate nutrients, but these can all be adequately sourced within a plant based diet. Concerns from friends, family members and the public can often be draining on us when we feel we have to explain over and over about how our child’s needs are met, especially when we feel this is not only a way of life that offers ethical alignments but also potential health benefits and major health risks are often reduced compared to a standard diet.
Despite the frustrations around being quizzed time and time again, it’s important to remember that these questions are usually born out of genuine concern. Misconceptions that have been unchallenged for a lifetime for some will take patience and calm education to undo. This is a chance to show and educate the wider world, to demonstrate what we know and to offer facts and figures that back up our research. Arm yourself with nutritional information, know where your child’s obtaining his or her calcium, b12, protein and iron, because you will be asked and having confidence in your knowledge will lay their fears to rest.
The aim for us all should be to use every opportunity we’re presented with to demonstrate that the life of vegan children is wonderful – which is is! We should be trying to develop a society where there’s a normality and familiarity around children eating a plant based diet and not contributing towards unnecessary suffering of others. Raising children within a vegan family aligns with the ethics most parents wish to raise their children with, to care for others, place others rights above your own frivolous desires, to show concern and respect for those around you and to not kill, steal or cause harm to animals, humans or our planet intentionally. We should be confident in our decision being the best for a child’s emotional, social and physical well being and our confidence will help normalise veganism within the wider society.