A plant based diet for children takes time and thought. Find out here what infants and children need for having a Healthy Vegetarian Diet or a Healthy Vegan Diet. Being a dad myself, I have searched the Internet and I have found several good articles. This article will be an extract of what I have found.
Last updated: September 7, 2013
At the end of this article you will find my references (Quoted sentences are put into “quotations”) and links to more detailed information regarding children and a Healthy Vegetarian/Vegan Diet.
I advise you to take a look at them, because they go much more into detail then I do.
Let me start by saying that there is no problem with a plant based diet for children. You can raise your child with a vegetarian or vegan diet, that depends on you alone.
You just need to know how, that is all.
How to implement a plant based diet for children
“Several studies have examined the nutrient intakes of vegan children. One study of British school-age children found that they had higher intakes of fibre and that intakes of all vitamins and minerals studied (with the exception of calcium) were comparable with those of meat-eating children.
Vegan pre-schoolers in the US were found to have generous intakes of protein, vitamins, and minerals and their diets exceeded recommended intakes for all nutrients studied with the exception of calcium.
The study showing lower calcium intakes by vegan pre-schoolers was conducted before calcium-fortified products were readily available, so calcium intakes of vegan children may be higher now.”
The best food for newborns is breast-milk, and the longer your baby is breast-fed, the better.
Supplementary foods should not be introduced until after four to six months of age.
Vitamin B12, this is something you should always take care of, especially if you are vegan. Always be on the save-side.
If you have low levels of vitamin B12 intake, then there will not be much in the breast milk as well.
Vitamin D is something that is also very important to take care of. The levels in breast milk is usually low.
“All children below three years of age have a high requirement for vitamin D to enable calcium deposition in bone. The Department of Health therefore recommends that vitamin drops containing vitamins A, C and D be used for all children from 6 months to 5 years of age, whether vegan, vegetarian or omnivore.”
Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, a fatty acid which seems to be important for eye and brain development. This is found primarily in animal foods.
“However, vegans can make DHA from another fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which will be contained in the breast milk if the mother’s diet includes good sources such as flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed and rapeseed oil.
Reducing the use of other oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil and limiting foods containing hydrogenated fats will also help the breast fed infant to make more DHA. These oils contain linoleic acid and hydrogenated fats contain trans-fatty acids which interfere with DHA production.”
Introduction of Solid Foods
At about four to five months of age, or when your baby’s weight has doubled, you can introduce solid foods. Add one new food at a time, at one- to two-week intervals.
Here are some guidelines that provide a flexible plan for adding foods to your baby’s diet.
Introduce iron-fortified infant cereal. Try rice cereal first since it is the least likely to cause allergies.
Mix it with a little breast milk or soy formula. Then offer oat or barley cereals to your baby.
Six to Eight Months
Introduction of Solid Foods from thevegetariansite.com
Introduce vegetables. They should be thoroughly cooked and mashed. Potatoes, green beans, carrots, and peas are all good first choices
Introduce fruits next. Try mashed bananas, avocados, strained peaches, or applesauce.
By eight months of age, most babies can eat crackers, bread, and dry cereal
Also, by about eight months, infants can begin to eat higher protein foods like tofu or beans that have been cooked well and mashed.
“By 6 months of age, iron stores in omnivorous, vegetarian and vegan infants will become depleted and it is important that iron-rich foods are included in the diet.
Iron-fortified infant cereals are a good way to supply iron to vegan infants.
Other good sources include whole grains, pulses, green leafy vegetables and dried fruits.
To enhance iron absorption, add a source of vitamin C such as green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, black currants or orange juice to the meal.”
A plant based diet for children needs a lot of calories and nutrients, their stomachs are small though. Offer frequent snacks, and include some less “bulky” foods like refined grains and fruit juices.
Not too many juices, children could get full with them, and they might start to prefer their sweetness to other foods.
Some foods could present a choking hazard. Be sure to cut foods into small pieces and encourage children to chew their food well before swallowing.
Protein can be easily met if children eat a variety of plant foods and have enough intake of calories.
Sources of protein for children include pulses (peas, beans, lentils, soya), grains (wheat, oats, rice, barley, buckwheat, millet, pasta, bread), nuts, meat substitutes and nut butters.
Protein requirements depend on a child’s age and weight. For example, the average 4-6 year old preschooler requires about 22 grams of protein a day, while an older 7-10 year old requires about 28 grams of protein a day.
Calcium is an important for growing bones and teeth.
Sources are fortified non-dairy milks and juices, calcium set tofu, baked beans and dark green leafy vegetables low in oxalic acid such as spring greens and kale.
Vitamin D children get from exposing regularly two to three times per week for about 20-30 minutes on hands and face.
Those children who have limited exposure to sunlight or who are dark skinned and have no dietary source of vitamin D require supplements.
Iron, sources of iron are whole or enriched grains and grain products, iron fortified cereals, legumes, green leafy vegetables and dried fruits.
Zinc, though zinc from plant foods is less well absorbed as they contain phytate, which interferes with zinc absorption.
Emphasize foods that are good sources of zinc and protein such as pulses and nuts that can increase the amount of zinc in the diet and promote absorption.
Use of yeast-leavened bread and fermented soya products such as tempeh and miso can also improve zinc absorption.
Zinc supplements may be needed for young vegan children whose diet is based on high-phytate cereals and legumes.
B 12, vegan children should use foods fortified with vitamin B12 or take vitamin B12 supplements. Vegetarian children usually get their vitamin B12 from dairy products.
Dairy products should though not be consumed in large amounts, so to be on the save side: Use foods fortified with vitamin B12 or take vitamin B12 supplements.
Foods Groups For Children
Breads, cereals, and grains include all breads, rolls, flat-breads, hot and cold cereals, pasta, cooked grains such as rice and barley, and crackers.
Legumes, nuts, and seeds include any cooked bean such as pinto, kidney, lentil, split pea, black-eyed pea, navy beans, and chickpea; tofu, tempeh, meat analogues, texturized vegetable protein (TVP); all nuts and nut butters, seeds, and tahini (sesame butter).
Fortified soy milk includes all fortified soy milks and infant formula or breast milk for toddlers. ( I don’t advise this, read my article “Is soy good or bad?” to find out why.)
Vegetables include all raw or cooked vegetables which may be purchased fresh, canned, or frozen. Also includes vegetable juices.
Fruits include all fruits and 100 percent fruit juices.
Fruit may be purchased fresh or canned, preferably in a light or natural syrup or in water.
As you can see, a plant based diet for children is not that difficult to achieve and keep up. Please take a look at all the links that I have here, there is so much great information to be found.
Here is a booklet with a lot of information:
References and Links to more Information:
- Vegan Children: Vegansociety.com
- Vegetarian Children: Thevegetariansite.com
- Veggie Kids Tips: Vegetarian.lifetips.com
- Plant-based (vegetarian/vegan) sources of protein vs. animal sources of protein, including an extensive list of foods and their protein content, as well as other nutrients.: Soystache.com
- Protein Rich Foods for Vegetarians: Buzzle.com
- Soy-Free Vegetarian Protein Sources: Foodallergies.about.com