Planning Plant-Based Diets for Children
Growing up and ensuring a balanced diet is essential, especially in an individual's pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Children’s developmental years are essential as it is when a child develops his/her cognitive and physical fundamentals. During this sensitive period, many major developmental milestones are reached. Define the most important periods of an individual in a developmental setting, which would be from birth to the age of five. The initial five years of a child’s life are critical to their well-being, health, and the direction of their health in various ways. Fortunately, there is a multitude of things that parents can do to promote the healthy growth and development of their children.
With Veganism on the rise, the notion of going vegan or plant-based can be attributed to several reasons such as tradition, health, environment, and many more. The most important factor to consider is the specific nutritional needs of a growing child for each developmental stage in life. While many studies indicate that plant-based diets provide a wide range of health benefits for adults, the risks and benefits of a child’s same diet are far more complex than adults.
A Safe Plant-Based Diet
The most crucial aspect to consider when planning a growing child’s diet is the specific nutrients needed to fully furnish their needs. And if those needs are not met, the consequences can affect growth and health, especially in younger children. Considering their small stature, meals need to be nutrient, vitamin, and energy-packed as their portions are smaller. For infants, breast milk is deemed the best way of ensuring that the infant is receiving the nutrition and energy required for optimal growth whereas, for young children and toddlers, a vegan diet requires careful and special planning to ensure their nutritional needs are met. Although diets of plant-based children meet or exceed recommendations for most nutrients, and plant-based/vegan children have higher intakes of fiber and lower intakes of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than omnivorous children, some studies suggest that they may have lower intakes of calcium.
Some advantage of plant-based diets for children is that comparing them to their omnivorous peers, plant-based children have a leaner stature with lower blood cholesterol, and better markers of cardiovascular risk which would translate to a lower risk of contracting heart diseases in the latter part of life. Other benefits of a plant-based diet in adolescence and childhood include higher consumption of vegetables and fruits, fewer salty snacks and sweets, and lower intakes of saturated fats. The consumption of a well-balanced plant-based/vegetarian diet early in life can help develop healthy lifelong habits. By developing such habits, an individual can curb the risks of developing eating disorders as the peak age of disorder development is in the adolescent years.
There are many upsides to a vegan/vegetarian/plant-based diet such as the provision of adequate nutritional intake for all age groups in the various lifecycles, and careful planning is needed to understand every individual’s needs. Speak with a dietician to find out more about yourself and what you need today. Go green, go plant-based.
Do Talk with your paediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about your child's diet.
(2022). [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.newshub.co.nz/dam/form-uploaded-images-ordered/2019/05/17/GettyImages-77059380-broccoli-vegan-veges-child-1120.jpg
BBC Good Food Nation: Survey looks at children's eating habits - CBBC Newsround. (2022). Retrieved 15 July 2022, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/58653757
Melina, V., Craig, W., & Levin, S. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics, 116(12), 1970-1980. DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025
Thiagarajan, K. (2022). Is a vegan diet healthy for children?. Retrieved, from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220525-is-a-vegan-diet-healthy-for-kids