India has always had a significant population following a vegetarian diet, one which eschews meat and fish but allows dairy products like milk, ghee, butter, and sometimes even egg. Veganism takes this to the next level by taking out everything that comes from the animal. At the core of veganism is the idea to stop animal suffering, stop environment degradation and reduce health risks.
Understandably, there have been quite a few takers. But how do use a plant-based diet to fulfil all the nutritional needs of growing children? What are the right ways to raise your kid as a vegan? Here is what you need to know.
Tips to raise healthy children on a vegan diet
vegetarian or vegan diet can help lower cholesterol and improve the health of your kid’s heart as most of the saturated fats contributing to cholesterol come from meat and full-fat dairy products. So, adopting a vegan diet will automatically decrease the intake of saturated fats. Vegetarian or vegan diets are also rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and other important phytonutrients.
What is the right way to raise healthy kids on a vegan diet?
If you are raising your child vegan, it is essential that they get all the nutrients that they are missing out on from animal sources, and grow healthily even without having meat, poultry, cheese, yoghurt or eggs. Careful planning can ensure that your kid grows up properly even without these foods.
Vegan foods do not have all the essential amino acids that are mainly present in animal-based food. That is why it is important to combine proteins found in legumes, seeds and nuts so that your child gets enough nutrients. A combination of proteins from two groups ensures that your kid is not missing out on any amino acid. For example, spreading peanut butter on whole-wheat bread, or serving hummus with whole wheat crackers, or tofu with brown rice can be helpful. Breakfast can be as simple and healthy as whole-grain pancakes.
Ways to meet nutritional requirements of a vegan baby
- When your child is following a vegan diet, it is very important for you to concentrate on Vitamin B12 and iron. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. Opt for cereals or other products that are fortified with Vitamin B12 or a supplement can also be given. If your child drinks almond milk or soya milk, find a fortified beverage.
- Iron from plant foods are not as easily absorbed as iron from animal foods. You can increase your child’s iron absorption by adding a Vitamin C source along with iron-rich food. For example, having an orange or tomato juice along with bean soup can be helpful.
- Another important nutrient that your baby needs is calcium. While most of the green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach do contain calcium, you might also want to check with your doctor about a supplement.
- -Beans are low in fat, high in fibre and can be used in a variety of dishes. You can make whole-wheat wrap with bean filling or brown rice or even a bean sandwich. Lentils can also be cooked and added to salads or soups.
- If you are giving a packed lunch to your school-going child, choose a lunch box with separate containers and give them combinations like hummus, whole grain pasta salad and fruits, or you can even add some lentil chips or corn.
- Salad needn’t always be only green, as you can mix in some cabbage and carrots with chickpea and toss them with a simple dressing. Also remember to be a role model yourself.
- Iodine is another important nutrient that is mainly found in animal products like fish, meat, milk, etc. It is also found in certain plant products like cereals and grains but the levels depend on the soil in which they are grown. If your child does not consume any dairy product, it is better to include a supplement after consultation with a doctor.
- Omega-3 rich sources other than fish are flaxseeds and walnuts that should he ground while giving to kids less than 5 years of age. Ground chia seeds and hemp seeds are also a good idea.
Keep in mind
Vegan diets are usually not rich in calories as they are rich in fibre and hence a child might need more potions of food to get his daily requirement of nutrition. It’s also recommended that until a child is 5 years of age, you should combine high-fibre foods like greens with low-fibre foods like rice. You can also give them high-calorie foods like hummus, nut butter, full-fat yoghurt, etc to prevent nutritional deficiencies.