Ask a Doc: Is it healthy for my kid to go vegan?

Son Helping Father To Prepare Vegetables For Meal In Kitchen

Ask a Doc: Is it healthy for my kid to go vegan?

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Ask a Doc: Is it healthy for my kid to go vegan?

Question:

My eleven year old decided she doesn’t want to eat meat anymore. Is going vegan a healthy option? What are the benefits and downfalls?

Answer:

First of all, don’t panic! A vegan diet can be a healthy lifestyle choice.

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A vegan diet is one type of vegetarianism

It avoids all animal products including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs and ingredients from animals such as gelatin and honey.

Well-planned vegan diets can be nutritious and may have health benefits due to eating fewer calories, lower saturated fat and more fiber. This can lead to a lower long-term risk of chronic diseases such as ischemic heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

But it is important to note that a poorly planned or overly restrictive vegan diet could pose potential health risks for your child.

Keeping kids healthy while being vegan

An overly restricted diet can result in poor growth and poor weight gain. Plus, if not properly planned, it can cause deficiencies of one or more of the following nutrients: protein, omega fats, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, calcium and iron. However, with appropriate guidance, all of these potential health risks can be avoided.

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For example, a vegan diet eliminates all milk and dairy products. These foods are important sources of calcium, Vitamin D and protein. Children need these foods in their diet to build strong bones and muscles. You can find alternative sources of calcium and Vitamin D in fortified non-dairy products made from soy, almond, coconut, rice or peas.

Calcium and Vitamin D nutrients can be naturally found in:

  • kale
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • mushrooms

Credit: Giphy

Sources of protein in a vegan diet include:

  • beans
  • nuts
  • soy

Incorporating a variety of these foods into your daughter’s diet every day will ensure she’s getting adequate nutrition.

I would recommend that you contact your child’s physician and consult with a Registered Dietitian experienced in Pediatrics. They will help you provide a healthy and balanced diet for your daughter. For more information you can check out EatRight.org, the web site for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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