Vegan Foods

Is it safe to raise your child vegan or vegetarian?

Over 200 users commented on the video, many in favor of a vegan diet, some less so.

“Child Services please,” one user wrote. “If this baby develops health issues because of this, you are guilty of child abuse – you are incriminating yourself,” said another. Yet another: “Bro, they can die if they don’t eat meat. The video has since been deleted.

“I know it’s something I wish I had when I was a kid,” Rose said in an interview. “I wish I had never eaten an animal, because I love them so much, and it’s something I wanted to give my daughter the opportunity to do.”

The trend includes young people

As more adults adopt vegetarian diets (which eliminate meat) and vegan diets (which do not include any animal products), experts say the trend includes more children and young people. But, as TikTok commenters have proven, many aren’t sure if this is a healthy choice.

Jen Trachtenberg, a pediatrician at Carnegie Hill Pediatrics and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, confirmed that a number of her young patients skip animal products, especially when their parents cut out those foods. “More and more families are interested and wondering about the health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets,” she said.

Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease as well as certain cancers. Additionally, in 2009, the American Dietetic Association concluded that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet is safe for people at all stages of life – including pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and babies. – with the caveat that fortified foods or supplements may “provide useful amounts of important nutrients.

The 2021 study, which looked at 187 healthy children aged 5 to 10, found those who followed a vegan diet had lower levels of body fat and the unhealthy form of cholesterol, as well as fewer deficiencies nutritional. But these children were also, on average, about 1.2 inches shorter than non-vegans of the same age, had vitamin deficiencies, and had about 5 percent lower bone mineral content.

The researchers wrote: “Our data suggest that restriction of animal foods may prevent children from achieving optimal height or bone mineral status and may lead to selected nutrient deficiencies.”

Reed Mangels, nutrition adviser for the Vegetarian Resource Group, which promotes and educates about vegetarian eating, said she’s not concerned about growth rates, especially when it comes to Americans.

“A concern with research conducted in other countries is that conditions may not reflect those in the United States – less information available, limited fortified foods, limited alternatives to meat and dairy,” said Mangels said. “Studies in the UK, Taiwan and Germany have all found that vegetarian children, including vegans, grow at rates that are not significantly different from non-vegetarian children.”

Children have different dietary needs

Still, experts say it’s important for parents to recognize that children have different dietary needs than adults. “Toddlers need more micronutrients per kilogram of body weight than adults,” said Liisa Korkalo, senior lecturer in the Department of Food and Nutrition at the University of Helsinki, whose research focused on child nutrition. “They need a nutrient-dense diet.” With small stomachs and limited absorptive capacity, the food little children eat really does matter.

Mangels said vegetarian and vegan children sometimes have lower levels of vitamin B-12 (which keeps a person’s blood and nerve cells healthy), calcium (which builds and maintains strong bones), vitamin D (which helps the body absorb calcium), iron (which makes hemoglobin and myoglobin) and zinc (which supports the immune system and is needed by the body to make protein and DNA).

However, none of these nutrients are unique to meat or even animal products. Vitamin B-12 can be found in eggs, dairy products, and products fortified with B-12 such as soy milk or nutritional yeast. Calcium and iron can be found in beans. Vitamin D can be found in eggs and foods fortified with vitamin D (including cereals, orange juice and soy milk). Additionally, zinc can be found in tofu, legumes, and nuts.

Trachtenberg said she suggests a “plant-based” diet to her patients, which limits the amount of meat and animal products without completely eliminating any of these foods. Still, she said true vegetarian and vegan diets can meet all of a child’s needs, with one stipulation: “This should be well thought out and monitored with a pediatrician or registered dietician.”

A vegetarian or vegan lifestyle can be difficult for children and teens to maintain, said Lauren Crosby, a pediatrician at La Peer Pediatrics in Beverly Hills, Calif., who estimates that at least 5% of her young patients, in especially teens and tweens, are vegetarian or vegan.

“Some kids think they want to be vegan or vegetarian until they know what it really means and what they need to eat regularly to support their growth,” she said. “The plant-based is a good way to see if they will or can actually make gradual changes that aren’t as extreme as these other diets can be.”

Crosby also said she tries to get her vegetarian and vegan patients to stick to a “middle ground” of plant-based eating until the child is done growing. (Which is usually around 16 for boys and 15 for girls.)

Similarly, Korkalo said she suggests a “flexitarian” approach for children, where a parent organizes a child’s diet without firm restrictions. She used the example of a vegetarian child who wants to try a beloved family recipe that includes meat.

“From a food culture point of view, it may be important that as a child you can taste your grandmother’s famous recipes,” she said. “You can eat a really healthy diet, with lots of vegetables, lots of legumes, whole grains and fruits. You can always be flexible and let them eat a bit of everything from time to time.

Still, some parents aren’t interested in plant-based or “felixitarian” philosophies.

Joanna Draus, a mother of three in Catalonia, Spain, and author of “Your Vegan Kid,” was living in Warsaw when she turned to a meatless diet. She said her interest in a meat-free lifestyle began in the 1990s. And over the years, she also raised her daughter as a vegetarian. In 2004, Draus became fully vegan and decided to raise her twins, born in 2007, the same way.

“I realized that veganism is not only a more ethical choice but also a much healthier one,” Draus said.

Raising vegan kids isn’t easy, says mum

Sadly, this mum said raising vegan kids wasn’t easy, citing social pressure and limited food options at school. Additionally, she complained that her doctors in Poland were not always supportive of her choice in the 1990s. Still, she says things have improved over the years.

“What happened in the 2010s was that more and more people started to understand the meaning of the word ‘vegan,'” Draus said. “I was lucky to find a very good and experienced pediatrician in Barcelona. She had no idea about veganism, but was supportive and open-minded. When she met my sons, the first vegan patients she ever had, she only asked me if I knew what I was doing and how to provide them with adequate amounts of calcium and protein – those two were , and are still, perceived as difficult to manage. adopt a vegan diet.

Draus says things have gotten even easier in recent years. “There are many resources out there and the public perception has changed from thinking vegans are crackpots to looking at us with respect,” she said.

After all these years, she is glad she persevered. “I believe raising your kids vegan benefits them in so many ways. I can see it in my twin sons who have been vegan all their lives,” she said. “These days, my kids are influencing their friends.”

Since Rose uploaded her video with Oak last month, she posted a number of TikTok videos in response to his many questions and criticisms online.

In one video, Rose answered a question about whether babies need calcium from dairy products. In the post, she dances under the text: “There is as much if not more calcium… in most plant-based milks. In response to the comment, “Brother, they can die if they don’t eat meat,” she danced to the simple caption, “That’s not true.” She even posted a video referencing the recent Polish study and another recommending plant-based protein sources.

But it seems Rose isn’t opposed to her daughter one day deviating from the vegan lifestyle. In yet another video, she responds to a comment from a TikTok user: “Would you support her if one day she asked for meat?” Much like her original post, Rose holds her daughter as she dances and smiles beneath her post, “As soon as she’s old enough to understand where this is coming from…She can decide for herself.”

When asked, Rose says she is still so committed to raising her vegan daughter. “I don’t let people’s opinions sway me on things like that,” she said. “It’s something that’s really important to me and receiving hate doesn’t change that.”