Plant-Based Diet For Kids- Pros and Cons
Good nutrition and food play vital roles in the growth and development of kids. With all the nutrients we require to live a healthy, hearty life you may begin to wonder whether a plant-based diet is sufficient for your kids, as it restricts protein-rich meats. If your family follows a vegan diet, check out if it is actually beneficial.
What should a plant-based diet include?
Before answering the question “is a plant-based diet good for kids”, you should look at what it actually comprises. From a broad perspective, kids need to explore new food groups and get a balanced meal. It should have micro and macronutrients in the right quantities, regardless of the choice of the food items. Thus, the best diet for kids should cover the following aspects.
1. Add Some Flavor!
Plant-based food doesn't have to be limited to raw fruits and salads. Kids should have adequate quantities of all food groups like nuts and seeds which offer healthy fats, proteins, grains, and legumes to fulfill their nutritional requirements. Not all toddlers and kids may prefer salads or fresh, uncooked veggies. Thus, you should look for grilled, steamed, or sautéed dishes, to add a bit of flavor and texture.
Check out some easy, plant-based recipes here:
2. Say No to Fried and Processed food
Many parents may give fried potato chips or fruit-flavored cold drinks under the pretext of a plant-based vegan diet. But these carbonated drinks and preservative-loaded foods aren't good sources of nutrients and should be limited to occasional treats.
Check out these healthy, vegan snacks instead:
3. Have a rainbow meal every time
The best diet for kids is a balanced one. Even though there won't be any beef, chicken, or fish, replace them with a colorful array of veggies, grains, beans, seeds and nuts. More colors and choices can entice your kids to explore available food options and eat more.
Here’s a short guide to home-made vegan food coloring, to make food extra fun:
4. Vegan Supplements are Alright
If your question is - is a plant-based diet good for kids, it isn't so for everyone. If your kid is a picky eater, has a weak physique, or has health issues, you can consult a pediatrician and opt for multivitamin supplements. There are many vegan supplements available that are safe for kids.
Listed below are some vital supplements for vegans:
Benefits of a plant-based diet
The nutrition offered by a plant-based diet for kids depends on the food groups you chose and the ones your kid favors. The following factors highlight why a vegan diet could be a great choice.
1. It lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases
A diet that includes meat contains plenty of unhealthy fats, complex animal proteins, and animal enzymes which can be hard for humans to digest. Kids can develop cardiovascular diseases or other chronic conditions if they consume an excessive amount of meat in the long run. A vegan diet, in contrast, doesn't have these complexities and is safe for all age groups.
Explore more about veganism and cardiovascular diseases here:
2. Diet is full of phytonutrients
Plants are rich in phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Along with other micronutrients, they help in building good immunity. Plants have an array of natural health boosters and immunity enhancers that can keep diseases at bay!
Explore more about phytonutrients here:
3. There are countless varieties and alternatives
Meat is a protein source, and fish is good for omega-3 fatty acids, but there are unlimited plant products that you can choose from for various nutrients. Your kids don't have to stick to a single variety and can explore different tastes and cuisines to develop their palate.
Check out the vegan sources of various nutrients here:
4. Keeps obesity in check
The high amount of saturated fats in animal-based products could increase the risk of obesity. Plant food is thus the best diet for kids, as it contains no complex fats and is easy to digest. These fiber-rich products keep their gut healthy and their metabolism high.
Here are some medical facts about saturated fats:
5. It is a sustainable choice
Most ruminants (cows and goats) release greenhouse gasses while digesting grass and plants. Meat processing and transportation also contribute immensely to the generation of greenhouse gasses. Opting for a vegan diet is therefore a sustainable, eco-friendly option. You’ll be doing something for mother Earth!
Check out this chart on carbon footprints of different diets:
Drawbacks you should look for!
If the above advantages prove that a vegan diet is the best diet for kids, check out the following drawbacks you should keep in mind.
1. Processed foods can harm the digestive system
Not all plant-based foods are good, especially if they contain GMO products, preservatives, or heavy fertilizers. These toxins can damage internal organs, lead to chronic diseases and even cause food poisoning, which can be dangerous sometimes.
Here’s a list of plant-based ingredients to avoid:
2. Meals can lack essential vitamins and minerals
The density of micronutrients is lower in plant-based foods as compared to its alternative. For example, 100 grams of quinoa has only 4 grams of protein, but 100 grams of beef contains 30 grams of protein. Similarly, chicken and fish products contain more vitamins, fats, and healthy carbs than plant-based products, which usually have more water content and glucose.
Check out how much of a particular nutrient vegans need, here:
3. Picky Eaters and Kids with Allergies can develop food eating disorders
Parents planning to adopt a vegan diet for their kids' nutrition should keep an eye on them, especially if they’re picky eaters or have known food allergies. These groups of kids can develop food aversion, fall prey to malnutrition, and may not have enough energy, as compared to other children their age.
Check out these vegan recipes for picky eaters:
4. Kids might have to depend on external supplements
If you are unable to include a good variety of fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins, or if your kid has allergies, they may have to depend on supplements right from a young age. While they can be suitable for many kids, they may not be as effective as natural nutrient sources.
Check out if supplements are safe for kids, here:
Many parents are switching to a plant-based diet for their kids, because of the plentiful benefits it offers, like reduced health risks and a lower carbon footprint. On the other hand, a vegan diet for kids has its cons too, including nutritional deficiencies. Discuss and think about these pros and cons before you make the final decision.