Some nutritionists confirm that raising a kid on a plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet is completely do-able and can be incredibly healthy. Plant-based diets can help prevent and treat diseases in both kids and adults and is better for the environment. Whether you’ve chosen your diet for health reasons, ethical reasons, or because it’s what makes you feel best, there is much information to confirm that you’re doing the right thing for your family.
However, when you make that decision, you probably face significant pushback from concerned family members, healthcare professionals, and busybody friends. The best way to handle this concern is to listen and then show them you’ve taken their views into consideration. The biggest questions generally revolve around making sure the children are getting all the different nutrients they need and the best way to combat those is to explain and show how your kids are receiving what they need through foods.
Protein is often the most commonly asked about ingredient and perhaps the easiest to get. Not only can you get sufficient protein from milk and eggs, if those are in your diet, but you can also get it from quinoa, buckwheat, soy products such as tofu and tempeh, rice and beans (which together make a complete protein), and the all-time kid favorite, peanut butter. Between the grains and the peanut butter, as long as you’re making sure sufficient protein is on the table every day, your kids are not lacking in this regard.
Getting the right vegetables down might be a little trickier with kids. Veggies are your main sources of calcium, iron, and Vitamins D and B-12. Calcium and Vitamin D can be found in black strap molasses as well as many calcium-fortified foods and leafy green vegetables. Iron is not only found in legumes and many whole grains, but also in nuts, tomatoes, and blackstrap molasses. Vitamin B12 can be a little trickier if you’re vegan as it’s mostly found in milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs. Many milk alternatives such as almond and soy milk are fortified with B12.
Making sure your family eats healthy is a challenge and something to pay close attention to whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or otherwise. Whatever your diet, you’ll still confront people over the food choices you make for your children. So be prepared to explain yourself, listen, and then be willing to insist that they really don’t need that bacon-wrapped asparagus or 5th sugar cookie.
Regular checkups with your nutritionist or doctor will go a long way in maintaining the health of your child.