Ever wondered if it is safe to bring up a child as a vegan? While eating a healthy diet can be beneficial for kids, some trending diets can be dangerous. Several studies have found that following a vegan diet without the recommendation of a doctor can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Experts opine that it is crucial for kids to eat a balanced diet that contains all nutrients.If you are debating whether or not to make your child follow a vegan diet, we have all the answers for you!
Health Shots reached out to Ritika Samaddar, Head – Dietetics, Nutrition And Dietetics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket and Vivek Newar, Nutritionist, Independent Researcher and Founder, Dyet Nutrition, to know more about it.
What is a vegan diet?
Before understanding what it does to children, let’s understand what a vegan diet entails. For the unversed, a vegan diet only comprises plant-based products. “When we talk about a vegan diet, it basically excludes all animal products, which means no non-veg, no dairy products and even certain things like honey cannot be consumed. Many people choose to opt for Vegan diet for ethical, environmental, or health reasons,” explains Samaddar.
Is a vegan diet healthy for your children?
While vegan diet is considered safe for adults, it can be harmful to kids to a certain extent. “There is little evidence to suggest that a young child’s adoption of a vegan diet will have long-term health benefits. It is crucial to provide children with a well-planned, diverse diet that also contains sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and other micro nutrients following a comprehensive consultation with a dietitian,” says Kumar.
Samaddar does not recommend this diet for children. She opines that children need certain nutrients, including calcium, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, etc. These nutrients are crucial for the growth of children. When it comes to this type of diet, dairy products like milk, paneer, lassi are completely out of the equation, which is not good for children.
In a country like India where substitutes for calcium are not easily accessible, it is vital to include natural sources of calcium. Therefore, children in our country are completely dependent on dairy products. Until and unless the child is lactose intolerant or they can’t take milk due to some disease, then we need to look for some other supplements. Otherwise, it is not advisable for a healthy child to follow a vegan diet, explained Samaddar.
Who should follow it?
While it is not good for children, it can work for adults. As per Samaddar, certain studies suggest that vegan diets are very healthy for adults, including those who have diabetes or high cholesterol levels. This is because a vegan diet comprises fruits and vegetables, whole grains and pulses, all of which is a part of a plant-based diet. So, in general it is considered healthy for adults. Since it does not include dairy products, it can be difficult for kids to maintain a healthy balanced diet that can benefit them.