Is it healthy for children to be vegan?
Veganuary has come to an end, but for many who took the pledge to be vegan for January they have decided to carry on and remain vegan. And often that decision is applied to the whole family, including the children
This week the BBC programme ‘Food – truth or scare’ looked at the stories behind the confusing headlines about veganism and children
and focused on the ‘Driver’ family with two young children.
I want to separate fact from fiction and help you to make an informed choice about your families health
Some issues to consider
Variety – the TV family had a good diet but tended to rely on the same foods for their protein, fibre etc.
So aim for as much variety as possible, using a mix of ready prepared dishes like burgers and sausages and homemade meals like soup, lasagne and other pasta dishes. And of course serve plenty of vitamin packed vegetables and salads
If you need some inspiration have a look at my recipe page http://www.nutrition-coach.co.uk/blog/category/recipes/
Children aged between 2 and 13 years need between 1000 and 2000 calories a day, depending on their age, gender and activity levels. Therefore its important to get as much energy in every meal as possible. Fat is the most calorific at 9 calories a gram with protein and carbs coming in joint second with 4 calories per gram
This is a concern for the ‘Driver’ family showcased on ‘Food – truth or scare’
Its therefore important to make sure children generally do not have reduced fat products i.e. yoghurt, milk, cheese etc. There are vegan and plant based versions of all these products that often have the addition of extra vitamins and minerals
When making vegan mashed potato or mac and cheese for instance, add plenty of ‘marg’, milk, nutritional yeast and cheese. Not only will this increase the calorie content, without increasing the portion size but it will add calcium, vitamin D and some B vitamins
These headlines make for scary reading, but malnourishment can occur with any diet. It is therefore essential that your child eats ‘a rainbow of colour’. By that I mean lots of different fruits and vegetables in order to obtain the maximum type of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
A hand blender can come in very handy. It allows you to hide lots of vegetables in a pasta sauce for instance.
A blender can also be used to make delicious fruit rich smoothies
Make your children’s food exciting
This is a photo from a vegan parent, who makes packed lunches for her vegan children. It has fibre filling wholemeal bread filled with vegan cheese and pickle. Crackers and hummus – great source of protein and calcium. And plenty of colourful fresh fruit
This is another lunchbox made by a vegan mum for her vegan 5 yr old’s lunch today; homemade pancakes with low sugar fruit spread, Violife original plus fruit and veggies
How tasty do they look!
When making smoothies add peanut butter or avocado to increase the fat and protein content
Try and draw up a weekly meal plan, like this one from the Veganuary campaign. This will help with shopping and cooking. It will also make sure there is plenty of variety
Tinned beans (chickpeas, cannellini, butter beans etc) can be blended in to a pasta sauce to increase the protein and calorie content. Hummus (chickpeas) is also great on sandwiches, jacket potatoes and crackers
In this short video I explain some of the nutrients that need to be included into your families daily diet
Foods rich in these nutrients include Brazil nuts (and nuts in general), seaweed, kale, avocado, flaxseeds (linseeds), sesame seeds, tofu, Marmite and certain fortified products like cereals, bread, plant based milks, pasta sauces and orange juice
The good news is vegan diets are generally higher in fruits and vegetables and wholegrains. This has the potential to reduce the families risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer
Smoothies are another great way to get children to eat a range of foods. They can also help you to make them.
This short video shows another vegan mother sharing her favourite smoothie recipe. But the combinations are endless.
I am a vegan nutrition coach and chef, so If you need additional help and support to keep your vegan family healthy, then consider a nutrition session or vegan cooking class with me
07946 301338 Susan@nutrition-coach.co.uk