Vegan lifestyle and children: Is it advisable for children to be vegan? 

Vegetarianism is today positioned as a way of life, not just a diet. Its principles go beyond food preferences and imply a “cruelty-free” lifestyle towards animals and the environment. Its principles state that human nutrition cannot be based on a diet containing animal products, which are cruelly treated to increase their yield, and that intensive livestock farming can also have negative environmental impacts, e.g. due to carbon dioxide emissions and high consumption of drinking water.

Veganism therefore promotes the use of “cruelty-free” products of all kinds, such as cosmetics and clothing, so the reasons for adopting this diet are not only nutritional.

What is the difference between vegetarian and vegan?

In another article we already talked about this difference, but to make a small summary: The difference between a vegan and a vegetarian diet is that the former completely eliminates the consumption of all animal products, while the latter is limited to not eating meat.

As you can imagine, the vegan diet has become popular in recent years and has replaced the vegetarian diet because of its emotional component that encourages empathy for animals.

For example, a vegetarian diet may include eggs and milk, and a vegan diet also eliminates these products, and some vegetarians even eliminate red meat from their diet. The main argument between proponents and opponents is the importance of eating meat and whether it is possible to replace the protein it provides without endangering health.

Is it recommended for children to be vegetarian and/or vegan?

An important discussion about vegan diets is that parents feed their children the same way they feed themselves from a very early age. Experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life and some recommend extending breastfeeding along with complementary feeding until two years of age or beyond.

In this sense, if we focus on the strictly biological, breast milk, which is also of animal origin, cannot be replaced by any milk of vegetable origin, so children under the age of two should not be vegan. Therefore, if parents want their children to follow the same vegan diet as they do, they should receive medical guidance to avoid nutritional deficiencies in their children.

Some elements that children and adolescents need for normal development are not found in plant sources, such as fatty acids, omega 3 (from fish), adequate amounts of animal protein and vitamins such as B12, iron and zinc, which are generally not present in a vegan diet. From the age of two, some experts say that a child “can become a vegetarian, as long as all these nutritional needs are met”.

Three Essential Proteins for Children

In addition to other healthy dietary recommendations for children, with special emphasis on medical advice if parents choose to keep their children on a meat-free diet, paediatricians recommend that children follow a diet that includes the three essential sources of animal protein. “In general, it is healthier for children to have a vegetarian diet with eggs, milk and fish,” he said, meaning drinking enough milk, eating eggs, eating fish and more vegetables, fruits and carbohydrates.

The guidelines from the experts are clear. Children should not go vegan before the age of two because they cannot live without breast milk or other animal formulas, and after the age of two any drastic change in a child’s diet should be supervised and guided by professionals.

Therefore, our main recommendation in this regard is that you ALWAYS consult with a nutrition professional or your paediatrician about any changes you want to introduce in your children’s diet; and we also encourage you to learn about the flexivegan option to introduce into your family lifestyle, as it is a healthy, complete and responsible diet.

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