Vegan Kids: How Can I Make Sure That My Kids Get all the Nutrients That They Need?
Vegan kids and nutrients
As a parent of vegan kids, you might be worried that they are not getting enough nutrients. Especially if you are new to the vegan lifestyle, however, you don't need to worry. In this article, we will provide you with practical tips to make things easier for you.
How can you make sure your kids get all the nutrients they need?
A healthy vegan diet is possible for everyone, including children. There are however some differences to be aware of compared to an omnivorous diet.
1) Make sure that you serve enough food during meals
2) Do not expect your child to become vegan overnight
3) Vegan substitutes for honey and dairy products contain less protein
4) The iron content of foods is not measured in the same way
5) Make sure that you give your kids B12 supplements. Other nutrients can be found via food.
6) Reduce or avoid sugar and soda, which are bad for their teeth
7) Diets should take into account the child's age, health condition, lifestyle, and needs
Serve enough food during the main meals.
The first thing you can do to make sure your kids get all the nutrients they need is to serve them enough food at main meals. Make up for any snacks or desserts with extra servings of vegetables or fruit. Don't worry about filling them up only with healthy vegan foods.
Don't expect your child to become vegan overnight
You might have decided to go vegan yourself and you will probably want your kids to follow suit. But don't pressure them! While a few older children can switch their diet in a day, others need more time to get used to the new foods. If they really don't want to eat vegan for now, let them eat what they like and serve at least some vegan options.
Take it slow and give your kids time to adapt
Give your kids time and take it slow when you are introducing new food to them. It can sometimes take several tries before they will accept a new food. Most often, kids will accept new foods from the third try on.
What to do if your kid doesn't want to eat vegan?
The best thing you can do is to give them enough time until they are willing to consider the food again. Sometimes kids reject a certain food because it is "different", but later they might still like it. Even if they don't, the more you give them tofu or other vegan foods, the more likely it is that at least one of their meals will contain some vegan food.
Vegan substitutes for honey and dairy products are different
Some vegan substitutes for dairy products taste great! Others, however, do not. Likewise, with vegan "honey" products, they are often made from sugar instead of real honey. If you buy vegan substitutes for dairy or honey, make sure to check the ingredients list on the product.
Iron content is not measured in the same way
The iron content of some foods is indicated with an iron number that looks like this: 7-20. If you see this number on a label, for example for juice or bread, it means that the product contains 7-20 mg iron per 100 g.
The iron content of food can be measured in different ways. In the US and the UK, the most common way to measure is micrograms (mcg) per serving. In Germany and a few other countries, milligrams (mg) per serving is more common. In the US and the UK, for example, 100 g equals about 3.5 oz, while in Germany it is closer to 4 oz.
Iron content of some vegan foods per 100g:
✔Blackstrap molasses: 154-189 mg
✔Nuts: 3-9,5 mg
✔Granola: 1.8-6 mg
✔Dried apricots: 0.4-1.3 mg
Because of the different measuring units, the exact iron content of a certain food will vary between countries. You can use an online converter to find out how much iron is in the product you are interested in.
Iron supplements for kids
If your child doesn't like any of these foods, he/she might not get enough iron this way. That is why some parents give their kids an occasional vegan multivitamin (e.g. Nature's Plus Animal Parade) or a vegan child multivitamin once a week.
An occasional vitamin does not mean that you aren't giving your kids everything they need, just that there might be a slight deficit in their nutrition. If you still have the feeling that your kid needs something extra from these nutrients from supplements, talk to your doctor about it.
It is always better to get nutrients from food than from supplements. Even if your kids take multivitamins, it is important that your whole family eats a varied vegan diet. For example, vitamin C enhances iron absorption, so make sure you serve foods rich in vitamin C when serving high-iron meals.
These are the vegan multi-vitamins that I give to my kids:
Babies and toddlers need breast milk until they are at least 12 months old. Your child might not get enough iron until they are about 1-2 years old, because breast milk does not contain much of it. That is why babies that are exclusively breastfed need a vegan vitamin or other supplements once a week to make up for the lack of iron in their diet.
A well-balanced vegan diet for kids?
The best thing you can do is to give your child a well-balanced vegan diet that includes lots of different foods. This way, they will get all the nutrients that they need. If you are still worried about something in particular (like iron), talk to your pediatrician about it.
Good food sources of iron:
Iron-enriched cereals and whole-grain products (e.g. bran flakes, rice crispies)
Dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach)
Dried fruit (e.g raisins)
Nuts and seeds
Here are some great vegan cookbooks for kids:
A vegan diet can be healthy for older kids, but you might need to make sure that your child gets the right amount of nutrients by giving them vegan multivitamins or supplements once a week. Younger toddlers (0-1 years) should not be given entirely vegan diets unless advised to by their pediatrician.
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