Can a child thrive on a vegan diet? The answer is yes! Far more studies show that a
typical 'Western Diet' has deleterious effects on health compared to the risks of a
vegan diet. In fact, vegetarian diets are associated with disease resistance and even
higher I.Q.'s in children. (1-5)
With proper planning and a bit of self-education, parents should feel confident in
giving their child a diet free of animal products.
Healthy food choices include the following:
Protein dense foods: beans, soy, whole grains, nuts, etc.
Calcium sources: beans, leafy greens, figs, blackstrap molasses, fortified beverages,
Iron sources: grains, dried fruit, coconut milk, blackstrap molasses, soybeans,
Zinc sources: nuts, seeds, grains, chickpeas, soybeans, etc.
Avoid wheat and nuts until after one year of age, to avoid possible food sensitivities.
Supplementation may be necessary for children who are picky eaters, but most
nutritional needs can be met through diet. Vitamins D and B12 may be the
exception, and parents should ensure an optimal supply through fortified foods or
Finding community support can be very important in helping your child maintain
healthy eating habits, as vegan diets are often misunderstood and even feared by
well-meaning family members, neighbours, and teachers. Many excellent resources
exist that can help educate those in your child's life who have concerns, and
possibly alleviate any misconceptions they may have.
Raising a child on a vegan diet can be challenging in today's world of hot-dogs and
ice cream, but parents should be assured that research is on their side.
The following sources are particularly supportive of vegan diets for children:
The Vegetarian Society UK http://www.vegsoc.org
The Vegetarian Resource Group http://www.vrg.org
European Vegetarian Union http://www.ivu.org
Physician's Committee For Responsible Medicine http://www.pcrm.org
Becoming Vegan Brenda Davis, R.D., and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.
1. O'Connell JM, Dibley MJ, Sierra J et al: Growth of vegetarian children: The Farm
Study. Pediatrics 1989;84:475-481.
2. Fisher M, Levine PH, Weiner B, et al. The effects of vegetarian diets on plasma
lipid and platelet levels. Arch Inter Med 1986;146:1193-1197.
3. Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R, Eilber U. Mortality pattern of German
vegetarians after 11 years of follow-up. Epidemiology 1992;3:395-401.
4. Thorogood M, Mann J, Appleby P, McPherson K. Risk of death from cancer and
ischaemic heart disease in meat and non-meat eaters. Brit Med J 1994;308:1667
5. Dwyer JT, Miller LG, Arduino NL, et al. Mental age and I.Q. of predominately
vegetarian children. J Am Dietetic Assoc 1980;76:142-147.
Stacelynn Caughlan is a Clinical Nutritionist and Certified Herbalist who specializes
in pregnancy, birth and childhood. She is currently the editor of http://www.motherandchildhealth.com an online resource for women looking for
information on natural health and healing for themselves and their families.