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Is a Vegan Diet Healthy for Kids?

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By Maggie McCracken

Italian parliamentarian Elvira Savino wants to impose jail time on parents who choose to feed their children a vegan diet. Citing malnutrition, Savino likened veganism to child abuse and expressed concern about recent incidents in Italy in which vegan diets were linked to health problems in children under 16.

Understandably, vegans and non-vegans alike have expressed outrage over the proposal. Should Italy really be making decisions like these for parents under the guise of child welfare? And even if they should, is there really anything particularly unhealthy about a vegan diet?

Veganism and Parenting

Chastising parents for what they choose to feed their children is nothing new. Both meat eaters and vegans often criticize parents on the other side, citing the opposing diet as unhealthy, irresponsible and ill-informed.

For the sake of clarity, some children do suffer from poor nutrition when they're fed a vegan diet—but so do many children of meat-eating parents. In her proposal, Savino cites a recent case in which a Milan one-year-old was hospitalized as a result, doctors determined, of malnutrition due to his vegan diet.

However, it's likely that parents of poorly fed vegan children aren't paying due diligence to the nutritional needs that are inherent with veganism. No one is saying that eating healthy while vegan is easy. It requires a deep understanding of nutrition, particularly when one is dealing with growing children. But with the right research and eye to detail, a healthy vegan diet is certainly doable, as millions of parents have demonstrated by correctly feeding their children a healthy plant-based diet.

Is a Vegan Diet Healthy for Kids?

If done correctly, it's usually possible for a healthy young child to thrive on a vegan diet. Pediatric dietician Helen Wilcock of the British Dietetic Association explained to The Guardian that vegan parents should be sure to give their kids supplements to protect against malnutrition.

"Vegan children can be deficient in vitamin D, calcium, iron and possibly vitamin B12," she explained, "so they need supplements."

Wilcock also recommends adding oil to children's food to provide them with nourishing fats as well as extra calories.

And finally, she cautions parents to think about the amino acid profile of their vegan children's diets. In order to get complete amino acids, parents need to pair plant-based foods together that deliver the entire spectrum of the nine essential amino acids for human growth. Most plant foods don't contain a complete amino acid profile, so it's necessary to create combinations that do, such as rice with beans, peanut butter with bread or hummus with pita.

How to Take Action

If you're passionate about parents' right to feed their children a vegan diet, we invite you to sign our petition and make your voice heard. Only by being vocal about these issues can we educate others about nutrition and give parents the tools they need to raise strong and healthy vegan kids.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

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