A vegetarian diet is healthy and safe for children and there are several studies published in the scientific literature on the subject. However, there are many methodological errors in the studies condemning vegetarianism that can only be detected by reading the publications in their entirety.
As an example, a part of the scientific literature on vegan children with growth problems and malnutrition resulted from a spiritual community called Black Hebrews.
The spirit of the sect leader determined that children born in the community should be breastfed chest up to three months of life, when breast milk would be suspended and the child should receive cabbage juice with apple and a mixture of water and liquified soybeans .
This kind of conduct is not related to a vegetarian diet, but to an ignorance of the act lead to infant feeding. It is clear that, in this condition, if the orientate sect that had broth in the juice, the baby would be undernourished in the same way (and the child would not vegetarian), considering that the food meets the baby needs up to six months life is only breast milk.
In their absence, they can use specific formulas designed for infants. The withdrawal of breast milk (or substitute specific formula breastmilk) that involves serious risk of malnutrition because it does not meet the baby’s needs.
Below, I explain how the key nutrients can be extracted from a vegetarian diet.
There is no deficiency of any amino acid in plant foods, and this can be seen in the nutritional composition tables obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture.
To illustrate the safety of vegetarian food, using the guidelines of the Food Guide of the Society of Pediatrics, we set up a 1,300 kcal diet for a child 2-3 years old. A simple replacement of this meat diet for more beans, potatoes adding (containing little protein) and oils (contains protein), promotes intake of 42 g protein, more than double of what is needed to the infant.
Lysine and methionine plus amino acids questioned regarding the safety of a diet without meat, are ingested in an amount 5 times higher than necessary.
The rapid growth of the child takes the spent iron stored in the body as to increase the volume of blood and muscles, for example, iron is used.
The use of iron as a supplement is routinely done from 6 months until at least 2 years old, and advocated for the omnivorous children, according to the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics.
And it is wrong to say that vegetables have less iron than animal products. For example, in 100 g of lean red meat for 1.9 mg iron, 4.2 mg against that are found in a bean shell. Absorbed 18% (0.34 mg) of iron of the meat and 10% (0.42 mg) of this iron beans.
As much as iron absorption is higher in meat, most existing amount in beans exceeds the absorption obtained by the flesh. Thus, the iron recommendation in childhood (through diet and use of supplements) will be the same for the vegetarian child.
The phytic acid is the nutritional factor that hinders the absorption of zinc. To reduce it in vegetables (especially beans) just let soak beans in water for 8 to 12 hours. It is easy to optimize the absorption when we use the plant source of zinc.
It is provided by breast milk. When its use is not possible or desired, it will be replaced by specific formulas, designed for babies that contain this mineral at optimum levels.
The care with calcium for those who do not use milk is the same for children with allergy to cow’s milk protein and the lactose intolerant.
Do not make fuss this adequacy in the diet of these children and, likewise, there is no show of reason for calcium in a vegetarian diet without dairy products, it is easy to adjust it.
It is the only nutrient missing in the plant kingdom because, to date, the B12 found in some foods (like fermented algae and food) failed to show active in the human body.
Supplementation may be important in strict vegetarian diet – and it’s important to know that about 50% of the population eating meat has insufficient bodily levels of this vitamin, which makes them care omnivores also very important.
Meat beef and chicken are not good omega-3 sources, and to make matters worse, are sources of omega-6 elongated (arachidonic acid), which hinders the activation of omega-3.
Getting omega-3 in the vegetarian diet is easy as Flaxseed is a good source. And to ensure that its omega-3 is converted to its most active form, not just ingest omega-6 in large quantity, which is achieved by avoiding the consumption of fried foods, highly processed foods and oils in large quantities in food.
The vegetarian diet, including strict, can be taken safely for children from weaning, with the necessary guidelines, as they are made for the omnivorous child. A vegetarian diet since childhood promotes the use of more diverse food than omnivorous diet, as well as healthy eating habits that tend to accompany the child to adulthood, assisting in the prevention of chronic diseases that cause death in adults – such as disease cardiovascular, diabetes, and various cancers.
Breastfeeding is vegan? Clarifying a common misconception!
Breastfeeding in veganism is still a confusing issue for some people. After all, what is known is that vegans do not eat animal products (not human). For these people, it seems certain that breastfeeding is not vegan, even to the extreme of accusing these mothers and radicalism parents for allegedly depriving their children of this essential food early in their lives.
After all, vegan mothers breastfeed their children? Yes for sure! Vegans are totally in favor of breastfeeding. They agree that breast milk is a perfect food – for babies of the same species. That is, human milk is perfect for human babies, cow’s milk is perfect for calves, perfect goat milk for kids, and so on. And so the baby reaches the age for weaning, it is able to nourish with other foods.
Just as you do not see grown animals of other species ingesting milk, the human being also does not need milk after weaning, or of their own species (much less than others).
After the breastfeeding, the human being can get calcium and other nutrients from vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, tahini, almonds, soy, chia, are some examples of foods rich in calcium.
Maternity ties and protection of their children are not uniquely human. Drinking cow’s milk or any other species means taking something that does not belong to us. It was not made for us. But breast-feeding your child (or even donate your own milk to a milk bank, for example) is perfectly vegan.