Many vegan parents face this question at one or another point in their child’s lifetime. Stay with us as we cover whether this is ethical or not, and how to help you make the best choices for your child’s health.
Is it okay to force your child to be vegan?
In this present day and age, there are no laws that make it illegal to get your child on a vegan diet and lifestyle. This is already very reassuring, considering veganism has been around for quite some time and many non-vegan nutritionists and dieticians take it pretty seriously.
However, there is a possibility to prosecute parents for neglecting their children based on malnutrition. This goes for any type of diet, and we will explore whether veganism can cause this as well.
Vegans do not force their children any more than other parents do to eat in a certain way. If you grew up eating animal products, we can say that your parents indirectly “forced” you to eat and follow their diet.
How does the law view veganism?
Forcing anyone to eat or drink or simply do anything that goes against their will would be illegal. Now, veganism never encourages this and even the court recognizes that.
Ethical veganism is seen as a philosophical belief that qualifies as a protected belief, in the Equal Act 2010, Section 10, and is as such protected under legislation.
So, the only reason for concern would be proper nutrition for your children, as should be with any diet they are following. Let’s see what this means when it comes to veganism.
Nutrition for vegan children
All children, whether they are following a vegan diet or any other, need proper nutrition to grow and develop. We don’t necessarily learn about this at school, and many of us have grown up without getting this information from our own families.
Vegan parents face so many questions when it comes to this. They usually have to be well prepared for answering where their kids get their protein, what about iron, and what about any extra supplements.
We do know that a measured out, well-planned, and followed vegan diet covers all the health requirements of adults and children. To help you understand why it is worth it to invest this extra effort in a proper nutrition plan, we have listed here only a few benefits veganism brings to kids:
- lower risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases
- enough vitamins C, E which are lacking in meat-eating diets
- lowered risk of high blood pressure and many types of cancer
- more energized bodies
Concern: vegan children are short and weak
You’ve probably heard this critic many times. Now, let’s see what actually causes a weak and short body? Inadequate nutrition!
Vegan children all need the same nutrition requirements met, but there is something else to consider - their age. Based on how old they are, they will need different amounts of different vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc.
When it comes to that scary question of how much protein they need and how to get it, we got you covered! The best protein sources are lentils, chickpeas, beans, tempeh, tofu, brown rice, oats, wholemeal bread, and even meat alternatives! Up to 3 years of age, the amount of protein needed is a maximum of 15g, 4-10 years olds need between 20 and 28g, 11-14 years old need around 41g, and 15-18 years old should have an intake of 50g.
Calcium, magnesium and iron
We know that for strong bones and muscles we need calcium, magnesium, and iron. If we had no calcium in our bodies, our bones would be bendy and soft. For good calcium absorption, you need vitamin D, so it is important to include both in your diet. A vegan diet is very rich in calcium since it comes in all those leafy greens, such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, etc.
Magnesium is important for a healthy immune system, nerve and muscle function, energy, protein metabolism, and the strong structure of bones. Magnesium needs calcium for absorption, so they should come hand in hand. There’s a bunch of magnesium in a vegan diet, for example, even in bananas!
It might seem a bit scary when you see all these vitamins that need to go together, and if you are overwhelmed in planning each of their intakes separately, maybe multivitamin supplements would be a great way to reassure yourself.
You might remember from school that iron has a crucial role in carrying haemoglobin and myoglobin, which are found in red blood cells and muscles. Keep in mind that iron and vitamin C should also be combined for maximum absorption. Fun fact: iron is best absorbed from soya!
Last but not least, do not forget about vitamin B12, as it is the only nutrient children who are not eating meats can not receive without supplements!
How to get your kids to eat healthily?
Sometimes knowing how much your children could benefit from a healthier, plant-based diet, doesn’t make them actually want to go for it. We explored some tips you could use to help your children truly enjoy this way of life!
Involving them in food prep and cooking has proven to be effective, getting them interested in what they are eating. Try to slice fruits and veggies in fun shapes - zucchini sticks, colourful cubes of berries and bananas will do the job.
Smoothies are a great way to get those greens in. Energy balls as a snack for school work great. Adding lentils into their favourite sauce ensures enough protein intake. Giving them a choice between a few options will make them feel more liberal. When introducing new foods, try to do it one at a time.
Leading by example is always the best way to raise children, so try not to eat those unhealthy snacks the same way you wouldn’t want them to.
Bottom line is - forcing children to do anything will most likely result in a revolt. However, making them truly enjoy and have fun with the healthy and optimized way of life that is best for them will win every time.