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Should Kids Go on a Vegan Diet?

Vegan Is Love children's book
North Atlantic Books, Thinkstock

Many people have adopted a vegan lifestyle as a healthy alternative to eating meat. But is veganism, a strict diet which eliminates all animal proteins, including milk, cheese, eggs, meat and fish, healthy for growing children?

California resident Ruby Roth is raising her seven-year-old stepdaughter, Akira, to be a vegan. And she’s so passionate about the lifestyle that she’s written an upcoming children’s book on the subject called ‘Vegan is Love.’

But some argue that such a pro-vegan stance could inadvertently cause children harm. “The main problem I have with this book is that children are impressionable, and this is too sensitive of a topic to have a child read this book,” said Nicole German, a registered dietitian in Atlanta. “It could easily scare a young child into eating vegan, and, without proper guidance, that child could become malnourished.”

Still, health experts say there’s nothing wrong with a vegan diet for kids provided it’s well-balanced. “As long as the diet is carefully planned, vegan diets provide all the nutrition you need to fuel your growing child and typically contain higher amounts of the ‘good stuff’ — vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, etc. — than the standard American diet,” said Joy Bauer, nutrition expert for the ‘Today’ show.

But, Bauer cautions, kids need careful monitoring when on a vegan diet to ensure they get the nutrition they need. In particular, she said, vegan kids can “overload on highly appealing white starches like pasta, rice and potatoes and don’t eat enough protein-rich foods like beans, lentils, edamame, nuts and seeds.”


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