It’s not every day that your child goes up to you and tells you they want to go vegan – but, it’s not an impossible case either. It may come as a surprise to you that they opted for this lifestyle change.
To fully understand the decision your child is making, let us first breakdown the definition of being a vegan and share the implications of the decision of your child becoming vegan.
What It Means To Be Vegan
Not to be mistaken for being vegetarian, a vegan is a person who prefers not to eat meat, fish, seafood or any other animal products whatsoever. As long as they are not products that were taken from animals – that’s vegan food.
Some examples are oats, soy, fruits, beans, peas, oranges and many more!
What Are The Risks Of A Child Going Vegan?
Age plays a huge role in the decision-making of supporting your child to be a vegan. At certain ages, children need nutrients for growth and development. This being said, your child may face some nutritional deficiencies following the vegan diet.
Nutritional deficiencies may lead to malnutrition when the child is not getting enough energy through the food and drinks they take to grow and develop their bodily functions. This poses a huge health and development risk to your child.
Vegan diets lack vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, calcium, protein and iron. All of these nutrients are essential in your child’s growth and development.
What happens if they lack these nutrients?
Iron, Vitamin B-12 And Vitamin D Deficiencies
Iron, vitamin B-12 and D deficiency cause children to get tired easily and face fatigue concerns. It causes their haemoglobin levels to drop – leading to poor appetite and focus, drowsiness, poor weight, and respiratory and intestinal infections. This can lead to developmental delays, especially if the child is being faced with a deficiency at a young age.
The same possibilities lie with the lack of zinc in children. In some cases, this deficiency manifests through healing delay in wounds, decreased senses of smell and taste, and slow neural development.
For severe cases, children will face hair loss, chronic diarrhoea, growth retardation and immune function impairment.
Protein And Calcium Deficiencies
This will lead to problems like stunting and wasting. Stunting is when the child seems to be smaller or shorter for their age, while wasting is being underweight for their height and age.
You can notice protein and calcium deficiencies in children by noticing how brittle their hair and nails are. In other circumstances, their skin is thin and dry, leading to early signs of wrinkles.
Lack Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Like the lack of iron, a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids may cause your child to perform poorly in school due to the lack of energy and focus. Most of the impact of lacking omega-3 fatty acids are on the child’s brain health.
Consuming the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids for kids will maintain their total brain health and ensure the proper functioning of their heart by keeping the bad substances out of the arteries.
It would be best to consult health specialists to ensure the missing nutrients can still be provided for under supervision and with the right supplements. At the right age, with the right advice and planning, it could serve to be very healthy and beneficial for your child in the long-term.
Pro tip: You can encourage your child to start with a vegetarian diet first before going vegan. This will give your child the right place to adjust to the vegan lifestyle in the future.
What Can I Do When My Child Becomes Vegan?
1. Consult a health specialist/nutritionist
A health specialist knows the best for your child. They will perform tests to make sure your child does not have any deficiencies and their health is ready for a vegan diet. These tests include blood tests and urine examinations to check their blood count, blood sugar, blood infections, bacteria in their urine, or high protein count in their urine.
2. Set your child’s expectations
Your child will have to be prepared for zero animal products. But do not worry too much, there is now a wide range of vegan food options available in Singapore like Impossible Burger, Quorn, etc.!
3. Explore your recipes
Learn new recipes together with your child to cater to their dietary needs. This might also be the chance for the family to try out vegan food and reduce their carbon footprint as a whole!
4. Set goals
If the child has decided to go slow on being vegan and opt to be vegetarian first, it would be nice to set goals. Slowly let go of the animal products your child is accustomed to until they learn to get used to the new diet.
5. Monitor your child’s health
Always put your child’s health first. Are they active or are they getting weak? What changes are they undergoing? Make sure they are doing well with their decision to go vegan.
In A Nutshell…
It’s good that your child has healthy preferences and that they are vocal and assertive of certain decisions.
If your child is still not at the right age for a vegan diet, help them understand that this isn’t the right time to venture into such a preference. Instead, let them know that adjustments to meals and lifestyle choices can be made for them either way.
What’s a life-changing decision your child has made? What would you do if your child becomes vegan? Share your thoughts with us!