The new children’s book “Vegan Is Love” by Ruby Roth encompasses an issue that crosses my mind regularly. I plan to have children in the future and while I want them to make their own decision I would personally prefer to serve them primarily vegan food in their younger years. This stems partially from my disinclination to touch and cook meats, eggs and dairy products and mostly from my desire to keep my children healthy. (For detailed information regarding the health benefits of veganism, please read Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat by Howard F. Lyman and Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin).
The problem is that continuous vegan diets in children are uncommon and not widely researched. Most children in the United States grow up eating an omnivore diet. The NBC report shown above discusses whether a vegan diet could cause developmental problems in children. Though the intentions of parents who feed their children a strictly vegan diet may be good, the results may not produce the desired effects. Holly Paige fed her two daughters only raw, vegan food for the first three and four years of their lives. This caused them to have serious protein and vitamin D deficiencies. Their teeth turned brown and filled with cavities. Their bodies became two sizes too skinny for their age. As soon as their doctor re-introduced dairy into their diets, the young girl’s conditions drastically improved.
While multiple guides have been published that instruct parents how to safely feed their child a vegan diet, such a venture requires careful thought and control. Children who do not eat dairy, milk or eggs are at high risk for protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and other deficiencies. Though it is possible to raise a healthy child on a vegan diet, it is difficult to make sure they are receiving the appropriate nutrients. Though such deficiencies are topics of concern of vegan eating at any age, they are of particular importance in children, who require certain nutrients to undergo their appropriate growth and development.
Roth does not and cannot hope to effectively explain the importance of consuming these nutrients in a children’s book. Her idea of promoting healthy eating and world awareness through veganism is sound. Unfortunately, children who hear her message may make the decision to change their eating habits without understanding the health implications of their choice. Young kids are generally unable to comprehend the meaning of vitamins and nutrients, and may unknowingly subject themselves to health problems.
Overall, it may be a healthier choice in the long run to allow kids to eat an omnivore diet, because such a plan provides easier nutrient access for the picky eaters children tend to be. Although I strongly believe in the health and moral benefits of eating a vegan diet, my research has shown me that it is smarter to not exclude any food group from a child’s diet. I will serve my future children limited amounts of meat and low fat dairy that do not contain hormones, but I will mostly cook them vegan dishes and hope that later in life they will also choose to become strict vegans.