21-Day Vegan Kickstart

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Forums: Main Kickstart Forum: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Created on: 01/19/13 11:38 PM Views: 1937 Replies: 8
PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 11:38 PM

I really found the PCRM vegetarian starter kit to be helpful when planning my families’ meals. But there are still a few things that I need clarification on with respect to the food chart for children so that I feel I have all the information I need to raise thriving Vegan children.

The chart indicates three servings of nondairy milk daily. Does it matter what type of nondairy milk I serve? I've read some conflicting advice that says that only soy has enough protein in it to be suitable for young toddlers and children. However, while I plan on including soy in our diet once in the awhile in the form of tofu, tempeh, endaname or some soy milk, I am not ok with giving my toddler three cups of soy milk a day. So if I choose to give him hemp milk, oat milk or almond milk will he be missing out on nutrients?

Also, it would help if it was clarified why it is recommended that kids get three servings of plant milk so that I could look for alternatives. Is it because these plant milks are fortified? Could I replace a serving of plant milk with a serving of coconut yogurt or the occasional soy yogurt for instance? What alternatives to plant milk could I use?

Lastly, from everything I have been taught, it is important for babies and toddlers until the age of two receive adequate amounts of fat in their diet and yet this isn't covered in the food guide. Would ensuring my son get either some nut butters, avocado and olives daily along with Omega 3s from ground flax or chia seeds be sufficient? I also realize that if I give him hemp milk, he would be getting fat and omega 3s. So I’m curious why fats and young children weren't covered?

I appreciate the help on this matter. Thanks.

RE: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 9:35 AM

The servings are just suggestions for ways to meet nutrient needs. Like with adults, there is no one way to get there, so don't feel locked into these ideas.

The plant milk suggestion is more about getting the calcium in an easy package. Any plant milk that is enriched with calcium will do the same job, approximately 300 mg of calcium per serving with the same absorbability of cow's milk (about 30%).

Protein is easily met with adequate calorie intake. For kids younger than 14, the recommendation is 0.95 grams protein/kg. This is only slightly more PER kg than adults (at of course fewer kilograms), and remember, we already consume about twice what we need. To put in perspective, a 50 pound child will get all the protein s/he needs for the day with 1/2 cup of lentils, one veggie burger, and 4 oz of soy milk. And of course with servings of other vegetables and grains, you are going to get a lot more by the end of the day.

Also like adults, kids only need to consume the essential fats, omega-3s and 6s. The 6s will be easy to get, so let's talk about omega-3s. Needs are small, so we're going to talk about milligrams instead of grams:

7-12 months: 500 mg/day
1-3 years: 700 mg/day
4-8 years: 900 mg/day
9-13 years: 1000 mg (girls); 1200 mg (boys)

For perspective, 1 ounce of walnuts has 2600 mg of omega-3s, and 1 tablespoon of flax seed meal has 1200 mg of omega-3s.

There is no evidence that a low-fat diet is bad for kids, but more healthful fat sources as you mentioned are encouraged in the government recommendations. Because most kids are not battling many of the health issues adults are battling, I think this is fine.

Susan Levin, MS, RD
PCRM Director of Nutrition Education

RE: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 3:46 PM

Hi Nat4crim

I have a child under 2 so I wanted to comment on this post. Please keep in mind this is just my interpretation on everything I've read so it may or may not work for you.

Like Susan said, I don't think protein is the real issue here--I think the main issue is that children under 2 (and sometimes older) have small stomachs and you can easily fill them up with too much fiber.

I think fat is essential for young children because it is a concentrated source of calories. Breast milk contains plenty of fat but many mothers do not or cannot breastfeed their toddlers up until age 2. (In traditional societies where low-fat plant based diets are followed most mothers would breastfeed their child much longer than in the West.) If you're not breastfeeding, and not using cows milk, you should definitely make sure your toddler is getting calcium and fat--if the plant milk your LO drinks is low in fat then add some fat to the meal as avocado, coconut, nut butters, a drizzling of olive oil, etc. If it's high in fat but low in protein then add some beans or legumes.

I think the recommendation for 3 glasses of milk a way is an easy way for nutritionists and doctors to check several boxes at once. But as long as you make sure you are providing protein, fats and calcium I don't see why they all have to be contained in the same food. Maybe you could take a copy of the power plate and add in the categories "fat" and "calcium" on the side to remind you to include sources for those nutrients daily.

RE: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Oh... I see that Susan has written "there is no evidence that a low-fat diet is bad for children". I wonder if this applies to under 2's? I would be really interested whether there have been any studies on children age 1-2 and low fat diets. It is really hard to go against mainstream recommendations without thoroughly doing the research. Confused

RE: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 4:54 PM

Good point. I was referencing studies within "dietary guidelines" age groups, so older than two. I think you are thinking right about breast fed age children. Whatever mimics mother's milk is probably about as perfect as you are going to get for that age group.

Susan Levin, MS, RD
PCRM Director of Nutrition Education

RE: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 5:11 PM

A lot of what was said here makes sense. I kind of got hung up on the 3 servings of plant milk because when you do go against the mainstream it be stressful at first, especially when it involves the health of your children. I also don't think my son's pediatrician would be well informed on vegan diets.

As it stands, I am not comfortable with such a low fat approach for a child under 2. I believe that fat is essential. And I also think that there is room for healthy fats like avocado and nuts for children who are eating a healthy plant based diet. Heck I think there is room for some for adults in moderation if you have no health issues. So I guess as long as I provide 1 tsp of ground flax for Omega 3s and a source of healthy fat like avocado daily that aspect should be covered.

The protein bit was the confusing aspect because of what I read in another book stating that children need more protein then is provided by legumes. But I think I'll just trust that if I follow the food guides recommendation for legume servings daily they should be fine, especially considering that my 3.5 year has a big appetite and consumes nut butters. I could always make quinoa for breakfast sometimes.

So then that just leaves me with calcium requirement? If I stick to just one cup of fortified plant milk a day along with whatever is included in their cereal or oatmeal, would that be enough calcium? I aim to get some dark greens in their diet daily and prefer almond butter to others nut spreads. I know you can use fortified fruit juice but I've never been one to provide juice to my family and now I'm wondering if I have to start for the calcium? In the past I didn't worry about calcium because I thought I had it covered with cow's milk, cheese and yogurt.

RE: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Monday, January 21, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Personally I would decide whether to bring up your children totally vegan based on your personal ethics and whether your family is on board with it. I try to teach my kids about healthy eating as well as the ethical aspects of a plant based diet but I also let them choose from whatever is available when we are out.
Health-wise I don't worry about them having a lack of something because they do get a little meat here and there when we go out or when dh cooks. If they were totally vegan I think I wouldn't worry about that, either, as long as they seemed healthy.

RE: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Monday, January 21, 2013 at 5:12 PM

At the moment they are too young for any sort of discussion on the ethical aspects of not eating animal products. I just told DD we don't eat it to keep the animals happy and she's seemed to have accepted it.

My husband is on board and so our family will eat Vegan. I'm sure there will be some challenges along the way with social situations like birthday parties and school and I've been thinking on how I'd like to approach this. In the grand scheme of things I don't think it would be the end of the world if they had a piece of cake that had butter and eggs in it because its so infrequent. But, I'm wondering whether that would make them feel ill?

Do your kids get tummy aches from the occasional dairy or meat product?

I've also decided to provide a multivitamin daily to make sure they are getting everything they need.

RE: PCMR Food Chart for Children
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 3:19 AM

Nat4crim, that's great that you're family is in agreement about eating vegan! I wish I could get DH on board.. but it has to be his decision. I can only dream about my family going totally vegan...
In answer to your question about tummy ache... no, my kids don't seem to have any problems from eating less healthy food occasionally. I also choose from what is available while out and go for the most plant-based option available, which might include some dairy, egg or a small amount of meat. I don't have any problems with digestion; to the contrary I have had my allergies go away on this healthier diet and a small amount of animal products do not cause them to come back.


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