Myths about plant-based diets for kids. Are there problems with a plant-based diet for kids? There’s a lot of misinformation that may have you wondering what the truth is.
Whether you’re an OG plant-based eater or new to the table, chances are somewhere along your journey you’ll come across some wildly inaccurate claims about plant-based diets for kids. We hear them daily.
What do we do when confronted with myths? We fight them with facts!
Here are 5 common myths around plant-based diets for kids… and the truth that we’d love to help spread instead.
1. Plant-based diets don’t provide enough protein.
Whole plants contain all 9 essential amino acids that we need to survive and thrive. Some plants contain more or less of one amino acid compared to others.
Beans for example, contain smaller amounts of methionine but are a great source of lysine. To meet needs, we recommend 2-3 servings of legumes (beans and soy foods) daily, as well as providing enough varied sources of plant-based protein throughout the day.
What does this have to do with providing enough protein? Give the human body all the essential amino acids, and it will do the job of making all the protein we need.
2. Plant-based diets are micronutrient deficient.
Many people are concerned that plant-based diets can’t provide adequate amounts of micronutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and vitamin D.
But when appropriately planned, plant-based diets provide adequate nutrition to support a child’s growth and development.
Supplementation is required (vitamin B12 is non-negotiable for strict plant-based eaters), but this doesn’t take away from the fact that plant-based diets are rich in many nutrients that come with significant health benefits.
Plus, all diets are supplemented in one way or another. Cow’s milk, for example, is supplemented with vitamin D.
3. Plant-based kids are malnourished.
Any child, regardless of what diet pattern they subscribe to, can be at risk for malnourishment without a well-planned diet.
Studies show that a well-planned plant-based diet can support appropriate growth and has advantages like reduced risk for obesity or chronic disease and more.
True malnutrition is typically only seen in under-developed countries where nutrition is limited, or in cases where parents have not provided their child with appropriate nutrition (e.g., making homemade baby formula or serving only fruits and vegetables).
Quite the opposite, research actually suggests that plant-based diets provide advantages like a reduced risk for obesity, numerous chronic diseases, and overall mortality, as well as optimal gut microbiome composition.
4. Kids need cow’s milk for strong bones.
We’ve all heard this one, especially if you lived through the “Got Milk?” ad campaign.
While cow’s milk is a good source of calcium, which helps build strong bones, there are many plant-based sources of calcium that are just as effective.
Fortified non-dairy milks contain the same amount, or sometimes more, calcium as cow’s milk. Foods like cruciferous veggies actually have twice the calcium bioavailability as cow’s milk.
Keep in mind that because some kids shun calcium-rich plants, we recommend serving a calcium-fortified plant milk twice a day to help fill any gaps.
Plus, calcium isn’t the only nutrient required for bone health. Vitamins D and K, as well as phosphorus, can be found in various fortified foods, as well as soy foods, legumes, and leafy greens.
5. Soy is bad for kids.
Soy foods for kids get a bad rap. However, studies continue to support the benefits (and safety!) of regular soy consumption for kids.
Soy is packed with many essential nutrients and consumption may lead to reduced risk of chronic disease and hormone-dependent cancers later in life. Some studies have shown that young girls who regularly eat soy foods may experience a lower risk for breast cancer as adults.
These foods are also packed with important nutrients like choline, iron, fiber, fat, and phytochemicals.
Myths about plant-based diets for kids are rampant, and we understand that this can make it confusing when considering it for your family. Are there problems with a plant-based diet for kids? Sure, just like any diet, there could be issues that need to be address. But with the right planning and knowledge, plant-based diets are absolutely safe and adequate for kids.
Chime in: Have you heard these myths before? What others would you add to the list?
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