Veganism and children: what’s going on?
During the last weeks, here in Italy news about veganism and children was on everybody’s mouth. A week ago, a news of a two year old girl hospitalized in serious condition due to a vegan diet. News then denied because the child was not vegan.A few days later, another case of a hospitalized child that almost died for malnutrition caused by a vegan diet. But the child was suffering from a heart disease and was malnourished leaving aside the vegan diet.The thing that makes me nervous, in addition to the manipulation of the news by the newspapers, are the comments that can be read in various websites and on Facebook. In these comments we understand that the perception of veganism is distorced, and based on our cultural traditions rather than on the true nature of man.When, and if, I will have a son, I will consider the option to grow him with a vegan lifestyle. Before you call me a fanatic naive, let’s examine the main objections that are made of vegan diet and children.
A child nutritional needs are different that an adult’s ones
According to many people, a vegan diet is something forced and, if an adult can still managed to stay healthy by eliminating meat, eggs and dairy products, the same may not be true for a child because the growth phase is very demanding in terms of nutrients. To ensure proper nutrients intake by eliminating animal products is difficult and risky.In fact, cases of malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies are also recorded in children and infants omnivores, but these cases are barely reported by newspaper. The vegan argument sells more. The problem is not the diet itself: it is the parents’ attention.Ok, a vegan diet makes it “difficult” to properly integrate all the nutrients, since it is necessary to give up certain foods like meat and milk. Moreover, by tradition, we did not grow in the knowledge of how to properly eat as vegans. We all know that in an omnivorous diet we eat vegetables, we must not abuse sweets, Cola, sugar etc, but nobody taught us the vegan diet and many people lack some knowledge. For example, if our mothers instead of telling us “Drink a glass of milk a day for your bones” had taught us “Eat an orange a day for your bones”, also the new vegan parents would eat more consciously.A well-balanced vegan diet does not bring nutritional deficiencies of any kind. Vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega, calcium, iron are also found in a vegan diet. And in fact, vitamin B12 deficiencies are continuously recorded in omnivorous people over 50 years, when the body begins to find it difficult to fetch it from animal foods.The situation is generally easier with an omnivorous diet, because the food we buy have been designed to provide all the necessary nutrients (such as vitamin B12 provided to animals so we can have it when we eat them). The Mediterranean diet has been very “protected”, making sure that even the less aware people would receive all the necessary nutrients by eating “the right way”. If our diet was traditionally based on plants, it would be difficult to run into nutrient deficiencies while being vegans and uninformed.A newborn needs only breast milk to grow: so it is important that the mother does not have nutrient deficiencies that she is able to bear, but that would be detrimental to the child. But if the mother is ok, the milk for the baby is enough. After weaning, care must be taken to provide the children with all the nutrients necessary for their body, and that’s important even if you are on an omnivorous diet. We see nutritional deficiencies in vegan children and omnivorous ones, but as mentioned, vegans make the news. But the next time you are out on the street, look at the children you meet: look at 10 years old children’s with belly, and tell me if that is healthy. It is not, but nobody talks about it or accuse parents of ruining the health of children. Clear, the lack of nutrients can be much more harmful and lead to death, but bringing your son to McDonalds once a month or give him cow’s milk everyday is still harmful. Meanwhile the doctors advise to follow the food pyramid for children developed, incidentally, by Mellin. And in this pyramid, incidentally, it is instructed to wean your baby prematurely replacing breast milk with milk powder.To conclude this point: the vegan diet for a baby is fine, and it can prevent various problems caused by the consumption of foods of animal origin. A poor diet, vegan or not, can cause serious damage.
You can’t impose a vegan diet to a child. He will decide when he will be grown up
Since the beginning of time, a parent “imposes” his ideals to his sons. Some are shared, others less: religion, political orientation, view of things in general. Let’s omit this fact, and say it is necessary to impose only right things or not impose anything. In response to this observation, we can say that you can not impose to a child to eat meat: he will decide when he grows up. Just as you can not force him to drink beer or get a cigarette every now and then. Eating meat is part of our tradition, but not necessarily of our nature. A person should decide whether to feed on an animal when it is old enougth and has judgment. I think it is important to teach a child where food comes from, and then he will decide if the life of an animal is more or less important than taste.Anyway, whatever the parents’ decisions, the children always pay: nutritional deficiencies, eating disorders, bad habits, allergies caused by the consumption of certain foods.The problem, again, is that the omnivorous diet is considered normal, while veganism fanaticism. But if a vegan diet is not harmful, if our ancestors and our fellowmen (such as chimpanzees) are mostly fruit-eating, and occasionally feed on some small animal, are we sure that eating steaks, milk and cheeses is the most natural form of living ? Is it pernaps a matter of tradition?I mean, seriously, if you were in a field and you had no notion on nutrition, would you get close to a cow, and you would begin to milk it?If we accept the premise for which the vegan diet may be very close to our nature, eating meat becomes the choice not to impose on children.So, I will give the freedom my son to make his own choices when he grows up. Or:I will give him all the knowledge that I know about food, so that he will able to make a choice in the future. This includes knowing what happens on farms, where does the food you have on your plate come from, and what are animals likeUntil he will be able to make a choice, I won’t decide for him and I will make him follow the proper, healthier and more ethical diet I know, at least in my opinion.When he will be grown up, he will decide what to do with his health and his conscience.