****I am not a nutritionist. Whenever making modifications to your own or your child’s diet, always consult a medical professional.****
Raising a plant-based child is easy.
Until your child becomes a picky eater. Thankfully, dealing with picky eaters is not a problem specific to plant-based or vegan families. But a plant-based diet does present it’s own unique challenges, and therefore, supplements are absolutely necessary.
My 3-year-old son was happily eating a variety of foods until a couple of months ago when all of a sudden every. single. morsel. of food started to get the sniff test. Suddenly, textures that were once okay got pushed to the side of the plate. One of these textures being rice! Seriously! Rice! Do you realize how many plant-based dinners just went out the window with my son rejecting rice? Even his beloved mushrooms only get eaten half the time now.
So what is he eating?
Right now, my son is eating a largely fruit based diet with some root vegetables and grains (pasta, whole grain bread and waffles on weekends). This is his preferred diet anyhow. So, what this means is that I’m not super concerned at all about vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K or vitamin E. But there are a whole lot of other vitamins and minerals that I do have to be concerned with.
Fortified foods are key.
The easiest way to make sure you’re child is getting a blast of healthy vitamins and nutrients is through a cup of fortified, plant-based milk. There are so many plant-based options out there now:
All of which are fortified with calcium, vitamins A, C, D, E, B12, iron, magnesium and zinc (I’m literally reading this off the side of my almond milk carton). Now, one cup of plant-based milk does not contain one’s daily vitamin and nutrient needs, but typical fortified levels vary between 10% – 50% which isn’t bad at all! You can learn more about the nutrition facts of the various plant-based milks by checking out the links above. You can also count on a couple of grams of protein per cup of fortified plant-based milk as well.
Do you really need to add extra supplements?
Honestly, yes. And not just children but I believe adults should be taking supplements too! Anyone who has cut out animal protein or has substantially reduced their intake should be taking an iron supplement. Symptoms of low iron include:
- pale skin
- very cold fingers and toes
- restless leg syndrome
- sore tongue
Those are just a few of the many symptoms of low iron. Iron can be consumed in both a capsule or liquid (added to a beverage). I have tried a couple of different forms of iron, and have found that what works best for my children right now is a chewable vitamin with added iron. When they were younger, I added liquid iron to their morning beverage but I found the taste difficult to mask (especially for my picky-eater son). Thankfully, Bayer Flintstones has a vitamin plus iron that you can easily order online if you are unable to find it in stores (amazon affiliate link: Flintstone vitamin + Iron). However, if you do prefer the liquid, this is the one I have personally used in the past, (amazon affiliate link) Enfamil Fer-In-Sol. Keep in mind that iron is best absorbed with vitamin C!
Particularly if you live in a colder climate that experiences less sun in the winter months, an additional vitamin D supplement is a must! (amazon affiliate link) Ddrops baby is a super easy supplement to take as it is tasteless and can be dropped into a beverage or even directly onto food.
If you’re consuming a fortified plant-based milk then chances are you are already receiving at least 45% of your daily B12 intake through your milk. Therefore, it is up to you to make up the other 50%. Now of course, you could simply have a second cup of milk and be done for the day but what’s the fun in that?! Other delicious sources of B12 include:
- nutritional yeast
- beans and lentils
- blackstrap molasses
Essential Fatty Acids
I wasn’t going to talk about fatty acids because while absolutely essential to a healthy diet, I would argue most people living in a western culture have no problem getting fats into their diet. However, I suppose healthy fats should be addressed. Essential fatty acids can be found in nuts and seeds such as flax, walnuts, hemp etc, as well as, in healthy oils. Healthy oils include:
- sesame oil
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- avocado oil + several others
Remember, all fats, healthy or not, should be presented in moderation to your children.
Have questions about supplementing your picky plant-based child’s diet? Ask me in the comment section.