Is a Plant-Based Diet Safe for Kids? 5 Top Takes

diet safe for kids
diet safe for kids

Yesterday I wrote that all my children are currently committed to eating 100% plant-based, both at and away from home. But is a totally plant-based diet safe for kids?

Absolutely NOT!

Yes, you read that right. A 100-percent whole-food, plant-based diet is NOT safe for children – or anyone else. I’d go as far as calling it dangerous, especially for children!

So why are my kids eating one?

Because when a whole-food plant-based diet is supplemented with a reliable and consistent source of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), it’s the healthiest diet known!

However, plant foods don’t have B12, which is critical for maintaining healthy blood cells, nerves and DNA. Meat, dairy foods, and eggs do, but they’re off-limits for vegans.

The B-12 Difference

A B12-supplemented, whole-food, plant-based diet is safe – for all ages.  Not only that, but the official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics observes that vegetarian and vegan diets can have “notable health benefits.”

The Journal also has a slightly less aggressive take than mine on the dangers of B-12 deficiency:

“Although there have been case reports of children… developing cobalamin deficiency on vegan diets, these are rare exceptions. Multiple experts have concluded independently that vegetarian diets can be followed safely by infants and children…”

The American Dietetic Association  chimes in:

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets [without meat, fowl or seafood], including… vegan diets, are healthful [and] nutritionally adequate… In some cases, supplements or fortified foods can provide useful amounts of important nutrients.

diet safe for kids
Most sources of B12 are off-limits to kids on plant-based diets.

The ADA considers “Well-planned vegetarian diets … appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle… including… infancy, childhood, and adolescence…”

Their “well-planned” vegetarian diet provides:

  • protein
  • n-3 fatty acids
  • iron
  • zinc
  • iodine
  • calcium
  • vitamins D

 

and B-12, which would come from dairy, eggs, B12-fortified foods, or supplementation:

“A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, supplements or fortified foods can provide useful amounts of important nutrients.”

Their vegetarian diet’s list of benefits is impressive!

  • lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease
  • lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels
  • lower blood pressure
  • lower type 2 diabetes
  • lower body mass index
  • lower overall cancer rates

 

It’s also lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • nuts
  • soy products
  • fiber
  • phytochemicals

Is a Plant-Based Diet Safe for Kids? Plant-Based Pediatricians Speak.

Board-certified pediatrician Jackie Busse, MD (aka the Plant-based Pediatrician) went through two plant-based pregnancies. She’s also feeding her children an entirely plant-based diet.

The Wisconsin dairy-farmer’s granddaughter’s website boldly states:

“A whole food, plant based diet built on a variety of whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds is not only safe for kids, it gives them the best foundation for lifelong health.” 

The 10th edition of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s 1946 classic Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care says of his nutritional philosophy:

“He believed that the healthiest diet was plant-based, without meat, eggs, or dairy products.”

The book unequivocally says, “You can choose to feed your family a diet based mainly or entirely on plants.”

Dr. Spock, who was vegan towards the end of his life, recommended that “After weaning, children who are being raised on vegan diets also need a vitamin B-12 supplement.”  Another powerful voice in favor of plant-based eating as a diet safe for kids!

What Makes B-12 Supplementation So Critical?

Long list of potential B-12 deficiency symptoms.

In this NutritionFacts video, Dr. Michael Greger chronicles potential Vitamin B12- deficiency effects:

  • abdominal distention
  • chronic diarrhea
  • shortness of breath
  • swollen, red, painful feet
  • Parkinson’s syndrome-like symptoms
  • bilateral useless hand syndrome
  • numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • muscle cramps
  • dizziness
  • cognitive disturbances
  • difficulty walking
  • erectile dysfunction
  • fatigue
  • depression and even psychosis.
  • coma
  • sudden blindness from multiple organ failure
  • bleeding in eyes
Diet safe for kids only with proper supplementation.

But it gets much worse! In an even more alarming video, he scathingly blames the death of a little girl on a vegan diet lacking B12 supplementation:

 “A non-B12-fortified vegan diet killed that little girl, and she’s not the first. And if vegans don’t get their act together and get their B12, she will not be the last.”

And here, he refers to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It suggests that up to 20 American infants die annually from eating a vegan diet without B12.

One B12-deficient infant is one too many!

So, is a plant-based diet safe for kids?

I firmly believe that, as long as my totally plant-based children get their B12 supplements every day, they’ll be eating the safest and healthiest diet on the planet!

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