So Your Child Wants to Go Vegan…

If your child wants to be vegan, rejoice!

The protein myth is a public relations gimmick perpetrated by the Dairy Council and various other beef, pork and poultry  councils. Despite their official sounding names, they are actually public relations machines for the animal agriculture industry and not government agencies.

These organizations are also the source of the incorrect assumption that a vegan diet is somehow lacking and that if you don’t drink milk you will weaken your bones.

Consequently, when a child or teen declares that they will not eat animal products or drink cow milk, many parents are unduly concerned. 

Walter Willet, M.D., Ph.D is the Head of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and the second most cited scientist in all of clinical medicine. He gathered information from nearly 80,000 women from 30 to 55 and found no evidence that women who daily consumed one to three servings of milk or other dairy products, like cheese or yogurt reduced their risk of hip fractures.1.

In the 12-year Harvard study, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk. 

A balanced plant based diet with sufficient calories is more than adequate to maintain optimal health.2.  Americans consume two to three times the amount of protein necessary, which has a negative impact on their health.

The general state of health among children and adolescents consuming the standard American diet (SAD) is deplorable.  One child in three is overweight and of those born in 2000, one in three will develop diabetes at some point in their lifetime. One child in five has a cholesterol level deemed abnormal before they graduate from high school.

A vegan diet can protect against the broad range of disease associated with consuming animal products. According T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at Cornell University and co-author of “The China Study,” the vegan diet can prevent and even reverse 70 to 80 percent of existing, symptomatic disease.3.

A healthy one to three year old child needs about a half gram of protein (.55) per pound of body weight a day. That means the average 29-pound toddler would need 16 grams of protein a day.

Similarly the RDA for a typical four to six year old is .5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, from seven to fourteen, .45 grams  and fifteen to eighteen year olds need .4 grams per pound of body weight.

The RDA for girls over 15 and boys over 18 is .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, the same as for adults.

Excellent Sources of Plant Protein

Lentils, 18 grams of protein per cup
Chickpeas, 12 grams per cup
Tempeh, 41 grams per cup
Black beans, 15 grams per cup
Soybeans, 29 grams per cup
Garbanzo beans, 16 grams per cup
Tofu, 11 grams per 4 ounces
Quinoa, 9 grams per cup
Brown Rice, 5 grams per cup
2 slices of whole grain bread, 2 grams
Sunflower seeds, 6 g in just 1/4 cup
Almonds, 8 grams per 1/4 cup
Cashews, 5 grams per 1/4 cup

Protein is abundant in the plant based diet, in vegetables, grains, legumes  nuts and seeds. Plant foods are cholesterol-free and without the unhealthy levels of fat and saturated fat found in animal products.

Vegan foods are also cruelty-free and devoid of the ‘ICK’ factor associated with consuming body parts, if one is thinking about where those BBQ Ribs came from. Seriously, if your child wants to be vegan, rejoice!

Marie Oser is a best-selling author, writer/producer and host of VegTV. Her latest book is The Skinny on Soy.  Follow Marie on Facebook and Twitter

1.Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Publ Health. 1997;87:992-997

2. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association – July 2009; 109;(7) 1266-1282

3. Would We Be Healthier With a Vegan Diet? Wall Street Journal, Sept 18, 2012