The Best Proteins for Vegan Children
“My family is vegan, and I am struggling to find enough protein-rich foods that my 3-year-old will eat”.
That is an important question! As a general guide to feeding small children a vegan diet, shoot for a gram of protein, per pound, per day. The top vegetable sources of protein in ½ cup servings are tofu (10 grams); lentils (9 grams); beans (6-7 grams); chickpeas (6 grams). Also included are 2 Tbsp servings of peanut butter for 8 grams and almond butter for 7 grams. And the other vegetables we all know and love. Such as broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots also contribute to the protein count but in lesser amounts. A good guide for how to track the amount of protein in vegetables can be found online and also in our book, The Family Nutrition Book: Everything You Need to Know About Feeding Your Children – From Birth Through Adolescence.
Consider Vegan-Pesco Diet
So, you can see it is possible but challenging to give a three-year-old enough vegetable-only protein. Here is a healthier suggestion that you may consider for the best nourishment of your child. One of the most important nutrients for a growing child’s brain, which grows most quickly in the first five years, reaching 90% of adult volume in that time, are Omega 3 fats – namely DHA and EPA. These “smart fats” are mainly found in seafood, which is why you may consider changing to a vegan-pesco diet. For example, wild Alaska salmon provides three top nutrients that growing children need but that veggies do not. These are Omega 3 fatty acids, Vit D3, and Vit B12. Adding 6 total ounces of wild salmon to your child’s weekly intake will supply these nutrients and will add 40 grams to the overall protein count for the week.
Omega 3 Supplements
If you insist on staying strictly vegan, my suggestion is to measure your child’s Omega 3 index. A one-drop fingerstick blood test is available from OmegaQuant.com. If your child is low in Omega 3, you can get a vegan source (algae) Omega 3 supplement. Shoot for 200-300mg of extra DHA according to the Omega 3 index value, which will be indicated on the results form. Because of the risk of nutritional deficiencies, I strongly suggest you seek nutritional consultation from your Health Care Professional.
You can find additional help on our website (AskDrSears.com) by searching for the “pegan” diet which includes the best of vegan and paleo. If you decide to add a little animal protein to your child’s diet (using it as a condiment instead of the main course), be sure you only use organic chicken, grass-fed and grass-finished meats, and wild salmon.
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”