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Supplements for Vegan Children

Originally appeared on the website of The Vegetarian Resource Group

Written by Reed Mangels, PHD, RD

 

I recently got a question from a Vegetarian Resource Group member asking for supplement recommendations for a vegan 11-year old boy who doesn’t always eat as well as his parents would like but who generally has a pretty healthy diet. Here’s what I suggested:

The nutrients I think are most important for growing boys and that are potentially challenging in a vegan diet are vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, and calcium.

Here’s the amount of each that they need:

11-year-old
Vitamin B12 1.8 mcg
Vitamin D 600 IU
Zinc 8 mg
Calcium 1300 mg

These amounts are the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for each nutrient. As parents, you’re likely to be the best people to assess what your child is eating and to see if there are other possibly problematic nutrients. For example, if your child doesn’t eat many fruits or vegetables, I’d be concerned about vitamin C and vitamin A. If they eat mostly carbs and not many beans or soy products, they may need supplemental iron.

If they are using fortified foods consistently, they may be getting calcium and vitamin D and possibly vitamin B12. I’ve included zinc on the list of important nutrients because it may not be as well absorbed from plant foods and is needed for growth and development. You can see more about these nutrients on VRG’s website.

If you think your child’s diet is low in one or more of these nutrients, look for a vegan children’s supplement that supplies the nutrients of concern. If the supplement has more vitamin B12 than the RDA, that is not likely to be a problem. Supplements made for adults may have more of some other nutrients than is recommended for children so stick with children’s vitamins. Many multi-vitamin/multi-minerals supplements don’t supply much calcium so, if your child isn’t using a calcium-fortified plant milk or plenty of green leafy vegetables, they may need a calcium supplement. See which supplements supply the nutrients you’re most concerned about, in amounts close to what is recommended for children (or somewhat lower if their diet already has some good sources of these nutrients).

If in doubt about the adequacy of your child’s diet or for specific supplement questions, consult a registered dietitian with expertise in vegan nutrition.

 

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