If you go vegan as an adult, people typically think it’s a really healthy or really unhealthy decision.
Most people know next to nothing about nutrition, and it shows.
But if you mention putting going vegan as a teenager, or putting a child on a vegan diet, that doesn’t stop some people from bringing up claims of near-abuse: “You’re going to stunt their growth!”
While a poorly planned vegan diet could lead to growth stunting in children, so could a poorly planned omnivorous one.
A properly planned vegan diet will not stunt anyone’s growth.
The 3 Main Causes of Stunted Growth
Ultimately, there are only 3 causes of the vast majority of growth issues:
- Nutrition (being deficient in calories or important nutrients)
- Poor maternal nutrition (if the mother has poor nutrition during breastfeeding)
There’s a reason that over 90% of stunted children are from less developed regions in Asia and Africa.
So what about nutrition on a vegan diet?
Well, it shouldn’t be difficult to give your children enough calories, as long as you’re not just feeding them vegetables.
A proper vegan diet contains a variety of foods like legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains. A good mixture will provide plenty of calories, and plenty of nutrients to meet all recommended daily amounts.
But there are 2 vitamins that vegan diets lack: B12 and D.
Vitamin B12 And D Deficiencies in Vegan Diets
No plant naturally has vitamin B12 or D in it.
Most vegans are aware they should take a B12 supplement, but not all are aware that they can be deficient in vitamin D.
Most people get vitamin D from 2 sources: the sun, and animal products (who make vitamin D from the sun). Technically you can get some from foods like mushrooms, but I don’t think that’s realistic for most people.
So for vegans, that leaves the sun.
While sunscreen can block nearly all the UVB rays that are needed to stimulate vitamin D production, it’s rarely applied perfectly. So if your child plays outside in the sun a good amount, they should get enough vitamin D.
If you’d like to be on the safe side, have your child also take a vegan vitamin D supplement, or just get a vegan multivitamin at this point for convenience.
A final alternative is to find foods fortified with vitamin D. The problem with this is that most vitamin D3 in foods is not vegan. You’ll have to find products that are specifically certified vegan that have D3 added, which is hard at the moment.
Verdict: Being Vegan Should Not Stunt Growth
A diverse diet is the most important thing to encourage growth, whether it’s an omnivorous or vegan one.
Plan a well-rounded diet, and you or your children will be perfectly fine.
I’d advise tracking your diet for a little while through Cronometer to see if you’re getting sufficient nutrients. Also, make sure to get a blood test regularly at the doctor to check for any unexpected deficiencies.