Three years after she won our hearts with her starring role in Clueless, Alicia Silverstone embraced a vegan diet—meaning she swore off meat, fish, dairy, and other animal products in favor of plant-based foods only.
She's touted the benefits of veganism ever since, telling People her diet makes her "feel so good, feel so different." She even choosing to raise her son, Bear Blu, now 6, as a vegan.
Silverstone has said that her son enjoys the foods she feeds him. But can a vegan diet provide all of the nutrients a growing child needs?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sets no guideline concerning the right age to begin a vegan diet. We wanted to take a closer look at the issue, however. So we spoke with nutritionist Lauren Blake, RD, at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.
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According to Blake, kids on vegan diets can do just fine, and going vegan won't impede their growth. True, crucial nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, protein, and B vitamins can be harder to obtain when meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are off limits. But many plant foods contain these—for example, beans and legumes are high in protein, and leafy greens like spinach contain calcium and iron, Blake says.
In fact, vegan kids typically build better lifelong eating habits than their non-vegan counterparts, she says. "Children on vegan diets tend to have higher fiber intake because they eat more fruits and vegetables, and lower cholesterol, saturated fat, and total fat levels," she says. "Research shows children who are vegetarian or vegan are leaner overall, too."
Blake also adds that if a child isn't getting the right nutrients in the proper amounts, a vegan diet isn't to blame. "It's important to remember that any child who eats a lot of processed foods will be deficient in these anyway," she says.
Eating vegan does require preparation, which is hard enough for a vegan adult to handle, not to mention if you're raising vegan kids. "Planning ahead and making a rough meal outline is important," Blake says. "I see many people who want to be vegan, but they rely on convenience foods and that's where trouble starts."
Considering how Silverstone has said she loves whipping up vegan dishes for her son, we're sure Bear Blu is in great hands as far as mealtime goes.
Nutrition – Health.com