- For vegan and vegetarians kids leading an active lifestyle, it is essential to meet their nutritional needs and avoid certain deficiencies such as vitamins B12, Vitamin D, omega-3 fats, riboflavin and calcium.
- Nutrient-rich carbohydrates and proteins are important for an active child’s diet. Some sources of these include whole grain toast, oatmeal, roasted sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, pasta, soy milk and chickpea-based egg alternatives.
- While it might be tempting for vegan and vegetarian parents to use premade vegan options like vegan chicken nuggets or plant-based burgers to substitute meat, a whole-food-based approach is recommended. This could include meals with lentils, beans, quinoa, and homemade vegan dishes.
- Depending on the type of workout, different meals may be needed. Pre-cardio meals should include high-quality carbohydrates and protein, whereas post-weights routine meals should be rich in protein to heal muscle damage.
- When planning a vegan or vegetarian diet, one should always consult with a dietitian and pediatrician for proper monitoring and guidance.
Participation in sports can combine seamlessly with vegan and vegetarian lifestyles for children. However, the responsibility lies with parents and guardians to ensure these active youngsters are adequately fueled and meet their nutritional needs.
It’s crucial to address potential nutritional deficiencies common among vegan athletes such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3 fats, riboflavin, and calcium. According to registered dietitian Roberta Anding, ensuring your active child’s diet includes good substitutes for these is key.
Understanding Vegan and Vegetarian Diets
Vegan diets eliminate all meat and animal byproducts, including dairy and eggs. In contrast, vegetarian diets exclude only meat, poultry, and seafood, but allow for consumption of dairy products and eggs.
Carbohydrates and Protein Sources for Vegetarian and Vegan Kids
Nutrient-rich carbohydrates are the backbone of a child’s diet, especially for those leading active lives. Whole grain toast, oatmeal, and roasted sweet potatoes make excellent breakfast choices, and throughout the day these can be complemented by rice, quinoa, and pasta.
While vegetarians can derive protein from dairy products and eggs, vegans often turn to soy milk, widely noted as the best nondairy equivalent to cow’s milk in terms of protein content. Chickpea-based egg alternatives are another excellent vegan protein choices.
Beans serve a dual purpose, providing both protein and carbohydrates, while avocados and homemade trail mix are dense in energy and nutrients.
Avoiding Processed Foods
Anding advises against the consumption of products that attempt to replicate meat, like premade vegan chicken nuggets or plant-based burgers. She suggests a more whole-food-based approach, like black bean burgers and recipes featuring lentils, beans, or quinoa for sufficient protein intake.
She notes, “When we try to strip something out of a product, it becomes more processed. Vegan options that mimic meat rank low on the list of good choices.”
Try homemade vegan dishes, like a vegan macaroni and cheese made with nutritional yeast.
Nutritional Needs for Active Youngsters
Cardio-focused workouts necessitate high-quality carbohydrates and the meeting of protein requirements. A typical pre-workout meal might include whole grain toast with almond butter or other nut butters and honey, and some fresh fruit. After exercise, tofu, tempeh, and other soy-based products offer needed protein to help the body repair and rebuild.
Post-weights routines, young athletes can help heal muscle damage with protein-rich foods such as hummus and crackers, a nut butter sandwich, a high-protein, plant-based breakfast cereal with berries or bananas, or a glass of soy milk.
“Vegetarian and vegan diets are about more than just avoiding meat; they need to ensure quality sources of carbohydrates and protein”, Anding states.
Always consult with a dietitian and pediatrician to ensure that children are being properly monitored on their vegetarian or vegan diets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides more guidance on meatless eating.