How to Raise Healthy Vegetarian and Vegan Children

How Can I Raise A Healthy Vegetarian or Vegan Child?

If you’re bringing up your child on a diet without meat (vegetarian) or without any food from an animal (vegan), they’ll need two or three portions of vegetable proteins or nuts every day to make sure they get enough protein and iron.

Don’t give whole nuts to children under five years old as they could choke. Grind nuts finely or use a smooth nut butter.

Read Food allergies for important information about peanut allergy.

Weaning your vegetarian baby

The advice on introducing solids at about six months is the same for vegetarian babies as for non-vegetarian babies. However, as your child gets older, there’s a risk that a vegetarian or vegan diet may be low in iron and energy and too high in fibre.

You can make sure your child gets enough iron by giving them:

  • fortified breakfast cereal
  • dark green vegetables
  • bread
  • beans and lentils
  • dried fruit, such as apricots, figs and prunes

Vitamin C in fruit and vegetables helps the body to absorb iron, so include these at every mealtime.

You can help ensure that your child gets all the nutrients they need by giving them smaller and more frequent main meals, with one or two snacks in between, and making sure they eat a good variety of foods. You’ll also need to make sure they get enough calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

The Department of Health recommends that all children aged six months to five years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.

It’s also recommended that babies who are being breastfed are given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth.

Babies who are having more than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day shouldn’t be given vitamin supplements because formula is fortified with certain nutrients and no other supplementation is required.

Read more about vitamins for babies and toddlers.

Vegan diets for children

If you’re breastfeeding and you’re on a vegan diet, it’s important that you take a vitamin D supplement. You may also need extra vitamin B12.

Take care when giving children a vegan diet. Young children need a good variety of foods to provide the energy and vitamins they need for growth.

A vegan diet can be bulky and high in fibre. This can mean that children get full up before they’ve taken in enough calories. Because of this, they may need extra supplements. Ask a dietitian or doctor for advice before introducing your child to solids.

Energy

Young children need lots of energy to grow and develop. Give vegan children high-calorie foods, such as hummus, bananas and smooth nut and seed butters (such as tahini and cashew or peanut butter). They still need starchy foods. However, don’t give only wholegrain and wholemeal versions to children under five years old because they’re high in fibre. For extra energy, you could add vegetable oils or vegan fat spreads to foods.

Protein

Pulses and food made from pulses are a good source of protein for vegan children. Nut and seed butters also contain protein. Always use smooth versions for babies and children under five years old. Breastfeeding until your child is two or more, or giving them soya-based formula milk if they are vegan, will help ensure they get enough protein.

Ask your GP for advice before using soya-based formula.

Calcium

Fortified soya drinks often have added calcium. Some foods are also fortified with calcium, so check the label.

Vitamin B12

Fortified breakfast cereals and some yeast extracts contain vitamin B12. Your child may also need a supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Some omega-3 fatty acids are found in certain vegetable oils, such as linseed, flaxseed, walnut and rapeseed oils. However, these are chemically different from the long chain omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish. Evidence suggests that these short-chain fatty acids may not offer the same protection against heart disease as those found in oily fish.

Editor’s Note: from PedSafe Expert, Pediatrician Dr Joe:  The question “how can I raise a healthy vegetarian or vegan child is a challenging one”.  Technically speaking, UK and US recommendations for vitamin supplementations are fairly similar.  However, having read this article you’ll note that there is a significant responsibility passed onto the parents to know the exact content of every food in their childrens’ diets and look for any specific deficiencies based on all vitamins and minerals. This is a Herculean task as there is a plethora of information and disinformation out there that must be evaluated by parents.  Therefore I would ask parents to seriously consider their reasons for adopting a diet like this for their children, and to discuss all food choices and diet changes with their pediatrician to ensure their child is maintaining a proper nutritional balance.





Child Health & Safety News: 9/25: NICU Drugs Largely Untested

twitter thumbIn this week’s Child Health News: More than half the refugees fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh over last 3 wks are children  (>200 thousand) bit.ly/2hcLyHi

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we overlook something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed.  Still, quite a bit happens every day – so to make sure you don’t miss anything, we offer you a recap of this week’s top 15 events & stories.

  • How Teach Kids the Difference Between Wants and Needs bit.ly/2xu3wur 2017-09-24
  •  New child safety seat laws will take effect October 1st in CT bit.ly/2xwn4yB 2017-09-24
  • ‘The Pills Are Everywhere’: How the Opioid Crisis Claims Its Youngest Victims nyti.ms/2wMhFjb 2017-09-23
  • Sleep: The Best Gift to Your Child’s Intelligence zpr.io/nPeGE 2017-09-22
  • Saturday, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is Sensory Friendly at AMC zpr.io/nPeGx 2017-09-22

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week:
Why Are NICU Drugs Largely Untested? Eye opening…and not in a good way   bit.ly/2xIQMS8 

  • How to Teach Kids to Deal with Uncomfortable Feelings bit.ly/2xS4QsI 2017-09-21
  • Parents not very confident schools can assist child with chronic disease, mental health  bit.ly/2xLV631  2017-09-21
  • Buckle Up: Every Ride, Every Time (Infographic) – Thurs Time Capsule 09/13 bit.ly/2xHJhuB  2017-09-21
  • ‘Kinder’ treatments are the hope for child brain cancer in the UK bbc.in/2xLRz4V 2017-09-20
  • How to Provide Care for Ill or Premature Babies zpr.io/nPu94 2017-09-20
  • My Biggest Parenting Mistake and How I Am Fixing It bit.ly/2wrimTH 2017-09-19
  • The Difference Between a School Identification and a Clinical Diagnosis for children with special needs u.org/295Kuxx 2017-09-19
  • ScanSmart: New Patient Safety Initiative Calls for Cool Heads When Using CT Scans on Kids read.bi/2wrykgq 2017-09-19
  • New Research on Car Seat Tethers Released bit.ly/2yfmHql This week is National Child Passenger Safety Week 2017-09-18
  • How Special Needs Kids Can Avoid the Lunch Box Blueszpr.io/nP78m 2017-09-18

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is Sensory Friendly Tomorrow at AMC

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum.

As always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Kingsman: The Golden Circle, sensory friendly tomorrow, Tuesday, September 26th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming in October:  TBD (Sat 10/7);  TBD (Tues 10/10); 

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Editor’s note: Although Kingsman: The Golden Circle has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material.  As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

2017 Parent Empathy Pledge: Focus on the “Other” Report Card

Now that the fall semester is underway, it won’t be long until your child’s progress report arrives, revealing not only their academic proficiency, but their conduct report as well. Studies confirms that children today are more self-centered than ever—and it’s a big problem. It’s why I urge parents to recognize the importance of raising empathic kids, challenge them to teach their children about caring and kindness today, and then take The Empathy Parent Pledge which follows.

An Empathy Pledge for Worried Parents         

Do your kids really care about others? All parents want to be able to give a resounding yes without hesitation. Yet, if we’re honest, too many of us have to stop and think about it—and when we do, we often reach a troubling conclusion.

America is raising a generation of kids who can’t see past their smartphones and jam-packed schedules of “enriching” activities to notice the human beings in front of them who need kindness and friendship. (Real friendship, not the Instagram version.) In fact, studies show that today’s teens are 40 percent less empathetic than those of 30 years ago. Could it be that we’ve focused too much on grades and grit and neglected the other side of the report card—our kids’ ability to connect and get along with others?

To recognize this empathy deficit in young people in general is one thing. To see it in your own child is quite another.

If you’re deeply troubled by the realization that your kids don’t seem to care, you’re not alone. Over and over, researchers are finding that empathy is THE cornerstone for becoming a happy, well-adjusted, successful adult. Studies show without a doubt that possessing empathy makes you more likable, more employable, a better leader, more conscience-driven…and it even increases your life span.

Even parents who haven’t read the research instinctively realize that kids need the capacity to care. They’re living the problem. They know exactly how bad it feels. They deplore the endless duck-face selfies, the disrespectful remarks, the materialism, the unwillingness to help with chores, the elbowing-to-the-front competitiveness. And yet despite their best efforts, they simply can’t move the needle on their children’s behavior.

No parent wants to raise an uncaring child. Yet we feel helpless not to because we don’t raise our kids in a vacuum. There are very real forces out there crushing the empathy out of our kids: social media, the bad influence of kids whose parents don’t hold them accountable, our own tendency to helicopter parent. But there are some things we CAN control—and how we reward and recognize success in our kids is a great place to start.

That’s why I’m urging you to take the empathy pledge: This year I will pay more attention to the OTHER side of the report card.”

I’m referring here to your child’s literal conduct grade, yes, but not just that. I’m talking about whether your child is a bully or stands up for others, whether he snickers at mean-spirited jokes or denounces them, whether she works together with peers or undermines them, whether she shares what she has freely or hoards it.

Yes, academics are still the metric by which the world judges success. I get that and I’m sure you do, too. But this lopsidedness is beginning to change. In fact, some schools, including Harvard, are reshaping their admissions processes to reduce some of the academic pressure and encourage service, caring, and reflection.

I am hopeful that such moves to encourage empathy will multiply. We need to fan the sparks we’re seeing until they catch fire and spread. We need a national conversation about moving our focus to the other side of the report card. Like all conversations, it starts at home…and I can’t think of a better time to start than right now. There has never been a time when our children need to learn empathy.

A few tips to keep in mind as you take The Empathy Parent Pledge

Stop over-emphasizing straight A’s.

Your kids know when you value academic success over all else. When you harp on grades and test scores and rarely mention sharing, caring, and kindness, they get the message. (There’s a Harvard study that backs me up!) When your child walks in the door, what’s your first question? If it’s: “What grade did you get?” it may be time to ask: “What caring thing did you do?”

…And start talking up empathy.

Model caring behavior for your child (of course) but also talk about it. Explain what empathy is, what it looks like in action, and what she can do or say to express it. And tell her in no uncertain terms that you will be watching how she behaves toward siblings, friends, teachers, parents, and even strangers.

Don’t just listen to what they say; watch what they do.

Your child likely has two personas: the one he shows to friends and on social media and the one he shows to you and/or his teachers. Sure, he’ll tell you that he’s being kind and inclusive, but don’t take his word for it. Observe him when he isn’t aware. Listen to how other people describe your child. Help him develop a Caring Mindset so he does the caring thing without your reminders or presence.

Put kids in situations where they can practice empathy.

Empathy is a skill set, one that can be taught and nurtured at any age. Get kids involved in a service organization or just spend time baking cookies and, together, deliver them to an elderly neighbor. Make empathy-building a regular part of their life. You want to hardwire it.

When you see those traits like caring, kindness, and thoughtfulness…acknowledge it.

Don’t give your child money or “stuff” in exchange for showing empathy. (Talk about sending the wrong message!) Do praise her, hug her, or maybe even take her out for an ice cream date and tell her how proud you are to be the mom of such a caring child.

But don’t give your child money or “stuff” in exchange for showing empathy. It actually decreases altruism!)

Start putting pressure on schools to emphasize empathy.

It’s possible your child’s school no longer measures conduct at all—or at least it’s seldom mentioned in the classroom. If this is going to change, it’s up to you.

When parents band together, we have tremendous power. MADD, for instance, dramatically lowered drunk driving rates. When parents set out to bring up our nation’s math and science scores a couple decades ago, they came up. What we focus on gets done—so let’s focus on raising a generation of kind, caring, empathetic, successful kids. Here’s a pledge to help us all get started. Please pass it on!

The 2017 Parent Empathy Pledge

  • This year I will pay attention to the other side of the report card.
  • I’ll reward kindness. Caring. Sharing. Teamwork.
  • I’ll make it clear that while grades do matter, empathy matters too.
  • I’ll teach my child to encourage the classmate who struggles,
    • To cheer on the kid who missed the goal,
    • To pick the kid who never gets picked,
    • To make friends outside the “exclusive” group,
    • To sit with the kid who’s shy or awkward or different,
    • To comfort someone who is having a bad day,
    • To notice when kids are hurting and try their best to help,
  • And I, as a parent, pledge to raise an Unselfie who thinks “we,” not “me.”
  • I’ll set the right example for my child in all I do and say,
  • Because I can’t talk anyone into caring…I can only walk the path and hope they follow.

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UnSelfie 140x210Teens today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were thirty years ago. Why is a lack of empathy—along with the self-absorption epidemic Dr. Michele Borba calls the Selfie Syndrome—so dangerous? First, it hurts kids’ academic performance and leads to bullying behaviors. Also, it correlates with more cheating and less resilience. And once children grow up, it hampers their ability to collaborate, innovate and problem-solve—all must-have skills for the global economy. The good news? Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured.  UnSelfie is a blueprint for parents and educators who want activate our children’s hearts and shift their focus from I, me, and mine… to we, us, and ours.  It’s time to include “empathy” in our parenting and teaching!  UnSelfie is AVAILABLE NOW at amazon.com.

Saturday, The LEGO Ninjago Movie is Sensory Friendly at AMC

New sensory friendly logoSince 2007, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

Families affected by autism or other special needs can view a sensory friendly screening of The LEGO Ninjago Movie on Saturday, September 23rd at 10am (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Still to come in September:  Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Tues 9/26)

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Editor’s note: Although The LEGO Ninjago Movie has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some mild action and rude humor.  As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

Sleep: The Best Gift to Your Child’s Intelligence

As parents, we are faced with an onslaught of products that claim to improve our child’s learning and intelligence. Manufacturers of toys, games, and electronic devices all try to convince us that they will make all the difference in your child’s development.

It turns out that perhaps the easiest gift we can give our child’s developing brain is sleep. We all know the importance of sleep, but new research links sleep directly to the development of executive function in young kids.

Why is Executive Function Important?

You may have heard the phrase “executive function” thrown around in education circles. What does it really mean? Simply put, executive function is the mental processes that help you regulate your behavior. Things like impulse control, working memory and planning are all part of executive function.

From this description you can probably tell how important executive function is to kids performance in school, and perhaps more importantly, their functioning in later life. Kids who lack executive functioning skills often appear to be misbehaving or defiant. In reality, their brain just doesn’t yet have the skills to regulate their behavior well.

The Link to Sleep

Think back to the last night you lost a night’s sleep. How did you feel the next day? Groggy, slow-moving, perhaps even clumsy or forgetful? This is a perfect example of how sleep affects executive control. Without proper sleep even we adults are not at the top of our mental game in terms of executive function. Now imagine this same scenario in children, who have not fully developed their executive control anyway.

Past research has clearly linked sleep loss to poor executive function in elementary age children. In these groups, children who lose sleep either due to medical problems or purposefully in lab settings often experience deficits in cognitive skills and the ability to pay attention.

We are just now understanding, however, the ways in which sleep might affect executive function in very young children. The newest study on this topic looks at children as young as 12-18 months of age. While these kids have not developed a great deal of executive function skills, it is still possible to see differences.

The results of this study found that among kids who had more overall night sleep, their executive function skills were higher than among kids who had less overall night sleep. Additionally, the area that showed the most difference was executive functions that centered on impulse control.

As parents, we all know what this looks like in real-life. Your toddler skips a nap or gets to bed too late one night and they are a mess the next day. Cranky, unable to follow the simplest instructions and cries at the drop of a hat. Now multiply this by weeks or months of inadequate sleep and you can get a picture of how sleep really affects executive function.

So, forget all the fancy gadgets and electronic games. If you want your child to develop their intellect and executive function in the best possible way—just let them sleep as much as they can.