Adopting a plant-based diet for your family can be one of the best decisions that you can make for your child's health and wellbeing. The time and effort you invest in educating, planning and providing nutritious foods for your children will help protect them from childhood illnesses, slow the aging of their cells, prevent future disabily and premature death, and possibly even increase their IQ's.
"Nutrition for Kids - A Dietary Approach to Lifelong Health" is a free pdf guide written by the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) which focuses on plant-based nutrition for children and teens. This free booklet provides advice on how to change eating habits, how to get started, up-to-date nutrition information and several delicious recipes. Below are a few highlights from this informative booklet:
A Plant-Based Diet Provides Optimal Disease Protection
Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts provide optimal nutrition for children. These foods are rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that form the foundation for dietary habits that support optimal health. Starting a plant-centered diet when children are young offers many nutritional advantages. Children who eat whole plant food diets consume higher levels of disease-fighting micronutrients than their nonvegetarian counterparts. Diets rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber promote excellent health, a healthful body weight and healthy eating habits into the teen and adult years.
According to PCRM, "The prevalence of obesity among our nation's youth has tripled in the past 30 years. Overweight children are likely to become overweight adults, thus increasing the risk for a host of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and some cancers. People who maintain a healthy weight throughout life tend to stay healthier and live longer. Too many children today have a reduced life expectancy and a diminished overall quality of life due to excess weight. Childhood obesity can lead to certain cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and abnormal glucose tolerance or diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that 70 percent of obese children had at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor for heart disease, such as raised blood pressure or insulin levels, while 30 percent presented two or more additional risk factors."
A Plant-Based Diet Offers Children Powerful Protection Against Adult Cancers
According to the World Health Organization, 80% of all deaths are caused mostly by poor diet and lifestyle habits. Many of these are attributable to poor food choices made early in childhood, which many believe has fueled our adult cancer epidemic.
"Research shows a direct association between the amount of excess weight in childhood and cancer risk in adulthood. For every one-point increase in body mass index, there is a 9 percent increase in adult cancer risk. Therefore, the more overweight a child is, the greater his or her risk of developing cancer is later on. Cancers of the colon, breast, and prostate are influenced by diet, exercise, and healthy weight control. Lifelong eating habits are established in childhood, and the longer the exposure to cancer-fighting foods and the avoidance of cancer-promoting foods, the greater the likelihood that cancer won't strike during adulthood."
A Plant-Based Diet Protects Children From Developing Diabetes
"Although it is almost entirely preventable, type 2 diabetes is one of the most prevalent and costly chronic diseases in the United States. Without a change in eating and exercise habits, one in three children born in the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes in adulthood. For Hispanic children, one in two will develop this disease." For more information on diabetes, see our Diabetes Pinterest Board. Dairy products are associated with developing type 1 diabetes. Read my blogs Avoid Dairy to Prevent Type-1 Diabetes and Dairy Promotes Type 1 Diabetes for more information.
A Plant-Based Diet Protects Children from Developing Heart Disease
"In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 20 percent of adolescents ages 12-19 have at least one abnormal lipid level: LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, or triglycerides. Among overweight and obese adolescents, those rates were even higher, with 22 percent of overweight and
43 percent of obese children having one or more abnormalities. Abnormal lipids are risk factors for heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the United States." More information regarding how heart disease begins in childhood is provided below.
Model Healthy Eating Habits
As parents, we desire the best for our children. Parents make many choices throughout the day concerning the health and safety of their children. Adequate sleep, proper dental hygiene, and getting enough fresh air and exercise are just a few of the many good habits we instill in our children. Yet considering the healthfulness of our children's diets, our society has collectively and seriously failed in protecting them from future disability and chronic disease. Influencing our children's dietary choices begins by modeling healthy habits ourselves. This equips them to make wise dietary choices as an adult, and possibly avoid adult disabilities and premature death. Show your children how important it is to eat well by filling your plates with whole, nutritious plant foods!
(This booklet mentions eating "faux meat" substitutes - which are commonly used by those making the transition to a meat-free diet during the early stages of transition. Although faux meat can be instrumental in making a successful transition, especially for children and those struggling to reduce or eliminate animal products in their diets, it's best not to consume these. More information can be found in my blog More Cardiologists Recommending Plant-based Diet.)