Our doctor is worried that a vegan diet doesn’t have enough fat to support our 15-month-old’s brain development. Should this be a concern? What are the best ways to add more fat to her diet?
Fat is certainly an important nutrient in the neurological development of children, as well as it having other functions like helping the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Research shows that a diet lower in fat can still support proper growth in children as long as the calorie intake is appropriate. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation is that children over 2 years of age should have a diet around 20-30 percent fat. What does this mean in terms of food? Let’s just say your toddler requires 1,000 calories per day. A diet that derives 30 percent of its calories from fat would mean that the child is consuming around 33 grams of fat per day. This is easily achieved by eating the following:
As you can see, there should be no reason to believe a child consuming a diet rich in whole foods would have any issue with fat intake. Additionally, adding oils like olive and flax, as needed, can also help your child’s intake, especially if you have a picky eater.
Your doctor might have also mentioned DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is a type of omega 3 fatty acid found in fish and microalgae. There has been some concern that vegans do not convert ALA (alpha linolenic acid) to DHA as well as their omnivore counterparts, and hence, supplementation should be given. Admittedly, there is not any reliable research looking specifically at vegan kids and what occurs if DHA is or is not given. If you are concerned about this nutrient, a 200-300 mg DHA supplement (made from microalgae) every few days would be okay for you and your child.
Disclaimer: Although Anya Todd, R.D. and Kara Rienzo, R.D.N. are registered dietitians, the nutrition content provided on GenerationVeggie.org is for educational and informational purposes only. Any or all changes to your diet and lifestyle should always first be discussed with your professional healthcare providers. GenerationVeggie.org assumes no responsibility or liability for any consequences resulting directly or indirectly from any action or inaction you take based on the information found on or material linked to on this website.